St Michael and All Angels January 29, 2017
The lessons we read this morning work together to tell us something about God,
and what God values.
Micah reminds us:
What does God require of you?
Do justice; love kindness; walk humbly with God.
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world
And Jesus tells his followers something about how God chooses to bless God’s people.
It may seem that God’s blessing is on the wealthy and powerful,
those with status and prestige.
But these are not the values of the kingdom of God Jesus proclaims.
God chooses to bless people who are overlooked and despised
by the values of the world.
Last fall I went a conference called Why Christian?
I’ve talked about it before – about hearing the testimony of people who have struggled, who have wrestled both with God and with church folks who would tell them they didn’t belong.
And what I heard them say, one after another is – God blessed me when I was in my lowest place, and called me back.
During one worship time, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber read us a new set of beatitudes.
I was transfixed.
So when I got home I looked up the sermon from which she read to us.
What if the beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed. What if these are not virtues we should aspire to. What if Jesus saying blessed are the meek is not instructive –what if it’s performative? …meaning the pronouncement of blessing is actually what confers the blessing itself. Maybe the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him, especially that which society doesn’t seem to have much time for: people in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?
So today I’m going to share some new beatitudes – written by both Nadia and me.
Because I like to imagine Jesus here standing among us saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who wonder if they are good enough. Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised. Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and think they know everything. Blessed are those who wonder if their lives matter.
Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who have lost their dreams. Blessed are those who are lonely. Blessed are those who have seen too much death. Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears are as real as an ocean. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried; and those who long to be parents. Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted any more. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex-workers and the night shift street sweepers. Blessed are the losers and the babies and the parts of ourselves that are so small. The parts of ourselves that don’t want to make eye contact with a world that only loves the winners. Blessed are the forgotten. Blessed are the closeted. Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented. Blessed are the teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who speak the truth in love. Blessed are those who speak up when they hear offensive jokes. Blessed are those who parent teenagers. Blessed are those who choose kindness, even on facebook. Blessed are those who pay it forward.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard – for they are those with whom Jesus chose to surround himself. Blessed are those without documentation. Blessed are the ones without lobbyists. Blessed are foster kids and trophy kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved and never does. Blessed are those who demand justice; who march for justice; who advocate for the needs of others. Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people. Blessed are the burnt-out social workers and the over-worked teachers and the pro-bono case takers. Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak. Blessed are the nurses and orderlies and those who work in nursing homes. Blessed are the merciful for they totally get it.
Some people think that if they are Christian, God will bless them,
and nothing bad will happen.
The beatitudes show us something different.
Not a God who promises happiness and rose gardens all life long –
but a God who knows we struggle, and promises to bless us and love us through our hardest times.
It reminds me again of Why Christian?, and the testimony of so many merciful people who know what it is hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice for themselves and others.
Those who know that to be poor in spirit is a blessing because it drives us into the arms of Jesus.
That is the greatest blessedness – when we know we need God in our lives.
Blessed are we who know God’s love when we suffer,
and open ourselves to God’s healing grace.
Thanks be to God