Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
St. Aidan's
Clevedon Kidz

Did he really say that?

January 27, 2019
Martin Baker

27 January 2019                   Did he really say that?                                  Martin Baker

Last Sunday I spoke about the temptations Jesus faced at the start of his ministry.

I encouraged people to think about the tests and temptation we face in 2019.

These tests are the positive things. The importance of having new challenges. -  The things that encourage and bring our skills, our talents and gifts.  

The temptations though, are the things that lead us to misuse our skills our money, our time. That lead us away from deepening relationships with God and with one another.

As we follow Jesus’ call on our lives there are tests and temptations.

This week we hear a series of teachings - called the beatitudes. The blessings. Every day we are bombarded with images and stories of success, achievement, fulfilment.  I think my own thoughts as another 4 stories high gin palace thunders past me on my kayak. And there is always a bigger one a newer one, a faster one following that one.

So much of life has tests and temptation. We can spend a lot of time worrying and thinking about being richer, smarter, better looking, more popular, more successful.

But the beatitudes confront us with a deep question about how we live and look and think and work. They are about living as people of God’s kingdom. Not just one thing but the values and the culture consistent with Jesus’ teaching and the way we act and think and see the world around us.

Matthew 5:1-12

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

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

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

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

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

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

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

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Let us pray….

Those early Jewish Christians saw Jesus as a kind of new Moses.

Last week we heard about Jesus today goes into the wilderness. Faced his temptations.  The people centuries before were led by Moses into the wilderness as they escaped slavery under the Egyptians. Not 40 days but 40 years they travelled. In the wilderness

Moses and Jesus, born into places of persecution under Pharaoh and Herod.   Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. And today Jesus goes up to the mountain and gives the beatitudes.

In fact, we hear in the details of Jesus ministry at the start of the gospel of John, Philip says to Nathaniel ‘we have found the one that Moses wrote about in the law. ‘

What would it have been like -  to follow Jesus up to this high place.  A sacred place. Closer to the heavens. And to hear these teachings.

I suppose it is a really obvious thing to say, but in a great many things experience is so important for understanding and knowing.

Despite what a lot of people told me about snow, I didn’t get to experience snow until I was a teenager and went with friends down to Mt Ruapehu.  

We had children a bit later than most, and up to that point I couldn’t imagine what it was like to have children. We had two at once. Even though people have been having children for quite some time, and there are books to read about it, all of a sudden I had these two little faces in car seats in the back of my Toyota Corolla.

And the list goes on and on for all of us. Someone told me late last year that I am now too old to take up kayak fishing. But I have started kayak fishing. And thanks to the help of some patient teachers, I have caught more fish on my kayak this summer than I did from my tinny last summer.  It is something I wanted to do. And it has been a great experience.

It’s the wonderful thing about being human. Curiosity. Wanting to give things a go. And of course there are downsides to that drive. Some experiences are destructive and bad for us.

But all of us have those lists. The things we know about in theory but have yet to experience.  

Perhaps for many of us our faith sits in this realm as well.  We would like deeper experiences, more certainty about God. It would be helpful to have more proof.

Paul summed up the situation in these beautiful words we find in 1 Corinthians chapter 13

9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

We listen to these beatitudes today and they can seem quite unreal. Where is the proof about the meek and the grieving and the peacemakers ?

And perhaps there are two dangers.

One is cynicism. You can believe that if you want to but it’s just a lot of wishful thinking.

And the second response, which in some ways is worse, is to say that that all these beatitudes are simply relegated to the realm of nice words.

The sort of words that are almost certainly to be found on hallmark cards. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  What a nice thought.

So let’s put those two responses aside for a moment. You can believe that if you want to – or just nice words.  

Because Jesus followers almost certainly did not have either of those views.

How many of us have got so use to looking at the world in a particular way that we couldn’t imagine that we might be wrong?

Or more positively, is there a way of seeing ourselves and the world around us that could be much more life giving, more joyful, more full of the potential to bring hope to bring happiness ?

In the beatitudes behind what Jesus is saying. There is that question. Why are you so anxious?  What is the source of your unhappiness?  

Do you think your grief, as overwhelming as it seems, now will be infinite.  Or will it come to an end. Why do you live doubting that peacemaker will have their day? Why do you doubt that those who seek the right relationships with God and each other will be successful?

What reality do our lives attest to?

Just one example. The dominance of anxiety in our lives. I was reading a little story.    

Last winter Sarah Fader, a 37-year-old social media consultant sent a text to a friend about coming to visit.

When she did not get an immediate response, she posted on Twitter to her 16,000-plus followers. “I don’t hear from my friend for a day – my thought, they don’t want to be my friend anymore,” she wrote,  #endoffreindships

Thousands of people were soon offering up their own examples under the hashtag; some were retweeted more than 1,000 times. Fader struck a nerve. “If you’re a human being living in 2019 and you’re not anxious,” she says, “there’s something wrong with you”.

The anxiety, the worry, the grief that can so overwhelm us or sit behind so much of what we do and think.

Jesus does up on the mountain and brings us the beatitudes.

Not just naive words or good thoughts, But the words of the kingdom. The quality of the rules and values of those would follow him as people of his Kingdom.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

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

Translators have found it a little difficult to find a parallel in English for the word we hear today as blessed. Makarioi. (Mack a re oi)

There is equal evidence that the word means happy or blessed. Fulfilled, being complete, having a sense that you have everything that you need.

So Jesus is not giving out a naive wish list here. Clearly he knew a lot about human cruelty and selfishness.

But he’s asking us about the basis of our own lives . Standing back from the teaching today , surrounding this story,  the spirit of the beatitudes is all about our commitment to compassion and simplicity and hopefulness.

In other parts of the Gospel he calls his hearers to be the salt of the earth. He calls us to be the light of the world. He warns us not to hide the radiance of God, but to allow it to shine before others “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”

As challenging as the promises of happiness seem in the Beatitudes, they seem to rest in part upon the ability of the followers of Jesus to attend to the wounds of the world, to illuminate a way forward in impossible circumstances with divine light, and to do those things as if it’s just us being who we are. Like it’s second nature.

No one on that mountain listening to Jesus sat there with a pen and paper. These things that Jesus did and said were so profound that they were remembered by the community. They were told and retold, treasured and cherished for years before one of the few literate people, wealthy enough to have access to writing material, final recorded them in written form.

So this week imagine yourself, following Jesus, this new Moses, this prophet up on this hill above the lake. Hear if you can the words for the first time, pray that the promise of blessing of happiness the assurance they bring may be part of your life and your walk with Jesus. And that other thing. Finding our own happiness and blessing by being a blessing to others.   Let us think of those around us.  Who around you can you bless and encourage as you seek to follow after Jesus.