Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sermon January 25: Time to count your blessings

Matthew 5: 1-21

This has been quite a week
Working on three funerals takes time; but it also leads to some wonderful moments of blessing and grace.

At the start of the week, I decided I had better get organised and choose the hymns to go with the reading and theme – which meant of course I had to pick a theme!

Some of you may remember that we had this exact same passage last year – and some of you may not!
Those with the really good memories may also recollect that I focussed on Salt and Light last year...

My first instinct was to change the reading from the Good News version to the NIV – as I explained before David read for us... because I was uncomfortable with the word happy.
Now, this all happened on Monday; by Tuesday I had a working title and the hymns were chosen.
The working title was “Time to Turn Round” – that isn’t even the subtitle anymore!

On Wednesday I joined the weekly online bible study / text discussion of the reading. Gosh! It was fascinating, and really eye-opening for me.

I knew that there have been many, many scholarly discussions over how to translate from the original Greek and that over the years words change subtly. But, the word blessed has lost a huge amount of its original meaning.
Somehow now it is a bit soft, cosy, gentle – certainly not disturbing when applied to those Beatitudes.

Yet, that is how it should be – disturbing, uncomfortable, dissonant.

So, maybe I should have stuck with the less comfortable happy?!

Jesus was addressing the culture of his day; challenging perceptions, and the accepted norms of the day.

To suggest that those who were not rich, powerful, influential, learned, educated or part of the elite were blessed, or happy or lucky was truly shocking, offensive even. For the poor, the meek, the humble were considered less worthy, less valued, less respectable. They were not acceptable in the eyes of the teachers, the scholars.
This was challenging everything that stood solid and dependable.

The people flocked to hear this new preacher for one very simple reason: he spoke to them.

He spoke to them – not at them.
He told them they mattered rather than ignoring them when someone more important or useful or attractive arrived.
Suddenly the world appeared different because of the words of this new teacher.

Everything about him was different.
And the words he spoke seemed to imply something new; something terrible – in the truest sense of the word:
Terrible: mighty, awesome – not as we might see it now- to be awful or bad
But to be awe-inspiring, to be breath-taking in its enormity.

Jesus took these everyday things and turned them round:
To be the poor
To be the marginalised
To be outcast
To be meek and humble
These were the things which were blessings; things to bring joy; things that made others think again.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus is saying these words to you...

You are blessed when life gets on top of you
When you are lonely and feel bereft – then God’s blessing is on you.

When you are at the lowest point in your life
When you feel utterly forsaken
When life seems to be too hard
Too difficult
Too complicated
This is when God comes to you, filling you with holy joy; this is happiness.
True happiness.

Now, you may be thinking that it’s all very well for me to stand here saying these things to you...
And you may be following that with a “but...”

But, you don’t know what is happening to me
But, you don’t know how I feel
But, you don’t understand what it is to be...

And the short answer is, no, I don’t.
But I do know how I feel, when I worry about my family, my future, my hopes and dreams...
And I do know how sometimes I cry out to God for answers.

So, for me to hear this anew has been a revelation.
I had not thought of this in these terms before

So, when I think of the things that trouble me, and then apply Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes to them – it gives me a whole new perspective.

Take a moment right now to think of one thing.
Just one thing that is bothering you – emotional, practical, physical, spiritual – anything that occupies your mind and distracts you...

Now, hear as Jesus says to you
Blessed and happy are you when you feel this.

Blessed and happy are you through your trial
Blessed and happy are you in carrying this burden
Blessed and happy are you...
Be blessed
Be happy
Turn it over
Take things you might have felt were bad, or a burden or a curse
And turn them over!
Now listen again
Blessed are you!
Happy are you!
Lucky are you!

Jesus turned the world upside down by giving new hope, new ideas, presenting a new vision of old ways

And they, and we, are blessed.


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