The Community of God

The Community of God

Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost

All Saints’ Day

Sermon starts at 22:10 in the recording

All Readings

Service Booklet

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


On Sunday, I spoke about being a part of the Blessed Community of God.I contrasted it, to some extent, with attempts at being community in the contemporary culture. I will not summarize those communities, but I want to talk about being the Blessed Community.
Jesus gives the picture for the Blessed Community in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus sat His disciples down on a hill. He stood at the bottom of what was most likely a natural amphitheater and taught the crowd gathered.In the chapter preceding 5, We read of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (He fasted for forty days…a number signifying change and preparation), and so, now, He begins His ministry.
His intention was to begin His ministry by laying the “ground rules” for this community. Every rabbi did this. This is what Jesus means when He says, 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So what does the Blessed Community look like?It is filled with:
·      The poor in spirit.
Those who are poor in spirit know that, in and of themselves, they have nothing to offer God. In this way, they are spiritual beggars seeking to receive truth regarding life and how it is to be lived and enjoyed. 
Jesus’ promise to these: “Theirs is the Kingdom of God.”Meaning, only those who know their own spiritual depravity before a Holy God can be a part of this community. There are no braggarts. No egos. None who have the answers. It is a humility that is willing to listen for God and deny the busy voices that crowd our thoughts. It means we shun the wisdom of the world that demands our attention and requires we fall in line, lock, stock and barrel. Jesus says my yoke, not the yoke of the world. Why? The yoke of the world changes daily. The world eats its own. If you follow the news, you understand this. The world lives in the contemporary and loses its taste for things past.
·      Those who mourn.
I mentioned on Sunday that this has the idea of being in a state of “full-bodied-mourning.” It is a deep sense of reality of ourselves and others, having a deep sense of empathy for our plight. It is the heart of the engaged. It is the way of the loving. To listen, hear and feel the common experience of humanity. To feel it deeply enough that there is a response within the heart to overcome the brokenness of life. This reminds me of the words of the profit Micah when he says, 
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;    and what does the Lord require of youbut to do justice, and to love kindness,    and to walk humbly with your God?                                                                            Micah 6:8
We are humble before God releasing our own failures and extending mercy to others because we are in this together and seeking the right healing of all. The blessing in this is that we identify in community with others.
Jesus’ promise to these: “They will be comforted.”Comforted to know that we are not alone.Comforted to know God is with us.I see this in the story of Lazarus’ death. Lazarus is sick and his family approaches Jesus to let Him know. Jesus delays. Lazarus dies. When Jesus sees the way in which Lazarus’ family and friends grieve, Jesus mourns with His whole self. The passage said that He wept. Not He shed a tear or got choked up. He wept.Which is a question to ask ourselves. Do we weep for the loss of those around us?For their hurts?Failures?Struggles?Do we put ourselves in a position to really know others?
·      The meek.
To be meek is to be gentle and humble in attitude.It is a posture of submission to what might possibly be offensive to the one who is meek. It is a resistance to being triggered by others because of a resolute understanding of one’s identity in Christ. I always had a different understanding of meek. Meek seemed weak. Like it was talking about being weak. Culturally, this seems to be the understanding. But it is actually strength. Jesus was meek. He knew who He was. He wasn’t offended by the views of others about Him. He understood who HE was. Which is our task. Understanding of ourselves. And a confidence in our identity in Christ. 
Jesus’ promise to these: “They will inherit the earth.”True strength is lasting. It inherits the earth, which is unlike inheriting the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven refers to the spiritual reality. The earth refers to the physical reality. The understanding is that the strength of our identity in Christ, by its very nature, overcomes the ways of the world. A strength gives us a place of true ownership in this world. 
·      Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Hunger and thirst is something we all experience to one degree or another. The hunger or thirst that I might feel could be lesser or greater than someone else, but we all know what it feels like to be hungry and to be thirsty. And we know what it means to be in pursuit of being satiated. Jesus says that the Blessed Community is one in which all seek to understand the righteousness of God and to live it. It is a desire to not fall into old patterns or continue in the same (wrong) path during this journey. It is a desire to know what is right and do it.
Jesus’ promise to these: “They will be filled.” Since righteousness is from God, then we would expect the fulfillment of that to be seen in God. And for the filling of that to come from God. We can be self-righteousness (right in our own eyes) or we can be righteous (as declared by the One who is righteous).  
·      The merciful.
Being merciful requires an understanding of another’s plight and, more importantly, our own. It is act of understanding that moves us to act. God sees our plight, has compassion on us and gives His son for our redemption. We might see someone who is homeless because of addiction, have compassion on them and provide food and water for them. That is an act of mercy. The Blessed Community should be filled with mercy. It is a way of living in community in an understanding way.
Jesus’ promise to these: “They will receive mercy.”Like attracts like. Even though community is not intended to be transactional, reciprocity is a reward for the merciful. Mostly, I think, it is an act of gratefulness to God that is manifested towards others. 
·      The pure in heart.
The pure of heart are not perfect people. They are those who live honestly and have nothing to hide. They are without guile. There is no deception. There are no masked intentions or secrets as they deal with others and they show all of their cards. They are the safe people. Think about what impact this has on community. It is essential. 
Jesus’ promise to these: “They will see God.”How?Why?Because they are not focused on masking themselves which allows them to look outward at others. Think Adam and Eve in the garden after they ate of the Forbidden Fruit. God wanders “looking” for them and they hide. They went from naked without shame to naked and ashamed. They were self-conscious. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. Their fellowship was broken with each other and with God. They couldn’t live in paradise any longer. It made community difficult. And this behavior can’t be a part of the Blessed Community. Again, Jesus is trying to establish the foundation for true community. 
·      The peacemakers.
You have heard me say that peace is not the absence of chaos, but contentment in the midst of chaos. The Blessed Community is intended to be a shelter in the storm. With so much around us that is uncertain, a community that redirects anxious thoughts and mixed emotions is a blessing. The Blessed Community is not just at peace, but it lives peace so that others may see. That is why Jesus says, “They will be called children of God.” People will see them as a Godsend. 

What happens to the Blessed Community as it is manifested?
·      They are persecuted and they are reviled
True community is a threat to some (especially the status quo), mostly because it requires so much humility, honesty and selflessness. Those who adhere to these principals will, naturally, stand out. And because they stand out, they can become a target for attack. When the light exposes the darkness, the darkness is threatened. Think of Jesus as he pressed in on the status quo and exposed the hegemony for what it was. They, intentionally, sought to catch Him in a mistake and get rid of Him. No one likes being called out when they know they are wrong. And so, true community exposes false community for what it is. False. Jesus says to these, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Their reward is great in heaven.” Summed up, they are possessors of God’s kingdom through kingdom living, the result of which is an eternal inheritance of that Kingdom. If I live my life investing in a skill, then I reap the rewards of that skill. If I invest my life in building character, then I will reap the rewards of that character. If I invest in being the Blessed Community, then I will inherit the fulfillment of that community.

So, now what?Jesus gives the outflow of the Blessed Community.
Be salt.Be light.Preserve those who are dying with the saving knowledge of true community in Christ. Expose that which is not true to shine a light on that which is true. Be the hands and feet of Christ. Don’t simply talk about Jesus. Be the manifestation of the life of Jesus. 
Brothers and sisters.In light of the current state of affairs, I ask you to consider being set apart from the chaos around us. I ask you, through a quiet confidence, to live your life in a manner worthy of your calling; worthy of the title “Child of God.” 
May I, may you, may we be the Blessed Community together.