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Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;
(63) All my hope on God is founded
A Gathering Prayer
Lord, we come before you today, knowing that you do not choose us because we are clever or strong or powerful. Rather, you call us to rely on your wisdom, to fight in your strength, and to boast that you are always there for us. Help us to walk humbly with you each step of the way before us. And in our worship today, give us fresh insight and renewed commitment for that journey of faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Creator God, source of all life and all wisdom: we adore you and boast in your love. Christ crucified, who walked humbly on this earth: we adore you and boast in your love. Holy Spirit, who leads and guides our steps: we adore you and boast in your love. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we adore you. Amen.
Living Lord Jesus, when we choose to live arrogantly, let us choose to live meekly; when we choose to be strong, let us see strength in weakness and allow you to work in us; when we only see darkness, show us your light and give us hope; when we would go it alone and rise above others, let us choose unity; when we favour popularity and success, let us choose humility; when we aspire to power, let us choose servanthood and love. We are sorry when we choose the opposite of your desires for us. Forgive us and help us. May we always choose kindness, humility, justice and love. May we always choose to be like you. Amen.
God of justice and mercy, full of compassion, you have gracefully forgiven us, allowing us to start again. We are free through your cross. We are forgiven in you and have new life. Amen.
(216) And can it be.
Micah 6: 1-8
Listen to what the Lord says:
“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.
2 “Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.
3 “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”
6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
(9) Immortal, invisible
Matthew 5: 1-12
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
The Beatitudes
He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(724) Blest are the pure in heart.
A month into a new year, and what are our expectations for the year ahead and, even the years to come for this Church, our circuit the towns we live in.
We all know from recent experience just how events that are beyond our control can change all our plans. How many plans did you have that had to be radically changed due to Covid.
For myself it led to retiring earlier than I had planned but, I was luckier than many younger people who lost their jobs and faced mortgages they could no longer afford.
But for us who believe in Christ there is comfort in our reading today.
In the Gospel passage are several words for which we probably know the meaning more instinctively than by definition, or where our modern usage is a little different. How would you explain to someone outside a church context the meaning of mercy, meekness, humility or sacrifice? In many contemporary circumstances these would all be seen as weaknesses. And yet, if we look, we will find examples where (for example) an athlete risks their own victory to help a colleague – a competitor – across the finish line. The question, or rather the challenge, is whether we live such values or qualities in our lives, every day, in every situation where they are called for.
The Beatitudes leads up to the most famous sermon Jesus ever preached. What he says is shocking, countercultural, and a message we can’t miss. There’s a good chance you’ve read them. Have you stopped to think about how they apply to your life?
This is a message we should lean in on and see what it has for us today. The beatitudes meaning is still powerful for us today, 2,000 years later. Yet many of us simply pass over it because we don’t see how it applies to our life. So, this morning let’s look at the beatitudes and the meaning of it’s this powerful message.
In Matthew 5 Jesus begins teaching a section of scripture called “The Beatitudes.” Which translates as “Full of Blessing” Simply put, Jesus is saying this is how to have the good life, the best life, the life intended for you to live.
For all the Jews in the crowd, this image of Jesus sitting on a mountainside may well have reminded them of Moses coming down the mountain revealing God’s law, the 10 commandments, to the Israelites. But this time Jesus isn’t giving us a list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, he’s saying “this is how things really are and how my Kingdom really works.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
The phrase Jesus uses “poor in spirit” refers to our spiritual condition. Those that are poor in spirit realise that nothing they can do can get them into heaven. They are powerless, helpless, and undeserving. They don’t sound very blessed, do they?
At first glance, it might seem to point to someone who is sad or discouraged. But when we look closer, it means so much more. I love to compare different versions of the Word, and when I look at the NLT, it puts this verse in a little clearer light as it says, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
I’ll be honest and tell you I have struggled with working through this verse because I believe it is so very important to understanding what being a follower of Jesus is all about. I don’t think it’s any accident that Jesus listed this Beatitude first, because the truth is, that if we can get this one, the others naturally fall into place.
Jesus wants us to humbly accept that in and of ourselves, we are not enough. We just aren’t enough. And even when we try to be. We try so, hard to be self-sufficient and independent, as we sometimes believe the lie that it’s those things that make us strong. But those are the ways of the world, not the Kingdom of Heaven.
