February 2, 2020 Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 5:1-12
John W. Green Paxton Presbyterian Church
The recent death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant has led many in our nation to a time of reflection. This has happened within the sports world and among those who do not follow sports.
Nine lives ended suddenly in that California helicopter crash. There was Kobe Bryan, 41 years old and his 13-year-old daughter. There was a husband and wife and their own 13-year-old daughter. There was a mother and her 13-year-old daughter. Three 13-year-old girls died in that crash. There was a 38-year-old mother of three. There was also the 50-year-old helicopter piolet.
It is only natural that an event like this might cause a need to reflect on life in general and in particular the question of what really matters in life.
On a completely different note, last week Larry Walker was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. Walker’s election caused a conversation among some folks as to what really matters, what counts when you ask if a certain player’s career was Hall of Fame worthy. What really matters.
And then on a completely different level, also last week my son’s father-in-law won a Grammy award. He did. Bob is a member and co-producerof the Delbert McClinton and Self Made Men band. Their album “Tall, Dark and Handsome” won the Grammy in the Traditional Blues Album category. As I reflected on that all week, I realized again that there is no such award for preachers.
It is interesting the kinds of things that might cause us to reflect on what really matters in life.
Along those lines, it is interesting that our scripture readings for the next 3 weeks lead us to Matthew’s version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The importance of the Sermon on the Mount cannot be overly emphasized. Matthew’s account of the Sermon the Mounts takes up three complete chapters of the 28 chapters that make up Matthew’s gospel. It happens early on in Jesus’ ministry. Upon seeing a large crowd, Jesus leaves them and walks to the top of a mountain, a traditional place for revelations of God. Jesus sits down on that mountain top and begins to teach his disciples.
Something big is about to happen.
The Sermon on the Mount is sometimes seen as the Constitution of the church. It lays out what matters in the Kingdom of Heaven. It lays out grand themes that will be expounded on as Jesus’ ministry goes forward.
The first 12 verses, 5:1-12 are often seen as the Preamble to this Constitution. It encapsulates what really counts and matters to those who chose to follow Christ.
We don’t have time to do the Sermon on the Mount justice. Next week we will speak about letting out light shine, which Jesus speaks of in 5:13-16. The following week will talk about what God expects of his followers in dealing with their anger.
But for this morning, for only a few moments I want us to look at the Beatitudes, those first 12 verses of chapter five and to ask again, what really matters in life
The Beatitudes is a series of blessings, but they are odd blessings. It isn’t saying blessed are the strong or the self-sufficient, the victorious, the winners in life. Instead, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful and the pure in heart.
And why are they blessed? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, because they will inherit the earth, because they will receive mercy, they will see God.
It sounds odd because it is a reversal of what our society. What is it that matters to God and what is it that should matter to us?
Notice that it matters to God, and it should matter to us that his disciples lament over the hurt in our world, that they ache in their hearts over the pain they see around them and that they seek to be a vessel of healing. What matters is that our lives are vulnerable to the tragedies of life.
It is tempting to say that as long as my life and my family and my friends are safe and sound, then I don’t care about the rest of the world. It’s Snoopy doing his happy dance because he doesn’t have to shovel the snow. It’s building a wall around ourselves and saying to the rest of the world, stop bugging me.!
Instead of that, blessed are those who ache and hurt over what they see going on and strive to do something. These are the folks who hunger and thirst for righteousness. These are the peacemakers.
Notice that it matters to God, and it should matter to us that his disciples trust not in themselves but in the power of God. Blessed are the meek. They are the ones who know they are lost without God.
Watch the Super Bowl today and notice how many times the players thump their chests. After making a good play, after scoring a touchdown or denying the touchdown a player will cheer for himself and thump his chest. I predict there will be a lot of chest thumping today.
The Christian life is not about thumping our chest and screaming, look at me! It is more about humbly turning attention to God and saying, look at what the Lord is doing.
What really matters in life?
Our Old Testament passage has a pretty good answer. Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”
It is not the length or the ease or the smoothness of life that matters. What seems to matter is whether we are willing to be touched by another person’s pain and to be empowered by the grace of God, trusting only in God, are we willing to put ourselves out there for that other person. That is a blessed life. Amen.