May 29, 2005
Psalms 31:18-24; Matthew 7:21-29
Matt 5:8 Blessed are the Pure in Heart for they shall see God.
Well, this is your message for the day from my cat, Cuddles. She hopped up from my lap and walked on the keys, and only typed in 58 when I was staring blanking at Chapter 5 trying to figure out where to start. Cuddles also sat, mesmerized, in front of my new computer screen. She looked just about ready to swat the curser, when I finally booted her out of my way so I could see what I was writing! (She is pretty content to sit in my lap at the computer for now, but no where else! She is not the usual lap kitty!)
So here goes...courtesy of Cuddles... In our deepest heart of hearts, I believe most of us Christians want to think that we are “pure in heart”. We all long to see God someday, right? Maybe not just yet, but someday...
The difficulty always seems to come in our definitions. What does it really mean to see God? What does it really mean to do God’s will? What does it really mean to be a Christian? AND Who is really qualified to define our definitions?
There are people of faith with views that are diametrically opposed to my own. They are people who believe: that they are pure in heart, they see God, they know God’s will, and they are Christians. I, on the other hand, will need some convincing to go along with that.
Now beginning in Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus spells out what it means to live under God’s rule. Again I said under God’s Rule, not under God’s rules...a subtle, but important difference...
First Jesus preaches the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,
Some scholars believe this first beatitude is the keystone for all of the other beatitudes. “Poor in Spirit” seems to mean, those who humbly keep on course to do God’s will, even in rough times. Those who learn from experience, and who seek God in all things.
The second beatitude: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Now mourning is rough business, as many of us have had the opportunity to learn. But the scholars seem to be of the mind that accepting our sorrow with the resolve to learn from it, is part of the blessing for those who mourn as well as part of the comfort. They go further and say that this grieving is a corporate grief. Grief for those who are bound, as though we are bound with them in compassion, grief for those in prison, grief for those who are bound up in cycles of poverty or despair, grief that motivates us and calls us to new actions... This is a grief of compassion that opens our hearts to understand what someone else is going through.
Jesus finishes up the beatitudes and goes on to a number of sayings where he first recounts the existing understanding of the Hebrew law and then he introduces a new understanding. You have heard it said: “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven
So the author of Matthew has spent the better part of three full chapters telling us how Jesus shared his teachings and understandings about the rule of God. Most of those teachings have to do with loving God, and loving our neighbors.
Now in Matthew Chapter 7, verse 21, Jesus speaks the truth in a closing summary of the section and says... not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. According to one scholar, Some in the early church used “Lord, Lord” as though the name was a magical formula. By chanting the words, they could temporarily offer comfort to the listener. The danger was that the words were just being professed and that genuine worship was not taking place. The danger was that the rituals, the rules, the act of worship, was taking the place of actual worship. The danger is that we get arrogant and think that we have the only answer...because clearly we, are the ones doing God’s will. But are we following God’s rules, as we have defined them, or are we living under God’s rule?
Now think, How often has one faith group told another, that if you do not worship, like we do, then you are not worshiping? How often has one side of the theological spectrum accused the other of “not really worshiping God” because you believe....“Pick a subject ”
Try this one...which is sadly for real, BE IT RESOLVED, that this Region shall not accept churches into fellowship who ordain or have in ministerial positions practicing adulterers, fornicators, gay/lesbian/bisexual persons or those who affirm, endorse, or celebrate non-Biblical sexual practices as stipulated above;”
You Know, Just once I would like to see a resolution that went more like this:
Be it resolved that this region shall not accept churches into fellowship who chase the homeless away from their porches because they smell, and do nothing to solve the homeless issue; churches who allow hunger to exist as an issue of concern in their community; And churches shall be banned who spend more than 25% of their budgets on technology gadgets like power-point multimedia screens, sound booths, and latte machines.
Now if one side is correct, can the other side be correct too? Does it matter who is correct, or should God be the only judge?
