Saturday, March 21, 2015

Everything Must Change

For the last couple of weeks I have been reminding you that Christianity is a journey and not a destination.  Or to put it another way --- Becoming a Christian is the starting line --- not the finish line.

Being a Christian means that we stand up against those things that hinder the kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed it.

It calls us to be activists in a cause of peace, freedom, justice and compassion.

Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus lay out his vision for what the Kingdom is to be like better than in what we call the Beatitudes

The setting for this story is on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee --- near the town that becomes Jesus headquarters while he is in the Galilee --- the town of Capernaum.

Jesus was not from Capernaum --- rather he was from Nazareth a small town not that many miles away.

If you remember the story --- Jesus had been chased out of town by the people of Nazareth.

Chased out because they did not like his RADICAL message

Luke 4:16-21
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

They didn’t like what they had to say, so they chased him and tried to throw him off a precipice --- but Jesus got away and moved on to Capernaum

When you think of the ideal biblical city --- you think of Capernaum

Small, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, picturesque --- even today

One day Jesus walked out of town with his small group of disciples and sat down on a hillside overlooking the Sea.

Other people had come as well --- almost as if they are eavesdropping on this teacher ---- wanting to hear what he has to say.

He starts in an interesting way: BLESSED

Blessed he says are these people.

All too often teachers and preachers of his day (and still today) started from the other end of the spectrum --- WOE is you

But he says Blessed are you

Listen he seems to be saying --- pay attention to what I have to tell you and your life will be better.

And then he begins to describe what God’s kingdom is going to be like.

And he does it so differently than most of us do today.

When we talk about being blessed --- what comes to mind?
·         becoming rich and powerful
·         for higher status in the social pecking order
·         healthy, wealthy, wise

But that was not how Jesus defined success.

Who are blessed?

What kinds of people does he say we should be identifying with?

Listen to his words:
Matthew 5:1-16
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Do you hear the power of these words?

Jesus is turning the norm of the world upside down!

Look at what he is suggesting --- Who are the hero’s?
·         Warriors?
·         Corporate Executives?
·         Politicians?


Instead he identifies hero's as brave and determined activist who seek peace and are willing to suffer with Jesus as they actively proclaim that new way.

But let me be clear --- JUST AS JESUS IS CLEAR

If we want to be disciples of Jesus we can not simply coast along and conform to the norms of our society.

We have to CHOOSE a different definition of success than our society has adapted

We need a new set of values.

And the other thing that Jesus wants to make sure we understand:  WE WILL PAY A PRICE FOR MAKING THAT CHOICE

But we will also discover many new, maybe even unexpected rewards
·         True aliveness in God's kingdom
·         the warmth of God's comfort
·         Seeing God's restorative justice come more fully real
·         receiving mercy
·         experiencing God's presence
·         Maybe most importantly --- we can PARTICIPATE with God in the transformation of lives and the world

We will as Paul says --- experience "the peace of God that passes all understanding"

Jesus invites us to be difference makers

Catalyst for change

Jesus wants us to be "the salt of the earth" --- He wants us to bring out the best in this world

To preserve the world

Jesus wants us to be "the light of the world" --- He wants us to be a light that penetrates into the darkness

A light that radiates warmth and goodness and health

Jesus knows, however, that there will be great temptation for us to tone down --- to become tamed in our passion for the Kingdom.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once remarked:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Jesus wants us to stand apart from the status quo --- the way things are

Jesus wants us to stand up for what matters

Jesus wants us to stand out as a part of the solution --- rather than remaining part of the problem

I don't know if you noticed --- but the way that Jesus presented this information to us is rather interesting.

And they way that he does it, tells us something important about him --- and about us

This isn't about Jesus

He isn't saying --- LOOK AT ME

Instead, Jesus puts US in the spotlight
          YOU are the salt of the earth
          YOU are the light of the world

Jesus will, later on, tell us who he is --- but right now he wants to begin by declaring who WE ARE.

Can you imagine this scene?

On a bright and beautiful Galilean afternoon, crowds of people have gathered around to hear what this teacher has to say
          They are hanging on to his every word

They know something amazing is happening --- even if they are still not quite sure what it really is all about.

But they can tell that he is not wanting to FIX things.

Jesus is here proclaiming something BIGGER, something DEEPER, something more POWERFUL than they have ever heard before.

It is a revolutionary message.

But not one of weapons and violence --- no this message is something more subversive.

And it begins with a new identity.

On that hillside, on that afternoon ---- Jesus invites his hears to reflect upon:
·         who they are
·         who they want to be
·         what they want to make with their lives

He is doing the same thing to each of us as well

Some of us are young --- we have our whole lives ahead of us

Some of us are further along --- we have lots of hope, but not a lot of time to fulfill them.

I hope you are hearing him --- for he is calling to YOU

And as we listen to Jesus --- inside we know:
If I accept this new identity --- everything will change for me

Brian McClaren --- We Make the Road By Walking

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