This flies in the face of the way the world operates. It’s the strongest and most put-together people that get the good life. But it’s not so in God’s kingdom. It’s those that become poor, those that recognise their need, those that cry out for their saviour that will receive the kingdom.
If we want the best life each of us must first, realise that we are poor in spirit. We must recognise our situation and that the only way out is to rely on God.
In other words: Blessed are those who recognize their need for God, and God will bring them into his Kingdom.
Blessed are those who mourn,
Jesus here isn’t talking about mourning over the loss of a loved one in this instance. Here Jesus is speaking of the mourning of repentance.
Jesus is continuing the theme that was started in the previous verse. First, he says blessed are those who recognize their sinfulness and need of a saviour. Now He adds blessed are those who mourn for their sin, for they will be comforted.
Jesus is saying that in the brokenness of your sin God is with you. It is in that brokenness that you will find hope, healing, and experience the good life, life to the fullest.
Blessed are those who mourn their sin, for God will forgive them and restore them to the life he intended them to have.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
In Jesus previous statements he was describing our recognition of our circumstances. Now Jesus switches gears and he starts talking about our outward posture and expression.
A good definition of meek is strength under control. Think of a dad wrestling with his kids. The dad could end it; he could just knock a kid out and end it right there. But instead, he uses his strength for the benefit of his kids. That’s meekness. That’s strength under control.
This what Jesus is calling us too today. He is calling us to have our strength under control. He’s calling us to use our strength for the benefit of others. He’s calling us to not throw our weight around to get what we believe we deserve. Why should we? We are already heirs to the throne of God; what else do we need?
Blessed are those who have their strength under control, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
Jesus is probably reflecting on Psalm 42:1-2 when he says this. Many of us have heard that Psalm before and we probably picture Bambi calmly drinking out of a quiet stream. That’s not the picture David was trying to paint. Instead, this is a picture of an animal desperately crawling through the desert looking for water so that they could survive. Jesus is referring to the same kind of hunger and thirst. It’s a desperate, if I don’t get this I will die, kind of craving for God.
Jesus is saying blessed are those that are so desperate to do the will of God that it’s the only thing of importance in their life. They will be filled, their thirst will be quenched, and their hunger satisfied.
Blessed are those who are desperate to do the will of God, for they will long for nothing.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7
We often have a double standard when it comes to mercy. On the one hand, we like to be shown mercy. On the other hand, we like to see others get what they deserve.
Many people hold on to wrongs that have been done against them for years and years. And in a way they are justified in doing it, they were wronged. However, by holding onto those wrongs they are letting go of God’s mercy. You cannot hold onto both.
Grace seems unfair until you need some. Jesus is teaching us that the good life comes to those that offer what is undeserved, mercy. The good life will not come to those that hang onto past grievances. It will not come to those that are stingy with their grace. The good life belongs to those that give the undeserved gift of grace because they were given an undeserved gift of grace.
Blessed are those who show mercy and forgive, for they understand the mercy that’s been shown to them.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were hung up on ceremonial cleanliness. They had a habit of fixing their external appearance while ignoring what was on the inside. Jesus continually called them out on their actions because he saw through them.
We too often focus on our outward appearances but ignore our hearts. We think we can just look the part. But Jesus comes along and says something different. He says it’s the pure in heart that are blessed. In other words, you shouldn’t focus on fixing your actions. Instead, focus your heart on Jesus.
That’s not to say our actions don’t matter, they do. We’ve just need to reverse the order. When you focus on your actions, your heart does not change. When you focus on your heart, your actions will follow. Simply put, Jesus is saying the blessed are those who do the right things for the right reasons. The emphasis is on the motive behind the actions, not the actions themselves.
Blessed are those focus on the motive of their actions, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
When Jesus uses the word peace, he is saying this: one who has received the peace of God AND brings peace to others. Not simply one who makes peace, but one who spreads the peace of God that he/she has experienced.
When Jesus says the peacemakers, will be called sons of God. This is not just a statement of relationships, but of character.
So, when Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, he’s saying God is a peacemaker. God pursued peace with us even when we had absolutely no interest in peace with him. Jesus is also saying something about us. He’s saying that when we pursue peace we are acting in with God’s heart. To be called a “Son of God” was unheard of to the crowd listening. It’s commonplace for us today. But this was a revolutionary teaching.
