Girdwood Chapel Sermon, 29 January 2017
#Blessed is certainly not an original name for a sermon. In fact, there is a good chance you have already heard, been a part of, or sat through a sermon with the same title in the last few years. But, just like my life on social media, I am a little behind when it comes to what is trending. Nonetheless, as played out as the #Blessed designation may be, there is a good chance we will see it a lot this week. Why? Well, because the Superbowl is on television a week from today and there are players with extraordinary athletic prowess, quickness and strength, who will post many pictures on Instagram and Twitter stating how fortunate they feel to be at the highlight game of their career. Of course, the post will be categorized with #Blessed.
So, for those of you who may have no idea what a hashtag does, truth be told, I didn’t either. Let’s explore the magic of social media. When you create a hashtag it simply creates a group or, adds you to a group, of posts that have identified themselves with that same hashtag. This means that if a topic is trending, meaning people are identifying with or searching for that hashtag in large numbers, then we can make a post using the hashtag and become part of the current trend. In this way we are #Blessed.
I thought I would take a look and see what was the current feel for #Blessed so I searched on Twitter and took a look at the results. Football signing week must have occurred recently because there were numerous recruits stating their good fortune to be attending colleges to play for them in the fall. Additionally, there was a young lady who had the good luck of having a photographer want to take pictures of her, while another had received a beautiful bracelet from her boyfriend. Separately, a Miss Universe contestant stated her intention to travel to the final pageant in the Philippines. And, one that gave me a chuckle, was a young man who was pulled over by a policeman for going 55 in a 40, but the policeman let him go with a warning when he told him he was just trying to get to Popeye’s before it closed. All of these people, according to their posts, were #Blessed.
What does the word “Blessed” even mean? I have heard it said in various different contexts and sometimes it seems as if it has multiple meanings. I am telling you all, if a nice southern woman ever pats you on the shoulder and says, “bless your little heart”, well, you may have to look back at what you just did or said because it is not sitting well with her. We have heard the saying, “Count your blessings”. Right? I mean that is not that uncommon. I looked up the etymology, or the origin of that phrase, and found several theories. One of the theories states the first use to be in a book in 1833, A Tale of Tyne, in which the lead character believes it would be “easier to count her troubles than her blessings.” But, perhaps, more relevant to our discussion is the idea comes from Jewish tradition, and that it as part of an adherence to concentrating on the positive aspects of life, one of the Jewish faith must try to count up to 100 blessings a day. According to this example, when one goes to the restroom, one must be thankful for the blessing of having a body that works. By focusing on these positive aspects one will be a much happier person.
Perhaps, there is something to this definition or example. For, in my translation of the Scripture, today’s reading of the Beatitudes is translated as “happy” rather than “blessed”. Of course this means we need to look at the root of the word in its original Greek. The word in its original Greek is pronounced, makarios, and means happy or blessed, which further means, “in a position of favor” or “feelings associated with receiving God’s favor”, if used as a noun, it can mean that someone has received God’s favor.
Based upon these definitions and the trends of the use of the word, I think there is a good chance that we have lost sight of what it means to be “blessed”.
Making His way up the mountain, Jesus is followed by His disciples. He does not call them, they just follow, curious about what this man, this miracle-worker, this healer of many different kinds of diseases is capable of and what He is going to do or say next. Seeing His disciples gathered He begins to speak. I picture several things here as Jesus prepares to give his sermon, first, I imagine the voice of Jesus being carried over the wind, so even the disciple furthest away may hear his Words with ease. Secondly, the scene has a certain familiarity because we have seen it play out before in the book of Exodus. Moses comes down the mountain to speak with his people, God’s people, to deliver the commandments of God. Jesus, in His sermon on the Mount, is set to deliver the commandments for true and authentic discipleship to God in the new covenant. These are not observances that Jesus is listing, these are the truths of being part of the new covenant with God and the ways of life that will find favor with God eternally. The words instruct how to live out one’s faith.
The words and phrases seem so contradictory to us. They are so different from the way we may approach our lives. Blessed are those who grieve, who are humble, who are hungry? These things cause us discomfort! These things cause us heartache! These things cause us to be physically ill, perhaps, even die! How in the world can I be blessed in this state!? How is it possible for me to be happy in these conditions?
It is because the blessings, the happiness, do not belong to us, they belongs to God.
Jesus is not stating how we should feel. Jesus is stating the action God placed upon us for living life a certain way. We look at these conditions and we tend to think it is impossible to ask of someone to live life in sadness, for that is why we mourn, right? What about guilt? What about to feel sad for our inadequacies to live life in accordance to the faith we have in our hearts? Shouldn’t we mourn over our faults and ask forgiveness from God!? Certainly God’s forgiveness and mercy will make us glad and in fullness of God’s favor. And our hunger; what we hunger for is not food, it is the Word of God. To know God is to be hungry for his righteousness! If we come hungry, we will be fed. This shows God’s favor upon us for God is willing to feed us until we are full. In a world that is all about self-promotion, isn’t it difficult to be humble? But, by doing so, God is able to reveal God’s truth to us, and we inherit the salvation of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Our life is emptied of selfishness and full of God’s grace.
These are only three of the nine, but it is enough to give you the idea. The rules of life Jesus is stating in the Beatitudes is about life in God, and less about the trappings of this world. It is less about the feelings that we have living for selfish pleasures and more about making ourselves holy in the righteousness of God.
Let me read you the last two Beatitudes again, for they are significant. “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.” (v. 10-11) Life in Christ is not easy. Living for God and not for ourselves is most likely not going to give us the type of life we envision on this earth. Jesus knows and Jesus is sharing with His disciples that following this “way” means that a person must give up all of their earthly desires and understandings to sit in the power and glory of God. This power and glory is greater than any earthly reward.
So, be careful about your posts of your awards on Twitter. Think twice about your Facebook comments concerning your promotion. That Instagram picture with your team winning the Superbowl, well, you may want to pause for just a second. Because these things, while pleasing to you, these are not the things that make you #blessed. You have a God that was humble enough to become man and to walk the earth teaching us of what was truly important in life, knowing all the while, that in order to make it work, to rectify our great wrongs, He was going to have to take the burden of sin on His shoulders and carry it while beaten and crucified. He died, only to rise again, conquering death and ending the separation of human and Creator. God bestowed this glory on us! God gave us this grace! God allowed us this redemption! God brought us to our created status once again, allowing us to walk with Him everyday. You want a good post, how about:
“Jesus is my Savior. He died that I may live. I live for Him.” #Blessed.