Jesus spelled out what it is like to live under God’s rule. Over and over again, Jesus said things like: Love one another. In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
How do we deal with our brothers and sisters in faith, who want to prescribe their interpretation of God’s rules for living together under God’s rule? How do we react when they accuse us of the same?
Sadly, I don’t really have an answer to solve this dilemma. But I do know that we can not continue to call each other names. We can not let their hatred, become our hatred. We can not let our hatred, become their hatred. We can not each continue to declare to the other, that we are the wise ones who have built on the rock, and they are the fools who have built in the sand. The us and THEM mentality gets us nowhere. If we keep it up, then we are all the fools who have built on the sandy foundation of our humanly interpreted rules, rules which are clearly interfering with the loving, compassionate rule of God.
I do know that we need to make the effort to Re-Member one another. We are called to be part of the family of God. We are called to be members with one another. So we need to think outside the box for new ways to find common ground
where we can agree on and work together.... Perhaps it is in addressing an issue like access to health care as an issue of social justice instead of a moral battleground. We need to find ways to re- member with each other.
Let us find the way to be poor in Spirit... Willing to humbly learn from our experiences, and seeking ever to be in the will of God. If we people of faith can not work these things out, then how do we expect the rulers and peoples of this world to find peace?
Let us be pure in heart and seek the rule of God together. Hear our prayer O LORD, that there may one day be unity and Peace. That we may one day see your face in the faces of our brothers and sisters. (Light the first candle of a three candle ring ) Let us re- member those with whom we are in conflict, in our families, in our faith communities and around the world. Let us seek God’s grace, wisdom, and forgiveness.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Now re-membering is much easier when we think of those we loved and lost. When someone special in our lives dies, there is an immediate hole in our hearts, and lives. The place our loved one filled is now painfully empty. And everyday we face the prospect of some event triggering a memory.
That memory invites us to form new connections with our loved ones. We can no longer see, or touch them. So we create a new form of connection. We re-member them into our lives by honoring our memories. We work to create wholeness, where the hole was.
For me, when a particularly beautiful piece of piano music touches my heart, I remember how beautifully my loved one played the piano, and now I have re-membered him into my life now through the beauty of music. Think of how it is for you....how do you remember? We re-member our departed loved ones all the time.
Let us now take a moment to remember those we have loved, who have passed on. We light this second candle to Re-member our loved ones, and all those who have loved enough to give their lives in service to humanity.
Finally, let us re-member God’s word. Let us honor the many ways we connect with God. Each time we read the word of God, the holy scriptures, we have the opportunity to explore new levels of understanding. We can start out at the basic understanding level, by reading the English words on the page of our version of the Bible. We can move to the next step by choosing a Bible with a commentary, one that tells us a bit about the context of when & where the Bible was written.
We can add another deeper level of understanding by using prayer with our time of study. Moving even deeper, we might use Bible dictionaries or commentaries that tell us about the meaning of certain words in the original language, or certain events in the cultural time periods when the scriptures were written.
It is our choice, as to how deeply we choose to study God’s written word. But if we only look at God’s word as God’s rule book, then we are missing God’s rule, we are also missing the true word of God, as seen in the life and death of Jesus.
Jesus spent a lot of time trying to explain to the people of his day, that they were so busy creating and following rules, they were missing God’s rule. God’s rule was not about following the hundred’s of laws and customs of the day. God’s rule is about being in relationship with God, and with one another.
Jesus called the people to be in a new relationship with God, a relationship where love, forgiveness and grace were the norm. Jesus re-membered God’s word. Jesus was God’s word evident in a new way.
As we light this last candle, let us accept the invitation to be God’s word in a new way, to the world around us. We are part of the way that God is remembered to our world. Let us follow Jesus Christ to the best of our ability, let us humbly keep on the path of doing God’s will. Let us learn from experience. Let us seek to Love God in all of our actions. Let us seek to Love our neighbor, and ourselves
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. They shall remember.