|Easter 5, Year C||May 19, 2019||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 12, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Psalm 23; John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 5, 2019||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 28, 2019||Easter 2, Year 2||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, 2019||April 21, 2019||Easter Sunday||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, 2019||April 19, 2019||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019||April 18, 2019||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year C||April 14, 2019||Palm Sunday, Year C||Luke 23:26|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||April 7, 2019||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C – “Be a Blessing”
Sermon Date:February 17, 2019
Scripture: I Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26
Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C 2019
At the very beginning, God blessed all of creation by bringing it into being. God meant for all of creation to be forever blessed and happy if it remembered its creator and its purpose, to glorify its creator by its very being.
So no wonder that Jeremiah and the psalmist both chose a beautiful part of creation, trees rooted by streams of water, forever green and bearing fruit, as being blessed, and then comparing us when we are blessed to those trees, their roots deep in the earth, with continual access to living water.
But from the beginning, we’ve been wanderers. And we have this drive to glorify ourselves at the expense of God.
God has tried to help us out with first the Law, then the Prophets, and at last by coming among us and being with us and then when we put Jesus to death, by raising him from the dead.
When we live with the assurance that the death and resurrection of Jesus has opened forever the way to eternal life in God, we can’t help but glorify God and to live as if God’s kingdom is already here in our midst.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is probably once more by the Sea of Galilee, (at least that’s where the Sermon on the Mt in Matthew’s gospel takes place) a stunningly beautiful fresh water sea, a sea that is life giving—after all, several of his disciples have until now have made their livings from the bountiful fish in this sea. Their lives have been rooted here on these very shores.
And Jesus has already said to the disciples, “Look, now you’re going to be fishing for people.” They can only imagine what he must mean by this, but he must have been completely convincing because they left everything behind and followed him, no longer rooted in their livelihoods, but rooted in Him now.
In this Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is getting them to imagine what’s ahead!
Imagine what this world will be like when the Kingdom of God is here!
Now when someone gives us a vision of something wonderful, we want more! So no wonder Jesus at this point is surrounded by a great crowd of his disciples, and a great multitude of people from everywhere.
Their imaginations are on fire with the Kingdom of God! And they want to hear more!
Jesus tells them that the poor, the hungry, those who mourn, and the persecuted are blessed. You can also translate that word for blessed as happy.
The poor people who have come to hear Jesus are blessed because they have imagined that such a things as the kingdom of God really does exist. They have hard lives, and so they wait in expectation. These poor people have already seen signs of God’s kingdom here on earth, because they’re looking for it. In fact, that’s why they’re following Jesus right now. They see help for themselves! They see the Kingdom of God in the very being of Jesus.
The hungry people who have come to hear Jesus are blessed, because they imagine the kingdom of God and live in expectation that they will receive what they need and be full, through God’s grace.
The mournful people who have come to hear Jesus are blessed, because they have imagined in their sorrow that in the kingdom of God the peace that passes understanding, that peaceful grace of God, will bring them lasting joy.
These people are blessed, because they are longing for the Kingdom of God. And Jesus blesses them further by telling them that what they can only imagine right now will become reality in God’s kingdom.
And then he talks to us, his rich, full, and laughing disciples. We have all we need, we’re never hungry, and for the most part, we’re happy.
But woe to us, because our wealth, our fullness, and our joy can take away our imagination and our hope for the kingdom of God.
So we don’t really expect anything from God, because we’ve managed so well on our own.
We have all we need. We’ve created our own little kingdoms. We’re content, so we can quickly forget how to be expectant and wait on God. We aren’t looking for God’s kingdom, because we’ve made our own. We aren’t looking for God’s food, because we’ve provided our own. And we celebrate all we’ve done for ourselves and joyfully pat ourselves on the back for our hard work.
And because we’ve taken care of ourselves so well, we often forget the poor, the hungry and those who are mourning. Or we blame their problems on any number of things that then free us from having to worry about them—for instance, those who want to come to then United States because they are poor and hungry and mourning—they should stay home and fix their own governments. They aren’t our responsibility or our problem.
But when we think like this, Jesus says to us, Woe to you, you rich, you full, you happy people that everyone praises.
Jesus says that the kingdom of God is for anyone who wants to be part of that kingdom. And in that kingdom, no one is poor, no one is hungry, and no one is mourning.
So if we are God’s disciples and we believe what Jesus is saying, then we want to do all we can to live as if the Kingdom of God is already here on earth, and to live in that reality! —
by seeing and addressing the others’ needs instead of protecting our own good fortune.
To be expectant, to imagine the kingdom of God here in our midst,
And then to go out and to be a blessing in this world, because we are imagining and hoping, as Jesus did, that the kingdom of God will come.
