Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In A Word...

OUR LESSON for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany comes to us from the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Within this reading we hear a central teaching of Jesus, who at the time sat many persons down upon a hillside in an area known as “Galilee of the Gentiles”. Within this text, we find words spoken to those whom God had already chosen…

“Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 
 "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 obtain mercy. 
 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 
 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
 "Blessed are you when men 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 men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 
 
                                                                                         (Matthew 5:1-12)

To Whom It May Concern…
Repeated again and again in the discourse given on the hillside above the Sea of Galilee, we find a very special word. That word, interpreted as “Blessed…” comes through to us nine times. In importance then, we might begin this session by examining this very special word. Its occurrence here in Matthew signals a shift from the previous descriptive words of the where and when of the speaking… to the normative, unchanging dictate of our Lord in each refrain. However, within the reading of this wondrous text, we also find ourselves caught up in the secondary, regulative commissioning of disciples that have heard the foundational Word. Therefore, let’s make a closer examination of this very special reading, in that it contains these three categories of exegetical text.
 The historical setting upon the mountainside is attested both here and elsewhere. Some nuances exist, however, between beloved Matthew’s use of this text and to its writing companion in Luke. We note to some extent, how each author and community heard the message from a common source. Each received the forerunner source (as assumed in the document “Q”), and then spiritually tailored the Word to each writer’s individual location and time. In the same way that, even today, the Word spoken come to us from various pulpits and lecterns.
 Here we brush away comparative reading skills, however, and concentrate our effort on a particular word. Within the text, the word “Blessed” echoes repeatedly. The word stems from the Greek as, “Makarioi”. We may ask of scripture, “What sort of word is this?” Do we declare the word as a noun, verb or adjective, or all three?
 The root word is “makarizo, which is  a Greek verb used when the subject of the sentence declares the object as being made “beautiful, favored, or happy” For this reason this section is often called the “Beatitudes”, or “beauty described”. Therefore the subject, who in this case is our speaking Lord, declared the hearing disciples as having the qualities… all of the qualities… all nine of them… belonging to the beautiful. During the telling we thus realize that the Beloved Son’s very speaking of the verb created the entity of the “Beautiful”. Those who received the Word become so named… “Blessed (Ones)”. The verb becomes a noun.
 In a normative sense then, in all time and places… our Lord Jesus described even the sinful hearers and doers of the Word as “Blessed.” For no reason other than anyone having heard and accepted these words by God in any place, and any time within the hearing of the Word, are “Blessed”. Therefore, given this divine activity, we today who also read or  hear the Word are counted as followers of Jesus, and are yet "Blessed".

Blessed Comforts?
As we go through these Beatitudes then, we hear Jesus comforting those sinful disciples who are found as poor, mourning, and meek; and also seek rightness, mercy, purity in motive. However, Jesus warned that they shall be persecuted for doing right things. Thus Jesus comforted them and pronounced them as chosen citizens of the eternal kingdom of heaven. He stated clearly to them that God is indeed present! He taught them that God would always be with them. They only needed to hold tightly to what they are given. Astounding grace was therefore proclaimed.
 An eternal fact thus emerges then to us; that during any occurrence on a hillside, open seashore, plains or desert sermon, where our Lord God teaches his followers through scripture, the holy Word... we learn that even the sinful are accepted. God is with us! We are secure.
 In keeping with this initial message of our belonging to God, Matthew later related that Jesus as the Son of God… paid the penalty for our transgressions and worldly wanderings. He offered himself up to death on the cross to pay the penalty for our disobedience. Pointedly then, Matthew described our Lord’s giving us of his own Body and Blood. Therefore, you see that, in, with, and under that miraculous bread and wine that we received at the divine table in the kingdom, all things are renewed and our future as saints is revealed!

What Now?
We might ask our Lord, “What is it that we, as disciples and saints, are now called to do?” I offer that we who are baptized into Christ are most certainly urged by this reading to stand up and be counted. We are to act like those disciples who received the Word of God from Jesus on the mountainside. As Matthew related. Jesus instructed them precisely with the last words of this teaching…

“Blessed are you when men 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 men persecuted the prophets who were before you. “

Note the sequence laid out! First, though often taunted and shunned… rejoice and be glad! Even when evil world entities gathered around us in both church and state seem to shake us to our very foundations… rejoice and be glad! So it is, and will be.., but we are the Blessed. Even so, rejoice!
 Know secondly that beyond our continued living in the governance of the world, each person who hears the Word and accepts the gift of salvation has already been declared as having an eternal, never diminishing reward in the heavenly kingdom. This reward is such that no sinful human entity, limitation or earthly resource can match its stellar quality or quantity.
 Finally, we need to know surely that we are already appointed. We have been called as prophets. As such, each on persons being called as a prophet of God, has been chosen to leave the mountainside as witness. Therefore, know that you are chosen to go out into society and do as the prophet Isaiah…

 “…bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor…” (Isaiah 61:1)

Now having read the Word, learn of him! Study scripture. Attend a church that teaches both scriptural Law and Gospel rightly interpreted. Learn the historic creeds of the church. And indeed… amid all of this… accept the mantle of prophet. Do not worry about the world and its persecutions… for just look around clearly! Both the world and its ruler are already doing evil things to you as a disciple. Simply do it! To guide your steps, please know that normative for all-time … “Blessed are you, when you walk in the way of the Lord.”

For those who wish to do so, click on the screen below to view our online worship for last week. We offer this to you for the sake of those who are home bound, or temporarily cannot attend a worship celebration at their home church. In no way should this be taken as a replacement for regular Christian worship in a traditional faith community... for there you rightly worship God, are supported and offer the love of God to others.

To view our video, click on the screen arrow below. Once the video begins, you can click on bottom right of the video screen to obtain the YouTube call out. Click on that call out if you wish to enable larger, or full screen ability.


May The Love Of God Be With You!

 

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