Saturday, January 28, 2017

Epiphany 4

Epiphany 4 - series A
29 January 2017
LSB #982Blessed Are They

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The old song sings. "Do you know, oh Christian, you're a sermon in shoes."

Citizenship always has its price. True citizenship. Whether in God’s kingdom or in the world, is never easy. Yet, without it. The rewards of life and of society are short-lived. And so, God asks us to live according to His will. But always in light of those rewards, that He has already given you in Jesus Christ and that He is still anxious to bestow on you today. The Christian life must always be a grateful response to what the Father has done for us in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. Not rules to live by.

Of course! The world won’t buy it. Success. Power. Prestige. Rugged independence and self-reliance are regarded by this world as those things we ought to seek. Christ places His emphases elsewhere.   In an essay entitled, “The Beatitudes of Our Current Church Culture” Joe Abbey-Colborne said this.

“Blessed are the well off and those…with ready answers for every spiritual question…they have it all.
  Blessed are the comfortable…they shall avoid grief.
  Blessed are the self-sufficient…they wait for nothing, they have everything they want…and they have it    now.
  Blessed are those who are not troubled by…the injustice experienced by others…they are content with realistic expectations.
  Blessed are the ones who gain the upper hand…they take full advantage of their advantages.
  Blessed are those with a solid public image…and a well-hidden agenda…they are never exposed and see people…in a way that suits their purposes.
  Blessed are those who can bully others into agreement…they shall be called empire builders.
  Blessed are those who can point to someone else…who is a worse person than they are…they will always look good by comparison.
  Blessed are you when people praise you, give you preferential treatment, and flatter you because they think you’re so great. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, because it doesn’t get any better than this.[1]

All sunshine and no rain make for a desert.”[2]  Christ by these words, in the sermon of the mount, His Beatitudes, encourages us to remain faithful despite pain or loss. Even in the midst of peril, pain and suffering.

Suffering, of any kind, has become the great enemy of our culture.  Thus, decisions are made with the specific intent of avoiding suffering. At all costs.  Now, I do not suggest that you go out and look for suffering. If we take the Scriptures seriously, we know, Christians will suffer.  In various forms and ways.  But, God’s promise is simply this. He works great things in your life. Even through suffering and sorrow.

The Apostle Paul summarizes this point beautifully in his letter to the Romans.  “We rejoice in our sufferings. Because suffering produces perseverance. And perseverance character. And character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame.  Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”[3]

Jesus in His sermon on the mount will say, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”  -5:3 He then brackets the other blessings. With a repeated, present tense assurance. “… for theirs is (ἐστιν) the kingdom/reign of heaven.” Jesus’s other declarations are generally future passive. Meaning this will be God’s action for you. On the last great day.

Jesus’s words, stand as a two-fold proclamation to those who are spiritually poor and lowly. First, you should know that Jesus, God’s appointed king. Has come for you. And is already now with you. And is reigning over you.

Second, in spite of present weakness and struggles, you can trust that the day of the Lord is coming. And that He will act decisively for you on that day. He will comfort you. "Blessed are those who mourn, (empathetic) for they will be comforted.”  (v. 4) He will give you a share in the eternally renewed earth. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (v. 5). "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”  He will give you the satisfaction of justice, things being “made right” for you and others. (δικαιοσύνή, v. 6). He will show you His mercy in the final judgment (v. 7). "Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” He will give you the privilege of seeing Him in His glory and beauty. (v.8). "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  He will keep you as His own child (v. 9). "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”

For those who find themselves to be spiritually helpless. Without status.  Without any excuse before God. Jesus proclaims this good news. That He has come to be a gracious king. Precisely for such helpless, empty-handed sinners. He does this for you. So that you may enter this world as His witness.

Through the waters of baptism, each of us is called by the Lord to become agents of the Gospel – the presence of Jesus Christ – Wherever it is God calls you to serve. Jesus simply says, “Let your light so shine before men.[4]

Some of you are parents.  Your call is to raise your children in a faithful environment. Some of you are teachers. Your call is to be Christ-like in caring for the students entrusted to your care. Some of you are students. Your call is to see the wonder of a vast universe created by the God who loves you. Discover the talents the Lord has given you and then use them as His witness.  Some of you are in the business world.  Your call is to honor justice and righteousness as you work on behalf of your employer. Some of you are in the trades. Your call is to honor God with quality work and respect your customers. Some of you are farmers. Your call is to be stewards of our environment. You feed the world as you managed the Father’s creation. 

In every vocation. The Father transforms what you do.  And uses it to grace the lives of those who you come in contact. Use your talents and skills as an opportunity to proclaim that people of faith make a difference in this lost and broken world. As others, see your involvement in the workplace. It is an opportunity to glorify the God who equipped you for the work you do. Every. Single. Day. Do you know. Oh Christian. You are. A sermon in shoes! 

Words –1,176
Passive Sentences -7%
Readability – 78.4%
Reading level – 4.8

[1] The Beatitudes of Our Current Church Culture © October 8, 2010, Toronto by Joe Abbey-Colborne
[2] An Arab proverb
[3] Romans 5:3-4
[4] Matthew 5:16 a warm up for next Sunday

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