Sermon for January 29, 2003            Fourth of Epiphany     “Can you say that again please”

In last week’s sermon, you will recall the Gospel scene where Jesus called the first four disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John. After the call Jesus indicated what sort of traits he was looking for and would set out the framework for the revolution he was starting.

Today we as Christians will hear the words that started, kindled and maintained the mission. We know the Beatitudes as well as the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23. Most know it is part of the sermon on the mount and that we look to Matthew to find the text, even though a shortened version is found in Luke.

5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

We often read this text with a wishful thinking or even wistfulness knowing that it would be ideal but more a guideline or ideal to strive to. Imagine then those that first heard these words. They were expecting the Messiah to be a warrior, one who would overthrow the oppressors and elevate the Chosen people to the pinnacle of leadership. When Jesus announced that he was the Messiah the people prepared to be led in battle to overthrow Roman rule.

Then sitting by the Sea of Galilee they heard Jesus ask, even demand of them to be poor in Spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and ones that are persecuted for righteousness and be glad for it. I can imagine they were not that happy and Rome was elated.

What we do know is that among the first hearers many had a transformation of heart and mind, many embraced this new and radical thinking and followed. More than that became super spreaders of the New Word.

More than 2000 years later, we hear the opening of the parchment of revolution of Jesus and it has become more nostalgic than revolutionary. Both for us personally and for the world. We hear them, sing them and pray them but do they sink in as the core traits that Jesus names and looks for in followers? Will anyone have all these traits? I expect not. They may ebb and flow as our lives are lived out. There may be one or two that are part of our DNA. And that is good.

The first disciples and hearers of these words most likely said or thought; can you say that again; it did not sound like a battle plan. In our day we may say the same thing, not so much for wanting a battle plan, but because it does not fit our idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. As these days unfold may we have the courage, fortitude and inner strength to live into these words of Jesus. They are our identifiers, the differences that set us apart from those who have not heard, and most importantly a sign and symbol that is an open invitation to follow Jesus.

Next week Jesus will shed some flavour and light on what it means to follow…