Sermon for 2/2/2014 from Pr. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA.
Gospel: Matthew 5:1–12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
Today, is one of those days when there’s a perfect storm of significant events. We have worship, we also have the combination of Groundhog’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday…and if that’s not enough, today also happens to be not only my Grandma’s birthday, but also my wife, Carrie’s birthday, and, to top it off, our Gospel lesson for today just happens to be the same Gospel, that was read at our wedding, the famous passage known as The Beattitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew.
Will all these events that mark today, there is a bit of melancholy to them, as my Grandma’s health is rapidly failing. Yet, on my Grandma’s birthday when the thoughts of her and her situation aren’t all happy, today, as I think about my Grandma and the gathering my family will be having at her care center in Minnesota, I have never felt so blessed.
Which, to tell the truth, seems a little funny. This sense, of feeling “blessed”, as life gets a little sadder, seems to be the opposite of how things are supposed to work. This is not what we generally think of, in regards to, “being blessed”. Usually, we humans, equate being blessed, with being happy, or at least wanting to be happy. Just take the sports world for example, it’s not uncommon to see a player bless themselves with the sign of the cross before going to bat, or after scoring a touchdown. Or maybe today, a player from the winning team will thank God for blessing them with a victory. In these and other acts, it seems as if being blessed by God is about having good luck, or getting divine intervention in achieving success.
This take on being blessed by God isn’t unique to the sports world, as throughout all walks of life, being blessed, or receiving a blessing, seems almost as if one is striking a mutual happiness deal between ourselves and God. In other words, we do things that make God happy, and God does things that make us happy. And, the results of this agreement, we call blessings.
But even as something bad is happening, even as someone who has been a loving light in my life is on the verge of leaving it, I feel blessed. I feel blessed because as I think about my Grandmother, and her seemingly helpless situation, I myself, feel a little more helpless. Today, in light of these things, I feel a little meeker, a little more aware of all that life throws at us, a little less in control over everything in it, and a little more shocked at how much time has a way of speeding up on us as it passes. In other words, today, I feel a little more like the people who are blessed in the Beattitudes.
This feeling, is a little different, at least as far as I can remember, than how I felt when Carrie and I picked this passage for our wedding. Now, not speaking for Carrie, but from my point of view; well before the word Pastor had become a part of my life-plan, I thought that surely Carrie and I were joining in a marriage to be a blessing on behalf of Christ, to all those who are named in this passage. I was pretty sure that this Gospel was going to be a reminder to us, that God was calling us to be a blessing; for the poor in spirit, for the mourners, the meek, the hungry, the thirsty and the like. And, I was pretty sure that using my abilities and all the things I was good at in life, to go around making everyone happy, was what this passage was trying to tell me. But the truth of the matter is, is that I was just starting early on in our marriage in being very confident and completely wrong at the same time.
But through the years, I’ve come to hear this passage a little differently. Today, I hear this passage and feel blessed not because of all that I have, or all that I can do to help people, or because of some sort of delusional, smiley faced optimism I might have. I feel blessed, because the more that I have been made vulnerable, and meek, and unsure of what I can do to make everyone’s life peachy keen, the more that I have become open to what God is doing here and throughout our creation. The more I become open to sharing in what God has given all of us. Now, I sort of made a joke earlier, but in being wrong once or twice in the last 9 and a half years of marriage, I’ve been blessed with the wisdom God has given through my spouse. In feeling a little meeker, I’ve been blessed with the strength of people that have overcome more than seems imaginable. And in my own struggles of spirit, I have been blessed with a Kingdom of Saints, a Body of Christ, that day after day goes on proclaiming God’s grace and bestowing God’s blessed love upon me and all those, many, many, many people, who I am much more curse than blessing to.
Today I’m blessed, because once again, with a close reminder of the certainty of death, I will be fed with the life of Jesus Christ. I will be fed with this life by God’s grace, only because I am loved. And, most importantly, I will be fed with this life, with all of you, and the communion of saints who have shared this blessed life together through all time and place, even as far away as Minnesota.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,