If any of you are soap opera fans, you know the old casting trick that writers and producers us where children are made to grow up so fast. Someone has a baby, then the baby disappears for a few months, returning as a schoolchild for a while. The cycle repeats a few times until you have a fully mature young adult playing the character of someone who seemed to be born just a few years before. Sometimes, I think that way about the season of Epiphany – actually a season of several Epiphanies when Jesus shows up for the world to see.
We barely get through Christmas and celebrating the miracle of God’s entrance to the world as a human baby. We barely get to wonder with Mary and the Shepherds about what has happened. We don’t get very long to take in the joy and the promise of this new Messiah, this Emmanuel. Because, just a few weeks later, Jesus appears all grown up, and instead of a cooing baby is not a teacher making demands on his disciples.
As a teacher, Jesus does not spoon-feed his followers. He offers no “Intro to Jesus” course; no wine and cheese soiree to “Meet the Master”. Instead, Jesus gets right down to the business of preparing his new disciples for the work to be done. They find a hillside on which Jesus preaches is longest and most radical sermon. What we know today as “The Sermon on the Mount”.
From the outset, this manifesto describing the in-breaking kingdom of God opens the disciples’ hearts, as well as ours today, to the radical transformation of our perspective that discipleship brings. Jesus offers up a list of very unusual blessings, naming groups of people that the world would not recognized as receiving the benefits of God. The poor in Spirit, the meek, the mournful, the merciful and the persecuted are among those whom Jesus considers blessed. In a world that celebrates and honors strength, power, self-confidence and self-importance, Jesus list of blessings seems upside-down. And that is just the point.
The first thing Jesus wants is our attention, and this radical view of the world grabs it from the outset. Because we are told that God blesses those who are put down by the systems and expectations of a disordered world, these are the people who God wants us to notice, and who God wants those who claim to love God, to love as well. Sometimes we see these blessings as the indication of a promise to be fulfilled in later times, and that is part of the truth. But these blessings are also called by God RIGHT NOW, so the work and will of God can be done today.
We are living in a time where the strong and powerful increase their share of worldly blessings at the expense of those whom God values. How will you be blessed and how will you bless others in the name of Jesus?
For the text of this week's sermon, CLICK HERE
Devotions for the Week Of January 29, 2017
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.