Pastor Paul E. Hoffman
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before we go charging head-long into Matthew 5, let’s review. To this point in his Gospel, Matthew has told us, among other things, of
An inconvenient pregnancy
The threat of divorce – Joseph’s from Mary
A quirky set of visitors from the East, following a star
A maniacal, manipulative king
A dream-inspired flight to a foreign country, making the Holy
The slaughter of innocent children
We have heard about the cousin of Jesus and his eccentric preaching: winnowing forks, unquenchable fire, an ax lying at the root of the tree, that sort of thing…
We learn in early Matthew about:
A forty day fast in the wilderness ending with an encounter
between Jesus and the devil
Christ’s teaching and healing those afflicted with various
diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics
That’s what gets more-or-less covered in the first four chapters as Matthew sets out to tell the story of Jesus. And with that scene- setting backdrop, we turn the page to chapter 5, Jesus climbs a
mountain, has a seat, and begins to speak…
The poor in spirit are blessed, for the reign of heaven is theirs.
Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.
The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.
What are the first four chapters of your life? Frankly, I have no idea. I haven’t known you long enough. But, I know this after forty years of ministry. I know that the chapters of your life and my life are a
whole lot like the opening strains of the Gospel of Matthew.
They are life stories that contain
An inconvenient pregnancy somewhere in our family
The threat of divorce: our own, our friends’, a member of our
We have quirky friends who may have followed a star or something a whole lot more bizarre in search of something meaningful or real
We are not strangers to maniacal, manipulative leaders
Is there a day that goes by that we don’t hear of siblings in
Christ fleeing for their lives to a foreign country?
We are, unfortunately, acquainted with the death of children;
painfully, some of them have been our own.
We know what it means to be tempted, and we ourselves or those we love with all our hearts are
afflicted with various diseases and pains…
So Jesus is not just whistling Dixie when he sits down here among us, today, in – of all places Minneapolis, Minnesota – and says, says to us – in a way that the world around us would find foolish…. Jesus says, “I know. I get it. I see you.”
Jesus, who by God’s grace, came to live among us full of grace and truth knows first-hand how the crowded ways of human life get crossed up.
With wretchedness and need.
With human grief and burdened toil.
With famished souls from sorrow’s stress.
The world will never see us as Jesus does. The world in its wisdom wants us to move on, to get over it, to buck up and pull ourselves together.
But Jesus sees us with all the tempts us, with all our various diseases and pains, with our broken relationships, and grandiose ideas gone south. He knows how we are tempted to go chasing off after other gods, and how that never, ever satisfies. And so he sits among us today, right here, right now, and says, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed. You are mine. You are beloved.
Loving us as he does, just as he loved those before us on the dusty roads of Galilee and the lush mountains where he sat to teach…
Knowing us as Jesus does, and loving us, is reckless in the eyes of world. Foolish. The world does not deal well when those who are low and despised get God’s attention. The world roils and fumes even
more when those who it deems losers are given the title “blessed.”
At its worst, the world will be so flummoxed by those who are called by his name, so undone by any who do justice, or love kindness, or walk humbly with our God that the world will revile us, and
persecute us, and utter all kinds of evil against us falsely.
And yet, and yet. This is what defines us. This is who we are. Blessed at the hand of the One whose own hands are pocked by nail prints, whose side was pierced with pain to heal the pain inside of us. This is
who we are – not perfect, but blessed. In all the messiness of whatever chapters of our lives have led us to this day. Gathered at Christ’s feet once again today we find ourselves: wounded, yet grounded. By mercy surrounded. Already and not yet. Always moving forward in the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Blessed. Blessed. Blessed.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.