Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sermon for All Saints' Day

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; 
and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 
Then he began to speak, and taught them

Last week we heard Jesus being tested about what the greatest commandment was, and his masterful answer:
Love God and your neighbour as yourself. 
Jesus reveals that love is the law.
All things must come from love.

With talk of commandments, when we hear from the gospel today,
we will be struck by the similarities between Jesus and Moses.

Indeed that is the connection Matthew is making.
As Moses ascended the mountain to speak with God,
Jesus here ascends the mountain and the recently called disciples follow him.

Matthew is setting this scene as a new beginning.

But then we hear what Jesus says.
Blessed are the…..

Compare it with what Moses says when he descends the mountain:
You shall not…. You shall

And this is why we need to be careful with the Beatitudes.
They are not a list of proscriptive rules or laws.
Many try to turn them into such things, and many interpret them in such a way,
Be merciful.
Be pure.
Be meek.

This is not how they are to be treated.

Jesus isn’t telling us how we should be.
Unlike the commandments,
where God through Moses told the people what they should and shouldn’t do, here Jesus is telling us how things actually are.

Jesus isn’t telling us we should be poor in spirit.
Rather he is telling us how God views those that are.
He is telling us that these are favoured.
God will look after such people.
Everything will be ok.
This is how things actually are, not how we are to be.
Jesus is informing us of the reality, of how God views us, how it actually is.

But is this the reality we live in?
Is this the reality of our world?

Look at who is blessed.

‘Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Those who mourn for a loved one are generally given a month or so to grieve, then everyone expects them to sort themselves out.
Those who mourn the way things used to be are told to get with the times.

‘Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

The meek if anything inherit nothing.
The meek are trodden on and seen as weak and useless.
They are ignored, abused and forgotten.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Those who protest at injustice are seen as troublemakers and lawbreakers.
They are seen as whingers.

‘Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.

To show mercy in the face of wrongdoing is seen as weakness and backing down. It is the giving of power to those who would harm us.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
To be pure of heart is seen as naïve and idealistic.
It is to be a dreamer with no hold on reality.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

To yearn for peace,
especially at this time is seen to not be part of Team Australia.
It is to be unpatriotic, it is weakness,
it goes against the grain so much that we dare not suggest it as the way to be.
Our world seeks vengeance and violence not peace.

If we think about it, the world that Jesus is talking about,
and the world we live are two very different things.

This may indeed be the point.

Jesus is saying
you lot see the world like this,
a world where being gentle, caring, generous, idealistic, humble, peaceful,
are seen as weakness.
But God see’s these very things as qualities that he blesses.
God favours people who are these things.

In this way, the beatitudes are a protest against the values of the world,
and statement of the kingdom.
They are what we need to value when we see them in others

Jesus tells those first disciples the values of the kingdom.
He isn’t commanding them to be like them,
He is telling them to view the meek, the mourning, the merciful,
as God views them.

On All saint’s Day we are reminded of the very qualities of saints,
qualities that we see in the beatitudes.
Saints are those who hold these qualities
while the world around them does all it can to pull them down.

The kingdom Jesus is telling us of,
and what he showed us in his life, is a new way of seeing,
and ultimately a radical way of being.
The world may reject those who God blesses,
but we are invited to see the new reality that is coming.

When we learn to recognise such qualities as being blessed,
when we call those who embody such qualities saints,
we begin to participate in the realisation of the kingdom.

For theirs is the kingdom of God

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