Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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All Saints Sunday 11/06/2011

Sermon by Pastor Chrys Levesque Hendrick, supply at Bethany, Ishpeming
Sun., Nov.6 [only] 2011, 10:30, All Saints Sunday

“Yes, but …”
 Revelation 7:9-17 / Psalm 34:1-10, 22 / 1 John 3:1-3 / Matt 5:1-12

+ + + +  INTRODUCTIONbefore the reading of the Gospel + + + + +

Please be seated for this Sunday’s reading of the Gospel. [Pause.]

How are we to hear the well-known blessing words of Jesus … known as the “beatitudes” … today?  They are life-giving … Gospel … words … but all too often they come at us as a reproach … All too often they are given … not as the affirming vision of what becomes possible when we trust God in Christ Jesus above all else … not as energizing Gospel … but as accusing Law from which we want to flee … trailing a stream of “Yes, but’s” … behind us.  So how shall we hear these Gospel words of Jesus … as recorded by Matthew … on this “All Saints Sunday”? [Lay reader moves to lectern. ]

Well … first we will indeed hear them … from the biblical text … and in a parallel reading in current language.  Marilyn Ponti will read from our regular NRSV translation [text in italics] … and I will echo each familiar blessing in corresponding contemporary language … from The Message, by pastor and biblical scholar Eugene Peterson [text in regular script].  The Gospel according to St. Matthew, the 5th Chapter …  [Marilyn begins the reading …]

Marilyn:  5.1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  2 Then he began to speak, and taught them …

Pr. Chrys:  5.1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside.  Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.  Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.  This is what he said:

Marilyn:  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Pr. Chrys:  5.3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Marilyn:  4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Pr. Chrys:  5.4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

Marilyn:  5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Pr. Chrys:  5.5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

Marilyn:  6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Pr. Chrys:  5.6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

Marilyn:  7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Pr. Chrys:  5.7 “You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

Marilyn:  8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Pr. Chrys:  5.8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.

Marilyn:  9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Pr. Chrys:  5.9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

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

Pr. Chrys:  5.10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Marilyn:  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.

Pr. Chrys:  5.11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” [Eugene H. Peterson, “Matthew 5:1-12,” The Message// REMIX  The Bible in Contemporary Language,  pp 1771f]

[After reading alternating texts with Marilyn, pause for her to be seated]
… The Gospel of the Lord!
+ + + +  SERMON  + + + +

These words of blessing were just as stunning to those who heard them from Jesus’ own lips as they are to us today … and just as hard to hearas part of God’s blessed Good News in Christ Jesus.  In our contemporary world … our gut reaction when we hear them is … “Yes, but …” 

Yes, but … that’s just not realistic today; back then they were not dealing with global terror or a global economy.  Yes, but … back then life was slower.   Yes, but … back then they didn’t have separation of church and state.  Yes, but nobody but Jesus could be that perfect.   

Well, “back then” they had their own list of “Yes, buts.” … Yes, but … now we are living under the Roman boot.  Yes, but … we have to take care of our families.  Yes, but … we are God’s chosen people, set apart from the Godless heathen.  The particulars may have changed, but … “Yes, but” … hasn’t.

So I would like to offer a “Yes, but” … of my own.  … Yes, butwhat if we could hear Jesus’ words … not … as an impossible standard … but as a pathway leading to life … a guide for wending our way through the trials and temptations of ordinary life … signposts …along the way … assuring us that God is always near at hand.

On this all saints Sunday, when we cannot help but remember times of loss, I’d like to focus on just one of these sign-posts from Jesus … “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Our Rabbi, our Teacher, has a life-giving way of speaking to us … nourishing us … on more than one level at once.

He tells us … Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  On the immediate, human, … “gut,” …level, Jesus’ words come as a promise that grief in the face of death will not be an endless state … that there is hope, … relief, …and comfort … for those who can allow themselves to be enfolded in the comforting arms of the Living God … that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  For some, on this All Saints Sunday, that may be the only level that can mean anything today, because of a loss too fresh to bear.

Yet Jesus meant something else, too.  His blessing is meant for the growing, maturing man, woman or child of faith who mourns for the sin of the world … who can recognize …sinin self as well as others … and grieve for the sad … will-full-ness … that separates each of us … and sometimes the community of faith itself … from Jesus Christ. 

His blessing is meant for the one who repents … of all phony idolatry of self-sufficiency … and so becomes … open … to the only relationship that has the power to give life

To be able to mourn for the sin of the world … honestly seeing one’s own place in that willful separateness from God … is to be on the road with … and towards … God. 

Again, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Yes, yes, yesbut … that’s not all.  As we enter honestly … and wholeheartedly … into this mourning for the sin of world … we find that each of the other seven sign posts …each of the other beatitudes … also … shows us the way to a fullness of life … that is impossible … if we continue to cling to the “yes, buts” that seek to push God awayEach and all of the signposts point to a letting-go of our dependence on the competitive, material and vengeful standards of this world … towards a habit of looking … at the world and those who journey with us on the road of life … through the eyes of Jesus … and then acting …  in this world … from that life-giving perspective.

Blessed indeed … the poor in spirit … the mourners … the meek … the hungry … the merciful … the pure in heart … the peacemakers … the persecuted … for they see the signposts of God along the way … and grow ever more trustful of their leading.

Today we remember that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us … using the same signposts … struggling with their own “Yes but’s” … yet trusting the authority of Jesus to mark the road of life for them.  The vision given of life given in our texts for today … is so counter-cultural … that we would be right to stand in awe … of the fact that we are still listening to this divine message of hope … and becoming the giants of faith for the generations that will follow us … following the same trustworthy signposts.  The message for today is pure blessing!  May all that have ears to hear … hear … and trust … and live!  




Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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