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November 20, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

Last Sunday of the Church Year

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November 17, 2011 @ 9:26 am

Pentecost 22

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November 11, 2011 @ 10:10 am

All Saints 2011

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November 6, 2011 @ 11:47 am

All Saint

Have you been following the ongoing saga taking place in Denver Colorado? The Denver Broncos, the local NFL football franchise has identified Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback. Mr. Tebow was an outstanding college football player, won the Heisman trophy as a sophomore, played through his senior year, and then was drafted in the first round to play for the Broncos. As a professional quarterback, he has struggled, (as most young quarterbacks do - it takes time to become acclimated to high level of competition).

Since the move to the starting lineup, Mr. Tebow has been under heightened scrutiny and therefore criticism. And while much of it is aimed at his level of play, a significant amount of it focuses on something else; Tim Tebow is a Christian. And while his professional performance is examined, his faith is out and out ridiculed. Sports writers mock him, opposing players taunt him, all because he just simply allows his Christian faith to personally define him. And so Tim Tebow (and his faith) have become an object of ridicule.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. F or theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So I don’t know about you, but I am sure not a quarterback in the NFL. I haven’t really made any public statements of faith or been ridiculed by any nationally syndicated columnists. For the most part, other than a small contingent here in the south end of Union County Ohio, nobody really knows who I am. Be that as it may, this passage is for me. And if it’s for me, then it is also for you.

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

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

You see, by worldly standards, the Christianity angle isn’t the going to win anyone (you) a lot of friends or make you a lot of money. Sure there are wealthy Christians. There are even popular and successful Christians. But it isn’t the Christian faith or the Christian way of life that has made anyone’s fortune. No one gets rich simply by being righteous. Wealth is earned by selling some sort of commodity. The faith as described here by Jesus sounds decidedly un sellable. Poor in Spirit, mournful, humble and meek. Pure. Peaceful. That doesn’t sell. That doesn’t attract anybody’s attention. Sex sells. Violence sells. Controversy sells. Glitz and Glamor sells. The Church doesn’t preach any of those things. The Church doesn’t sell any of those things. The Church doesn’t sell anything at all. The Church preaches… Jesus, dead on the cross for sinners, alive on the third day to give life to the faith-filled and the faithful. The Church shows mercy, just as she has received mercy. The church gives hope to the hopeless, comfort to those who mourn, healing for the broken, food for the hungry, care for the body as well as the soul. The big shots of this world are turned off by us, held back by confession and self examination, disgusted by eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus, annoyed by the insistence of mercy and love. We have nothing to offer them and so we are overlooked, trampled, forgotten, and when we do get attention, most of the time it’s because someone is looking to get in their licks – taking pot shots. Like what you see with Tim Tebow.

So dear Christians, members of Jesus’ community of believers, these passages, these words, they are for you. And they are for me.

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

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

So how about you? Have you devoted yourself to the kingdom of heaven? To meekness? to mercy? To peace and purity? Do you ever wonder why you bother? Does it ever seem like it’s not worth the effort? Like for all your hard work you aren’t getting anywhere? Maybe even like you are taking steps backward instead of forward?

It can sure go that way from time to time.

Our text offers profound words of comfort. We have learned to identify with the struggle, let’s also learn to identify with the hope and the comfort and the joy of our text. There is much that is offers.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

Understand from this the character of our God and the gifts that he offers. When you and I give gifts, we save the best for last. It makes sense for us. It builds excitement, provides motivation when we withhold the better of the rewards until the end. Not for Jesus however. He gives the best gift first. The kingdom of heaven, the reign of God, the continual and continuous interaction of Heaven’s King and Heaven’s Lord into his creation to care for the citizens of heaven. Jesus makes you His own and then promises to intervene for you directly in this world with all its difficulties and struggles. The best gift God has to offer isn’t withheld until the end of your life to see if you have done a good enough job to deserve it. It is given and guaranteed right up front and all its gifts and benefits that go along with it are yours. Not piecemeal, not one at a time, not incremental, the whole thing up front all at once. This is God’s promise to you.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, as one broken and discarded by the world, humble and in full recognition of your sin, empty and poured out come to Jesus and be filled. Not just with worldly power, not just with worldly wealth, but with heaven’s wealth, with heaven’s power, with God’s comfort and with God’s mercy. You are God’s own child. Baptized into His name. He walks with you every step of the way through your life. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Mourn for what? Why? It doesn’t matter. It does not matter what you mourn and why you are hurt, who has hurt you, what you have lost and why or how you have lost it. You shall receive comfort. You will be comforted. This happens in two ways. Christians comfort each other. The Christian faith is not a “me and my God” sort of a religion as many religions tend to be, as people often want Christianity to be – I like Jesus I just don’t like the church. The church is people and Jesus puts his people together with other people, so that we can love each other, and take care of each other, and comfort each other, and pray for each other, and listen to each other, and provide for each other. You, be in tune with the needs of your neighbor. Comfort them when they mourn. That’s God charge to you. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. You can be a comforter.

But the comfort is not just other Christians. It is first and foremost God’s comfort. Parakaleo. That’s the word the text uses – it means comfort. It means literally to be called alongside, to come beside someone who is mourning to walk with them and care for them. It is a word the New Testament uses to name the Holy Spirit. God is the true comforter.

A friend of mine who has been experiencing a time of distress has mentioned with great joy how he has been ministered to by the Spirit of God. God has sent fellow Christians to him to minister to him, but better than that God’s Spirit has opened passages of scripture to him that deliver to him exactly the Word he needs for that moment to lift him up and build him up and encourage and support and sustain him. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. He has been comforted. In the midst of his suffering he has been sustained by God himself. That is likewise God’s promise for you.

Blessed are those who are meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Today is All Saints. We remember those Christians who have died in the faith, our own friends and loved ones. Can there be anyone more impoverished in spirit, than those who are dead? Any greater humility than to have your life taken from you? And greater grief than to be lost to the world? For those who have died, (even for those who have died!) they shall inherit the earth. You shall inherit the earth.

Now that doesn’t mean this earth. After all who would want it – it’s trashy and polluted and broken. Sinners fight for it and fight over it, who gets to be the king in this rotten stinking festering sin heap. Let them have it. Our kingdom is in the next earth. That’s the one that you will inherit. That’s the one that will be yours without subtraction, nothing to take away from its beauty, its joy, its perfection, its fullness, its satisfaction. No hunger or thirst or suffering or pain. You shall inherit that earth. Not the broken one, but the good one.

So dear Christians, in this life and in this world there will be poverty and grief and sadness and mourning and suffering and pain. Take heart. You will be comforted, you will be sustained and built up as you comfort and sustain and build each other up, as you reach out to show mercy even as you have received mercy, and the God of all peace and comfort will extend his loving care and support to you, to show you love and mercy, to give you the word and the comfort that you need exactly when you need it. And he will keep you safe as you finish your course in this earth because the day of rejoicing is coming, the new heaven and the new earth are on their way and that is your inheritance. Take heart. Don’t lose hope.

Amen.

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