February 3, 2002

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

"You're blessed when you get your inside world - your mind and heart - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

"Not only that - count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens - give a cheer, even!-for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."

<The Message >


1. What have you/we lost that is most dear to us? We are still living out of a post September 11 terrorist strike (a little larger than most, but not qualitatively different). For American news organizations and political rhetoric this is still a big deal. A public loss of innocence is a blessing. Unfortunately it tends to push us into the arms of patriotism [Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles. -George Jean Nathan, author and editor (1882-1958)] rather than into the arms of GOD.

2. What constitutes "a good appetite for God"? We are fast approaching Lent which is thought of as a time of refraining from eating. How might we plan now for an extravagant Lent? It will probably have something to do with fasting.

One image of fasting is that of switching menus. Instead of storing up treasures on earth as the menu of our life, how might we do better at storing up treasures in heaven? Instead of giving up a meal, how might we invite someone to share a meal with us (with all that it means to eat/feast together)?

These sorts of issues usually take some preparation time.

3. Cooperation, not competition! How un-capitalistic in it present incarnation. If you have not yet seen the movie, "A Beautiful Mind," it is recommended for a bit in it which goes beyond Adam Smith and finds that the better way than maximizing the profit to the individual is to find the way which maximized the benefit to both the individual <and> the society. Note the addition of that little word "and." What a blessing to the world (Nobel Prize size blessing) to find that little word "and."

How might that work in Northern Ireland? in Palestine/Israel? in the whole arena of terrorism? What "and" are we missing?

Homepage | Sermon Prep