Worship for Sunday, February 13, 2022

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse — who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 1

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on God’s teaching day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall be destroyed. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 6:17-26

[Jesus] came down with [the twelve] and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.   Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Growing up going to church most Sundays – I am sure I heard the beatitudes many times over the years. But the first time – I really – honestly paid attention to the beatitudes and what they actually say – I was a freshman in a college theology class.

Our professor had us take turns reading each of the beatitudes aloud in class.   He asked us to pause for a moment after each verse was read to let the words sink in.

“Blessed are you who are poor . . .”

“Blessed are you who are hungry . . .”

“Blessed are you who weep and mourn . . .”

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they defame you and when they exclude you and revile you . . .”

After we finished reading – one of the bolder – more outspoken guys in our class – laughed sarcastically and declared– “Yeah – thanks – but no thanks! If that is what Jesus means by the word ‘blessed’ – then you can just count me out!”

And honestly – don’t we all feel at least a bit that way. Even if we might not say it out loud – (especially in church) – we are probably thinking it. Jesus’ words sound totally bizarre and absolutely outlandish!

What on Earth was Jesus thinking!?!? The disciples barely knew Jesus. They had only been Jesus’ disciples for a few days. They hadn’t had time to form trusting relationships with Jesus yet. They were all still getting to know one another.

And yet – Jesus sits his brand-new – still wet behind the ears – disciples down and informs them it is “better to be poor – hungry – sad – hated and defamed than it is to be rich – well-fed – happy – and respected.”

Seriously?!?!? What was Jesus thinking?

I am surprised Jesus had any disciples left after making a speech like that. After all – what Jesus calls a blessing is the exact opposite of the way we hope to live our lives.

When was the last time you heard about a famine and thought to yourself the people living through the famine were “blessed?”

I doubt any of you have ever wished you could be hungry!   Thinner – sure. Thinner sounds awesome to lots of us – but hungry – no thanks!

Have you ever felt blessed because people were gossiping about you and saying nasty things about you behind your back?

Of course not – because we all know being gossiped about feels absolutely horrible!

Can you imagine feeling blessed because you were reviled and hated?

Yeah – me neither . . .

I doubt anyone who is mourning feels very blessed by their grief – heartache and sorrow. The death of someone we love is heartbreaking. These losses change our lives forever. Jesus – knew this too. When Jesus’ beloved friend Lazarus died – Jesus really mourned.

And there are so many other losses we find ourselves grieving throughout our lives. Life in this broken – sinful – messed up world is filled with loss.

Many folks know the loss that comes with the end of a marriage.   Divorce hurts.  Divorce is often heartbreaking.

In our families we experience the losses that come when our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews grow up. No matter how proud we are of their amazing successes and accomplishments – their growing up can feel like a loss too.

The longer we live – the more losses we all experience. The loss of our health. Perhaps the loss of our hearing or our eyesight or both. None of us recover from injuries and sicknesses as quickly as we did when we were younger. Some of us will battle memory problems. Some of us will lose jobs and careers we loved.

We experience loss over and over again. Because life is full of losses.

So – if Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus and knows how painful it is to mourn – how could Jesus ever say people who mourn and experience loss are blessed?

Why would Jesus say poor people are more blessed than rich people?   Or people who are gossiped about are better off than people who are respected?

What is Jesus up to here?

Well – I think we need to remember that although Jesus is concerned about life here on earth – Jesus is even more concerned about our eternal lives.

And let’s face it – when things are going smoothly in our lives – we all tend to take God and his blessings to us for granted. When our bellies are nice and full and we are happy – content – and otherwise pleased with our lives – it is so easy to forget about God.

When things are going smoothly – it is easy for us to take all of the credit for our successes and to let God slip into the background. It is so easy to think we did it all ourselves.

When everything is going great – we tend to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. To take a bow for totally rocking it at this life business! It is so easy to think we simply do not need God. We can get awfully arrogant and full of ourselves . . .

But when things are not going all that smoothly – sometimes – we are better able to see God and our need for God.

I am not saying God causes our suffering. GOD DOES NOT CAUSE OUR SUFFERING – but God can and does use our difficulties to draw us closer to him.

God does not cause us to suffer or to struggle – but God can use these times to help us see him and his presence in our lives more clearly.

We all need to be careful not to take God – God’s blessings to us – and God’s love for us for granted.

So perhaps the best thing for us to say to ourselves this morning is blessed are the people who remember they need God – ALL of the time.

Blessed are the people who are humble enough to know and to remember that everything they have and everything they are comes from God the Father.

EVERYTHING! AMEN.

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