Toorak Uniting Church
Matthew 5: 1 12
Rev. Robert McUtchen
24 October 2008
what do you get when you cross a praying mantis with a cannibal?
Something that says grace before it eats you!|
The beatitudes are about grace. Gods undeserved and unmerited favour. They have the potential to at once comfort those in trouble, and discomfort the comfortable.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO
Are outside Gods economy by situation and even previous behaviour or experience.
Its all about grace. Gods unmerited favour to certain human situations.
You have seen several dramatic pieces in which people presented the situation of those to whom Jesus was speaking in the Beatitudes. They sum up so much of the Christian Gospel -
A promise of Gods reward when people find selves in particular situations meaning:
- If you are like the Poor in spirit, then you are hearing fantastic news
- you are promised Gods care
- you are not overlooked, or outside of Gods economy
- for you blessedness is the promised experience of Gods attention and care.
- Or those who mourn:
- that the kingdom and rule of God are yet to come,
- who dreamed of a new and better world, has God forgotten us?
- Are these the dreamers who hoped for much and got little
- Psalms lament for a world gone wrong, where hope is gone
- Or the author of Ecclesiastes "I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind."
- What says this to people in mourning for the church we knew? Or to to a church trying so hard and breaking its heart?
- We think decline is something recent in the church.
- Its been part of Melbourne life for nearly 100 years.
- Wesley church nearly fell in the 1880s, the West Melb and Carlton Presbyterians closed and saw grand churches relocated to Box Hill and Gardiner.
- There is decline and there is new growth if we mourn too hard we forget to look for signs of new life.
We need to hear the promise of Jesus not for complacency, but to avoid the sin of despair God will be with us so rather than despair, take courage to take every new opportunity the Lord creates for us.
Surely these are the essence of Jesus ministry meeting outcasts, forgiving the unforgivable, acts of physical healing which were motifs for restoration and recreation to enjoy life in all its fullness.
This is the gospel we are called to share with the world in word and in deed.
Sharing in word is a challenge.
Sharing in deed can be downright confronting.
It can be disturbing to discover that those who seem to have done nothing receive Gods grace and favour. Like Jesus parable of the workers who started at different times of the day, yet all received the same payment. Those who began early were indignant. Human nature changes little over two thousand years. (Matt 20: 1 16.)
- We ask: Dont we get any credit for our faithful service and worship?
- We feel aggrieved when outsiders "use" the church for baptisms, funerals or weddings?
Demands we reconsider: Have we any claim on God for being faithful?
There are creative possibilities:
- Rather than indignation when others "use" church for weddings, baptisms and funerals, should we rejoice and welcome it, as an expression of servanthood in the same nature as Jesus.
- These are great evangelical opportunities God gives us. To share faith, to minister to people at major moments in their life, to offer the kindness and comfort of Christ, and his hope. Of these moments faith is born and we become the midwives of new life in Christ.Our rejoicing may also be the simple joy of welcoming others into the good news we have heard and experienced.
- Or even, do the Beatitudes compel us to examine our own hearts, and confess we are no better than those we judge as unworthy? D T Niles, whose hymn we will shortly sing, who once described evangelism as "just one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread".
The Beaititudes are indeed scandalous
- scandalous extravagance of Grace that offers the goodness of God to the least worthy;
- scandalous that they remind us that we are also offered the same goodness, the same grace, and maybe in even greater measure.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
© Rev. Robert McUtchen, 2008