February 2, 2020
Today, we hear the words of Jesus from the beginning of the famous Sermon on the Mount,
when Jesus speaks of those who are “blessed”.
The Old Testament view of being “blessed” was often linked with material prosperity,
having won the fight over land and resources,
but Jesus pointed out that the prosperity and blessing do not always go together.
Sometimes the material prosperity causes all kinds of problems –
just read the studies on what has happened to America’s lottery winners
or the statistics of how our nation’s people are suffering from deep anxiety .
Later, being blessed was linked with knowledge; to be blessed was to know, to have understanding.
But how many of us have known a family whose most blessed member
was the one with Down’s syndrome?
Blessedness is broader than knowledge or understanding.
In the New Testament, being blessed came to be associated with the spirit,
with the interior condition of a person.
To be blessed means that it matters more WHO you are
rather than what you HAVE or what you KNOW or what you can DO.
To be blessed can mean to embody an inward quality that no one can take away
and that no circumstances can ultimately destroy.
Jesus says “Blessed are the meek…the merciful…the peacemakers…”
Jesus does not say that those who are wealthy or smart or fast or strong are not blessed.
What he does say is that what the world considers terrible – poverty, hunger, sorrow, persecution –
can all lead to blessedness.
What he does say is that what the world often calls weak – mercy, peacemaking, righteousness –
can all lead to blessedness.
“Happy” is not a sufficient translation for “blessed”.
“Happiness” is most often associated with a temporary state of being, based on circumstances.
A better way of translating “blessed” would be the words: “open to God’s gracious power”.
For example, those who are poor in spirit are “blessed” because they are open to receiving God’s power;
there is room in their lives for the Spirit of God to be at work. Thus, God’s favor rests upon them.
Hear the Word of God from Matthew 5:1-16
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, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?
It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp
puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Someone once said that the people of the world can be divided into two groups –
those for whom life is a mirror and those for whom life is a window.
Mirror people are full of ego. For the self-centered person, the whole world becomes a mirror.
Wherever they look, they see themselves.
Whenever they talk, they talk about themselves.
Whenever they hear of some concern, their focus is all about what that concern means to them.
Mirror people will walk down a city street past a whole gallery of windows,
but they will never see what is inside, because all they will see is themselves in the reflection.
Window people, on the other hand, see the world as a window.
Window people will walk down the street past a whole gallery of windows,
and not even notice their own reflection, because they are so busy noticing
who or what is on the other side.
When window people have conversations, they ask about the other person.
When window people pray, they don’t just talk, they listen.
When window people speak about others, they speak kindly, offering praise and encouragement.
Window people embody humility of spirit. They are “open to God’s gracious power.”
In their hearts, there is room to receive from God and from others.
We might even say that window people are blessed, blessed to be a blessing to others.
Christian fellowship, and I dare say, the Christian Church, is dependent upon window people,
upon those who are more concerned with the needs of others than they are with their own desires.
I would venture to claim that a Super Bowl has never been won by a team
that did not have a significant number of window persons, a bunch of men, as talented as they are,
who were more interested in the success of the team than they their own glory,
willing to put the needs of the team before their own desires.
There will always be some mirror people on a football team – no doubt.
There will always be the ones looking for their reflection in a camera.
There will always be the ones demanding that the coaches enable them to shine.
There will always be the ones for whom it’s all about self, it’s all about what’s good for them.
Whether the team wins or not, they will pad their own statistics; they will secure their own legacy.
Teams full of mirror guys may win a bunch of games,
but they usually do not last through the Super Bowl.
There is a young person in Oakhurst who loves NFL football
and who happens to be a “window person”. We’ll call him Sam.
Sam lives near the L’Arche home, the home where adults with severe disabilities
live in community alongside those who do not have disabilities.
While in middle school, Sam would walk over to the L’Arche house on Sunday afternoons
to watch football with Terry, a member of the L’Arche community, who also loves NFL football.
Terry has significant mental and physical disabilities, but Terry has a huge heart and even bigger smile.
Some of you have met Terry through your work with L’Arche.
When the summer came, Sam went to off to a camp for a week.
At his camp, there was a disabled young man who needed a lot of help to navigate the environment.
The disabled young man was really struggling, and some of the kids were making fun of him.
Sam did not participate in the teasing of the disabled kid,
nor did Sam avoid the kid because he was different.
When the call came for volunteers to help the disabled camper, Sam was the only kid who raised his hand.
Sam willingly gave his time and effort, and gave up other activities, in order to assist someone in need.
Sam had been blessed in his friendship with Terry, blessed to be a blessing,
and so he reached out in compassion and courage to befriend a person in need.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus expressed solidarity with people like Terry, and people like Sam,
and people like the camper who was differently abled.
Jesus expressed solidarity with people who are often marginalized, who are different,
who may be grieving or suffering.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus expressed solidarity with people who hunger for just mercy,
people who work for lasting peace, and those willing to face persecution for doing what is right.
With the words of the Beatitudes, Jesus pushes us all towards a more grown-up faith,
a more adult spirituality, a “window” spirituality, if you will,
that turns our focus from self towards concern for others.
(Michael Crosby, Spirituality of the Beatitudes, 2005)
Jesus said: “Those who are rich in this world have already received their reward.”
If we seek the things of this world, we may find them, but we also may lose our souls.
If we seek the kingdom of God, the promise is that we will be found, and our souls will be blessed.
At this Table, the door to the kingdom of God has been cracked open and we are invited to enter.
Whom will we find there? The meek and the merciful are already there.
Those who are poor in spirit or poor in health or poor in mind or poor in finances – they are there.
Those who are hungry in body, and those who are hungry in spirit,
and those who long for better days for their families – they are already there.
Those who thirst for righteousness are there; those who are pure in heart are there.
The peacemakers are there, the ones seeking to build coalitions and consensus,
those who seek win-win solutions – they are there.
Those who are persecuted for doing the right thing – they are all there in God’s kingdom.
And, Jesus says to us, you are welcome to enter as well.
even if other people seem to have been working against you and saying bad things about you,
even if others have made life difficult for you,
even if it seems that the whole world has turned against you –
you are still welcome at this Table. You are welcome with me, says Jesus.
The “crazy” good news of the gospel is that both “window people” AND “mirror people”
are welcome at this Table.
In Jesus Christ, God has come to us right where we are, just as we are, without one plea,
and Jesus has invited us into a new reality, into a new way of being.
Jesus invites us to take a step further into God’s coming kingdom,
so that we may be fed by grace, blessed to be a blessing,
and then sent forth to be salt and light for sake of the world.
I don’t whether you have been living more as a mirror person or a window person.
I don’t know whether you have been following a mirror person or following a window person,
but I do know, by God’s grace, you are welcome at this Table.
You are welcome to peer into this crack in the door of God’s coming kingdom,
catch a glimpse of a new reality, and then go and serve as salt and light in the world.
Jesus says, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.
As we prepare to come to the Table, I invite you to join me in a closing prayer,
a prayer attributed to St. Francis:
“Lord, make (your Church and all its members) an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church