Monday, January 31, 2011

The "You-Are-Bless-i-tudes"

4th Sunday after the Epiphany – January 30, 2011
Text: Matthew 5:1-12

Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.

            Everyone loves the Beatitudes – presidents and pop-stars, Christians and non-Christians – they all jump on the beatitude-band-wagon.  However, Christians seem to have taken the reigns.  So many misuse and abuse the beatitudes as the duct-tape of Christian living. 
            Having financial problems? Don’t worry, there’s a beatitude for that: blessed are the poor in spirit, your guide to financial success. 
            Having anger issues?  Don’t worry, there’s a beatitude for that. 
            Struggling with your Christian living?  Don’t worry there’s a whole list of beatitudes for that – the perfect recipe for abundant blessings - the Be-Happy-Atitudes. 

            All of these things are not like the other.  Something’s missing:  Christ Crucified and His blessing.  That’s why you don’t do theology by Google search.  This is the trouble with the beatitudes - we think they’re all about us, what I must do and say, how I should live and act.  And if that’s all the beatitudes are, you don’t need Jesus.  You might as well stay home and watch Oprah.
            In doing this the beatitudes are turned into the be-curse-i-tudes.  Caution: beatings will continue until sanctification increases.   Our Old Adam is a pro at this, taking Jesus’ words of blessing and turning them into something we do to please God. 

            This is all backwards.  The beatitudes are less about what you do and more about who you are in Christ.  Less about the things you do to bless God and more about Jesus blessing you by His life, death and resurrection.  He must increase; I must decrease.
            Jesus comes to bear your guilt, not to leave you feeling guiltier going home from church than when you came in this morning.  Jesus didn’t come to guide and coach you into living the abundant Christian life but to place His Name upon you and create new life in you; in Him.  He comes not to curse, but to bless.

            That’s what that little word – beatitude - means.  Blessing.  Not do this and then God will…not a merit, checklist or a recipe.  The beatitudes are a declaration, a promise, a pronouncement – a Blessing.  Jesus opens His mouth and blesses.  Plain and simple.  Of course God’s Word tells you how you live – but that’s no place to start. 
            Jesus is the beatitudes.  That’s where you start.  The beatitudes begin and end in Him.  He is the merciful, the righteous, the peacemaker, the pure in heart – all the things that you and I are not.  For that is what you need most of all, a God-man who is everything that you are not so that you can be given everything that belongs to Him: the kingdom of heaven and all that is His is now added unto you. 
            Jesus opens His mouth and teaches with perfect meekness for you who are rebellious.  He gives the kingdom of heaven away to those who are poor and beggarly in spirit.  Blessed are those who have nothing but sin and death and know it and hate it.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as you – spiritually impoverished, meek-and-thirsting-for-righteousness-in-Christ sinners.  Blessed are you - empty of all checklists and rulebooks and sucking up to God.  Jesus doesn’t need your blessing, or your offering or your worship.  And yet for our sakes He offers Himself, He serves you, He blesses you.

            And that’s where you start - with Christ: He is the beatitudes and so are you. 
A new identity in Christ.  You are what He declares – poor in spirit, comforted, merciful, peacemakers, inheritors, blessed.  Blessed are you who have washed your robes in the blood-soaked waters of the font.  Blessed is every man, woman, child, infant who is planted like a tree in the stream of blood and water pouring out of Jesus' side.  Your roots travel through the font to His cross – grafted into the Crucified Vine.  The same Vine that yields heavenly fruit.  Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for His body-and-blood righteousness.  You shall be satisfied in the Supper.
            Blessing from the cross.  You are blessed because Jesus was cursed.  The Kingdom of heaven is yours because a crown of thorns was His.  You are called sons of God because Jesus death brought peace between God and man.  With Roman nails He has inscribed our names in bloody ink upon His palms.  Blessed is He who was persecuted for our righteousness’ sake.  Christ Crucified blessing.  It may sound utterly foolish to the world.  The cross is a stumbling block
            You can no more take Christ away from His cross than you can take Christ out of the beatitudes; Christ and the cross and blessing are inseparable.  That’s why the beatitudes aren’t some checklist of things to do, but who you are in Christ.  Not “do this;” But, “you are.”  Blessings.  Not curses.  Take Jesus at His Word.  You are blessed.      
            From the first Word of preaching to His last Word on the cross, Jesus is living and suffering and obeying, healing, saving and teaching for you.  Jesus opens His mouth and gives you life, saves you, rescues you, forgives you, blesses you.  And so in this way you too are inseparable from Jesus; Christ, His cross and blessing and you.  Christ comes as mercy, for mercy, unto mercy. 

            His cross changes everything.  Christ has taken away your sin; it is no longer yours.  And all that remains is His holiness – you His holy ones, His saintly ones, His meek and poor in spirit, comforted in mourning, peace-bearing blessed ones.  Now you see all of daily life through Christ Crucified. 
            Through Christ Crucified to the neighbor in need of mercy. 
            Through Christ Crucified to those in need of consolation. 
            How beautiful are the feet and lips and mouths that bring the peace of Christ…declaring the kingdom of heaven for those who are poor in spirit.  Blessed.  It’s simply who you are in Christ.

            You are the righteous man of Psalm 1; the robed saint of Revelation; the just and righteous Israelite of Micah.  Now you have a new Name written upon you, inscribed in water and blood upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.  Called to be a blessed, merciful, compassionate disciple of Jesus.  Just like Andrew and Peter and James and John, the only difference is you don’t leave your nets; You go where Christ has stationed you – mother, father, teacher, nurse, salesman, CPA member of Redeemer... 
            He calls you to the altar and He sends you out – forgiven, redeemed, holy.  All that you have is His and all that is His is yours.  You lack nothing.  You are blessed.  Saved.  Free.  Sent out as mercy, for mercy, unto mercy.

            And so Jesus’ cross also marks our whole life.  This new Name of Christ upon you will cause the hearts of wicked men to revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus’ account.  Blessed are you when you are persecuted for this Gospel, honored to suffer for the Name.  Rejoice and be glad?  Yes.  For that is what it means to be in the Kingdom of God; to be Crucified with Christ; to share in the suffering of Christ even as He continues to bear our suffering.  It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.  Rejoice.  You are blessed.  And great is your reward in Heaven.  

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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