You can probably all think of people who have blessed the world because they’ve imagined the kingdom of God as a reality. They’ve brought God’s blessings into places where the kingdom of God can’t even be imagined, especially by the rich, the full and the happy, because these are the last places on earth the rich and the full and the happy would want to go. The places where God’s kingdom is most needed are the places that people would like to avoid because they’re so upsetting and sad.
Mother Teresa saw the people dying in the gutters in Calcutta as people made in the image of God, and so in her Home for the Dying Destitutes, over the tub where the poor and dying people are bathed, are these simple words to remind those who do the bathing that they are tending “The Body of Christ.”
As Michael Mayne puts in in his book, Alleluia is our Song, disciples who are living in God’s kingdom see differently. Instead of “looking with your eyes at your neighbor and seeing simply a walking object, instead we see with our hearts and see an individual made like you in the image of God to be treated as you need to be treated yourself, with tenderness and love.”
Most people have heard of Mother Teresa, but people that we will never hear of have also blessed the world in great and small ways.
Back in the early 1970’s, a man named John Bell, in his twenties, got educated on helping people with disabilities. He headed for Central America, where services were, and still are, lacking.
He got as far as Guatemala and he never left.
I met him in Antigua this summer. He’s close to retirement now. He’s spent his whole life in what we’d consider poverty. Right now, he runs a house for those who no one else wants because of their disabilities.
Nazario, who lost both arms at age seven in some corn processing machinery, lives in this house. Thanks to John Bell, Nazario is bilingual, is finishing up a university degree, runs the website for John Bell’s group and can care for himself—with no arms!
I could go on and on about John Bell. In his life, John Bell has created an industry for equipment for the disabled that has grown and grown and changed the lives of so many, but he spun all of that off so that he could keep running his house for the desperate.
He is materially poor as a result, but his is ALREADY the Kingdom of Heaven because in his own poverty, he has lifted poor people out of poverty. He has made sure that those who were hungry had something to eat, and a place to live. He has brought joy to those who never felt they’d have joy again.
He has blessed people.
But we don’t have to go to Calcutta or Guatemala to see our neighbors in the image of God and to bless them.
Now closer to home, a man named Paul lives on our cul-de-sac.
Paul retired from the Post Office a while back. He and his wife Joyce came to Fern Ct a few years ago. They’re in their eighties, and they’d lived in a retirement place, and didn’t like it, so they found this little house on our street, because Paul likes to have a little yard. He still cuts his grass and plants zinnias and tends them in the summer, and those flowers are so pretty! And when the weather is nice, he sits out on his porch and reads his Bible.
And here’s what he does every year for everyone on this street because he wants to bless us.
This man, in his eighties, goes out in the summer and picks blackberries. He goes all over the place looking for blackberry bushes. And he gathers berries and then he starts making blackberry jam. He calls it freezer blackberry jam.
And when Christmas comes around, he packs his little jars of jam up and goes to every house on this street, and gives each one of us a jar of his jam, and a little card telling about his church, a reminder that this gift is about more than just Paul being nice, but it’s about the kingdom of heaven trying to break out on earth, and he wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.
Every time I open my refrigerator and see Paul’s jar of jam, let me tell you, I feel blessed by this man, not just because he gave me jam, but he blesses me because I can SEE for myself that Paul is imagining the kingdom of God and bringing that kingdom to life by treating us, his neighbors, as fellow citizens in that kingdom.
Paul richly blesses me. Every time I drive by his house, I say a prayer of thanks for him, because he shows me the kingdom of God.
Now I want to brag on you all. You all are blessing the world too.
Thank you for being so generous and keeping the discretionary fund full, so that I can say yes, when people call for help. Often they’ll say, “You all have blessed me with this help.”
You all bless the world through the food distribution.
You all bless the world every time you treat one another with tenderness and love, because when we do that for one another, the kingdom of God becomes visible on this earth.
So we who are rich and full and laughing—let’s remember today that we need to be expecting the kingdom, just as if we were poor, or hungry, or unhappy.
God is in the process of creating something new, the Kingdom of God in our midst, and that as disciples we get to help in that creation!
Let’s remember that we can use the gifts that bless us now to be blessings to those among us who are poor and hungry and unhappy.
Let’s remember to make the kingdom of God visible and believable, because getting to do that is our joy in getting to be part of God’s kingdom here and now, and our joy as we prepare for eternity.
Expect the kingdom of God and go looking for that kingdom, which God has already imagined and has started making a reality.
Go be a sign of God’s grace in this world.
Go, glorify God, and be a blessing.