Evangelectionary: Sunday January 30th, 2011

Lectionary Readings: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Theme: The Beatitudes

Message: The news that turned the world upside down. Or did it?

Good News? Yeah, right. But for whom? The heart of the Message – the essence of the Gospel – is found within the Beatitudes. You know that stuff we’re supposed to go out into the world and proclaim to everyone? This is it. This is the stuff. This is what Jesus teaches us God is about. This is what he lived and died to show us. This is what got him killed. Why? Well, let’s step back a moment from the numbness brought on by our years of rote memorization of these “nice” little statements and really think about what Jesus is saying. He’s saying that all the stuff that the rich & powerful voices of the world tells us is most important is actually a lie, and that what really matters to God is the stuff that lives on the margins, in the shadows, and under the radar. The ‘good news’ that Jesus is sharing is news that upends our ambitions, our power-quests, and the structures that work so hard to keep everything stable and well-ordered. Jesus is proposing to turn the world upside down.

Is that good news? Well yeah. It’s good news for the meek, the poor, the dispirited, the peacemakers. It’s good news for the marginalized and the despised. But what about the rich? What about the powerful? What about the empire, the institutionalized religion, the agents of law & order? It’s not really good news for them, is it? When your job is to keep the world as-is, to maintain the status quo, to stabilize the base of power and keep things all decent and in order, the world being turned upside down is NOT good news.

We all know countless examples of various government offices and officials, from the local level right up to our Federal legislators and executives, who have gotten into big legal battles over the appropriateness of displaying the Ten Commandments  – on the courthouse lawn, in the lobby, engraved in stone in the courtroom itself right behind the bench, etc. It gets reported in the media with regularity.

But when was the last time you heard of somebody trying to erect a display of the Beatitudes on government property?

Yeah. Because to take the Beatitudes seriously is to turn the world upside down. To take them seriously is to make it clear that The Way Things Are is not the Way God would have them be. To take them seriously undermines so much of what we’ve come to think of as just and right and fair.

But the problem is … Taking the Beatitudes seriously, living them, sharing them, working to make them more real in the lives of human beings – that’s the Gospel. That’s what Jesus sent us out to do. And we can’t think for one second that, if we do so, we’re going to be treated any better by the Powers-That-Be than Jesus was. Or Peter, Paul, John, Stephen, Gandhi, King, and so many others who lived and died taking the Beatitudes seriously. But this is the Gospel. This is the Good News. This is EVANGELISM.  And the world is arrayed against allowing itself to be turned upside down. Power is … well, POWERFUL. And rich, and entrenched, and very adept at making us think everything’s okay.

But it’s not okay. The meek, the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the oppressed, the merciful … they’re still imploring us.

Still.

-Mick Bradley

Quotes:

“It’s just a little turn of phrase in the 17th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica and there was a riot in the streets because of the radical implications of their preaching. The irate townspeople complained to the city authorities about them – these disciples, these apostles of Jesus: ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also. . . They are acting contrary to the decrees of the empire. . .’ What were the apostles saying, that so enraged the townspeople? No doubt, they were simply repeating the words of their teacher, when he taught them as that day on the mountainside: ‘Blessed are those who are poor – in possessions and in spirit. Blessed are those who have suffered loss and are in mourning. Blessed are the meek, and those who are hungry and thirsty – for sustenance and for justice; for righteousness. Blessed are the innocent, and those with purity of heart. Blessed are those who seek and work for peace: shalom, wholeness, health, fullness of life for all.’ Why is it that these thoughts are so revolutionary that they actually cause the world to be turned upside down – and that those who espouse them as principles for daily living and for social and political contract are made to suffer persecution and ill repute for daring to suggest that they are true?” – Rev. James A. Kelsey, The World Turned Upside Down

“It is the business of kings to attach the word ‘forever’ to everything we treasure. The great dilemma is that religious functionaries are expected to use the same ‘forever,’ to attach it to things and make it sound theologically legitimated. But ‘forever’ is always the word of Pharaoh, and as such it is the very word against which Yahweh and Moses did their liberating thing.” – Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Prayers:

Love is not love if it is ever less that justice for all.

Let us pray for humanity.

God our Saviour, we pray for the redemption of humanity from its bondage to insincerity and spiritual darkness. Come with your pure light:

In circumstances where the church has become more interested in itself than in serving the living God, teach us to–

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Among politicians, where half-truths, prevarication and expediency are often regarded as smart skills, teach us to —

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Through the free market economy were deceit is commonly called creative accounting and sending a neighbour broke is success, teach us to —

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Within the advertising industry where a familiar aim is to exploit the fears and lusts of the weak and undermine the defences of the strong, teach us to —

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

In matters of race, class, gender and religion, where rank prejudice regularly hides under wordy protestations of concern, teach us to —

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Within this congregation, if ever we are more concerned with putting up a good front rather than grappling with the rough edges of Christ’s teaching, teach us to —

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

You, Holy Friend, are indefatigable love; inspire each of us with your Spirit, that our prayers and deeds may be drawn closer and closer together, to your everlasting honour and joy.

Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

-prayer courtesy of Bruce Prewer, Uniting Church in Australia

avatar About Bruce Laverman

Bruce is a retired pastor and former Director of Evangelism in the Reformed Church in America now living in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the RCA's representative to Evangelism Connections and serves as Managing Editor of this Web site.

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