February 17, 2019

The Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany

Scripture Reading: Luke 6:17-26

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

Crowds Follow Jesus

17 When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil[a] spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.

The Beatitudes

20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,

“God blesses you who are poor,
    for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now,
    for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
    for in due time you will laugh.

22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

Sorrows Foretold

24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
    for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
    for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
    for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
    for their ancestors also praised false prophets.

Footnotes:

  1. 6:18 Greek unclean.

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 5:1 That is, the Sea of Galilee


Sermon: “A Happy Bee-attitude

Who’s happy this morning? How many of you were immediately happy as soon as your
alarm clock went off this morning? How many of you were happy after your first cup of coffee,
tea or caffeinated beverage of choice? Morning routines are different for everyone. Some people
simply are NOT morning people and you do NOT want to mess with them before they have had
their first cup of coffee. There seems to be a formula to our happiness, right? There always seems
to be something that needs to happen before we can be “happy”. Thousands of books have been
written about finding your happiness…marketing experts and scientists have conducted studies to
influence the creation of products to buy that will make you happy. And…Happiness can be many
different things to people. Let’s check out this clip to see more about some different kinds of
happiness.
<Show video clip>
Anyone catch the very last part of that clip? Who wrote the formula for happiness? The
video narrator said that God wrote the formula for happiness. Is the narrator talking about the God
of the Old Testament or the God of the New Testament? For many people, it seems like there are
two very different God’s portrayed in the Bible. I have found myself from time to time thinking
to myself, “Wow…that does NOT sound like the loving, creator God that I love with all my heart,
with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength…that sounds like an angry, vengeful
God.” So, naturally, many Christians have a tendency to lean more into the New Testament. I
used to be one of those people myself…until I went to Seminary and I had my first Old Testament
class with Rev. Dr. Clint McCann. Professor McCann or “Clint” as he prefers to be addressed is
an Old Testament and Psalms scholar…and he was actually one of the people that translated the
Bible into the “Common English” version that we heard the Psalm read from today. I credit Clint
with helping me fall in love with the Old Testament. Not just the Old Testament, but with the
WHOLE Bible. Helping me make connections between the Old Testament and the New
Testament. Old into new and new into old. It was Clint that first helped me think deeper into the
words that we heard from the Psalmist this morning…a key word, actually, that the Psalmist used
at the beginning of that first Psalm…”happy”. The Psalmist talks about what a “truly happy person
does.” They don’t follow wicked advice…they don’t commit sins…they don’t tolerate disrespect.
The truly happy person loves the Lord’s Instruction and they think about it deeply day and night!
And in doing those things they will be successful in whatever they do.
Sounds great in theory and all…but I for one don’t have the luxury of time and opportunity
to spend every hour of every day and night praying over and going over all the commandments
that Moses taught in the Old Testament…there were actually over 600 of them NOT just the 10
famous ones…AND I don’t think that that is truly “all it takes” to be a happy person. PLUS…I
don’t know of a single human being that is or was successful in everything that they have ever
attempted. For me, personally, I find myself amidst more failed attempts than successes. My story
is filled with “hot-messes” both past and present. Can anyone else relate to that? Anyone else
wanna be like, “Ok Mr. Psalmist…I’m calling you out on that! Have you seen what actually
happens here? Life is messy and filled with pain and hurt and misery more often than not. People
around me are hungry and hurting and broken and in need. I’m hurting and broken. But I’m
supposed to just love God and pray and go over those commandments endlessly and I’m gonna be
a happy person? Yeah…ok.” But I digress…
And then…I think about the story we heard from Luke’s Gospel today. Luke does
something very different than Matthew does when they tell the story about the “Beatitudes” and
Jesus. The Beatitudes is a big churchy word which essentially means a list of blessings that Jesus
taught…I will get back to that word more in just a bit…but first, let’s think about the “staging” of
this event. Matthew places Jesus on a higher place. Matthew illustrates Jesus giving the lesson or
sermon “on the Mount”…above all the people. Luke, however, puts Jesus on a level plain or flat
place. This puts Jesus directly into the mess and amidst all the people. Into the mess… In the
mess…That’s where I have a tendency to trip over Jesus in the hot-messes that I am trying to get
myself through…on my own, of course, because I am wicked stubborn and hard-headed and I can
do it all on my own…in the flat, rock bottom of any one of my dark valleys. And then Jesus is
there, like, “Hi! Remember me? You know better than to try and do things like this on your own.”
And here is where Jesus teaches something completely unexpected. No one could have seen this
coming. For this next part, I need a handful of volunteers to help me with something…
That was what was different! These people gathered around fully expected Jesus to say
things like, you are the chosen ones. You are here with me and you follow me and listen to me so
you are all blessed. Nope! Instead, we hear “how blessed or how rich you are when you are poor,
because you will experience God’s kingdom….how blessed or how full you are when you hunger
or are hungry because you will be completely satisfied…how blessed or content you become when
you weep with complete brokenness because you will laugh with unrestrained joy…how blessed
or how favored you become when you are hated, or pushed out because of your love for me, the
Son of Man. And then…this is the BEST part… Jesus makes the least of them…the last of
them…the least of us FIRST and the most important to take care of! The poor, the hungry, the
sick…the lost and lonely…the hurting and broken…the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the
refugee…our neighbors…. Caring for THOSE people…in whatever small way that we are able
to…is what will bring us blessings and make us blessed. It is in those acts that we find our
blessings…the Beatitudes for us. For me and for you.
There’s that big word again…Beatitude. I told you we would come back to it. According
to Webster’s dictionary, the word beatitude itself means: a state of utmost bliss. Does that word,
bliss, remind anyone if anything else we talked about this morning? HAPPINESS!! You got it!
It all connects! The formula! In order for us to be truly happy, and to be a truly happy, blessed
person…it takes more than only what the Psalmist said. It takes right action in whatever way you
are able to personally do it. It takes the right bee-attitude or attitude. See what I did there? In
order for us to be truly happy and BEE-lessed, we have to help others with an attitude of BEE
lessings. This doesn’t only make us happy…but it makes God happy!
There is an ebb and flow in everyone’s lives. When we are up and doing well, someone
we know or know of is down. When we have just enough or more than what we need, someone
we know or know of doesn’t have enough or any at all. Those “someone’s” are the ones Jesus
calls the most blessed AND are the ones that are in need of others here on earth with the right bee
attitude towards them. I’ve been a “hot-mess someone” in my life. I imagine that many of you
have been a “someone” at one time or another in your lives…or maybe you are even a “someone”
in need right now. If you are, know that God walks with you and we, this beloved community is
here to walk with you…and we will do our very best to have the right bee-attitude towards
you…because the Kingdom of Heaven and the Grace and Love of God is yours. Happiness and
blessings are not measured by the amount of stuff that we have…stuff just leaves a hole that we
will endlessly try to fill. Instead happiness and blessings are measured by the amount of ourselves
that we pour out for each other. The same way that Jesus poured out his life for each of us. Amen.