Blessed are those who have received peace and bring peace to others, for they are the sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:10-11
This is one we wish wasn’t included…
We all know what persecuted means. What we need to lean in on is the why. Jesus says blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake. There are some Christians that get persecuted for saying and doing some hurtful, things, that Jesus never stood for. But when we are persecuted for the things, Jesus was persecuted for then we are blessed.
Blessed are you when you are persecuted when what you say and do are consistent with what Jesus says and does.
Did you noticed the powerful don’t get a mention in the Beatitudes, but what we do hear about is people who are strong enough to be peacemakers, to hunger and thirst for goodness and to endure persecution.
There are only two kinds of religion in the world – and only two. One is the religion of human achievement, which the belief that you earn your own way. This is the belief that somehow, we can make them-selves acceptable to God. It is the belief that there is some good thing we can do, some rules that can be kept, some ritual that can be observed, something that will make things right with God.
The other kind of religion is the religion of belief that says, "I can't do it. God did it for me in Christ." Every religion of the world fits into one of those two categories. So, take your pick. But it must be remembered that the religion of human achievement is as it says on the box it’s a human religion.
The psalmist spoke of man’s desire to approach God in Psalm 24:Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.[a] The Psalmist was asking the question, “How can we be worthy of standing in God’s presence?” David in Psalm 51:10 gives us the answer, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David knew two things; first without a clean heart there was no possibility of ever being able to see God and secondly, this was not something he was able to do for himself.
Jesus restates this in the Beatitude in verse eight, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" He was really answering the question that is on every one’s mind.
Is it not something we often ask ourselves if we are honest?
The words of Jesus that we call ‘the Beatitudes’ offer us an optimistic view, both the long-term and the more immediate future, with blessings related to right actions, and attitudes, and how we respond when dealing with whatever comes our way in this world. Jesus’ words link our behaviour towards others and our relationship with God. Within both of this week’s readings there are positive affirmations of the value of our seeking to grow towards God’s holiness, and towards a goal of being the sort of person described by Micah.
The Micah passage suggests three attitudes that would lead to daily faithful actions. The Beatitudes mention eight qualities that overlap with these three and expand them.
We should never look at living this way as earning your way into God’s good books, God’s grace is always undeserved and is a gift freely given.
‘Blessed are those who ...’, says Jesus to his disciples – and to us. How are we blessed? Does God bless us by a wave of his divine hand? ‘To bless’ is sometimes seen as a wish for something good, a favour, happiness for another.
But blessing in the Beatitudes is something present, something ‘now’ – blessed are, not blessed will be. We are blessed as we live with each other, in and through all of life’s challenges, striving always to be a blessing to others. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the many hymns and songs in which we ‘bless the Lord’. The Lord already has all he needs! We live in blessing when our lives are pleasing to God.
Although we should never look at this as earning your way into God’s good books, God’s grace is always undeserved and is a gift freely given.
(776) Make me a channel of your peace.
God of peace, justice, mercy and love, thank you that in you we inherit the earth. Thank you that we are your children. Thank you that as we mourn, we are comforted. Thank you that as we seek for righteousness, we are filled. Thank you that in you we receive your mercy. Thank you that we can see you through our changed hearts. Thank you that in your upside-down kingdom, we find rest, peace, comfort and assurance of your presence. Thank you, Lord, that in life’s darker times, we are never alone – You are always by our side. Amen.
God of goodness and wisdom, we pray for those struggling to maintain integrity in their lives when the easy option would be to compromise. Grant them courage, peace and strength. We pray for young people trying to cope with peer pressure and feeling that they have to do things they find uncomfortable. Grant them courage, peace and strength. We pray for those in positions of power and responsibility, tempted to misuse their influence and seek popularity before integrity. Grant them courage, peace and strength. And we pray for ourselves and one another, that we would seek the values of your kingdom even when it makes us different. Grant us courage, peace and strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(378) Be thou my vision.
Lord, you bless us in so many ways. You love us just as we are. And you also want us to grow closer to you. Show us how we can bless others by putting them and you before ourselves. May we walk humbly with you every day. Amen.
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