The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire



Sermon - November 5, 2017
Scripture Reading:
Matthew 5:1-12 
Sermon Title: “Blessed”

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     There are two thoughts that often come to mind when we read Jesus’ start of the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, that we read this morning.  The first is that it does not make any sense.  And the second is that I want to be all those things, so that I can be blessed and inherit the kingdom of heaven. 

     When I first read this, my mind goes back to Moses, on a different mountain many years before Jesus.  This was where God gave Moses the commandments and laws to follow.  Thou shall, and thou shall not.  And as we got deeper into the Sermon on the Mount earlier this year, there are a lot of instructions, hard stuff.  The 10 commandments are not easy, but there are some that are not hard to follow.  Thou shall not kill.  I have never killed anyone, so at least one out of 10.  No adultery, so that is two.  Some, like the sabbath, require us to really dig into what it means.  You all know that I get paid to be here every Sunday, but I hope my God is understanding, and allows me to claim another day for rest or to keep a different day of the week holy.  So, I’m in need of forgiveness, always, but at least those are straightforward instructions we can try to follow. 

     But then we get to Jesus.  These are not instructions.  “Be merciful, and you will receive mercy.” That may be true at times, but it is not what Jesus is saying here.  It is description, not prescription. Jesus is not insisting that we become people who starve to see justice done. What he is saying is that such people are blessed of God. God looks upon such people with favor. God’s eye is on them; they will be happy in the end. This, says Jesus, is the way things are.

     And what kind of world is Jesus describing? Not our current world. “Blessed are the meek” says Jesus, but in our world the meek don’t get the land, they get left holding the worthless beads. “Blessed are the merciful” says Jesus, but in our world mourning may be tolerated for a while, but soon we will ask you to pull yourself together and move on. “Blessed are the pure in heart” says Jesus, but in our world such people are dismissed as hopelessly naďve.

     “Blessed are the peacemakers” says Jesus, but in our world those who pursue peace risk having their patriotism called into question.

     Our beatitudes would more likely be:

            Blessed are the well-educated, for they will get the good jobs.
            Blessed are the well-connected, for their aspirations will not go unnoticed.
            Blessed are you when you know what you want, and go after it with everything you’ve got, for God             helps those who help themselves.

     If we are honest, we must admit that the world Jesus asserts as fact, is not the world we have made for ourselves.

     The Kingdom Jesus proclaimed and embodied is precisely a new way of seeing, a new way of naming, and so a new way of being.

     In case you missed it, on October 31 the church celebrated Martin Luther nailing his critique to the church doors.  This was kind of a special year, because that happened 500 years ago, and that, along with other events and people about the same time, created many of our Protestant religions.  500 years before that, in 1054, the Great Schism occurred, which split the church into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church.  A bit over 500 years before that we had Constantine, who ceased persecution of Christians. 

     I am not the first to suggest it, but I believe that the church is entering a new time period.  Now I am not standing on a corner with a sign that stays “Repent, the end is near.” Nor do I look at many of the events happening today and see much change, but I have hope.  I have also told you that I don’t necessarily see the Kingdom of God as someplace we go after we die, but rather see it as a model for what we should work for on earth.  Perhaps over the past 500 years our church has touched a lot of people, and maybe over the next 500 years, people will begin to see Jesus’ message as something that we can live into. 

     But we can start that now.  Later in the service we will be remembering those who have died recently.  If you submitted a name, I want you to keep that person in your thoughts for the next few minutes.  If you didn’t submit a name, I want you to think back on someone you were close to who has died.  I am going to slowly re-read the passage from this morning, and I want you to think about the qualities that person had.  Not all of these will fit, but at least when I did this, thinking back, a number of them did.  I know that my loved one is blessed now, but what would happen if we could see these qualities in others now?  What would happen if we could take Jesus’ message about who is blessed in God’s eyes, and give them the honor they deserve while they are with us? So in addition to thinking about these qualities in those who have died, I would also invite you to think of people you know who embody these today.  While others, and even our society, may look down on these, we know that in God’s upside down world, those who are first will be last, those who are last will be first and those we least expect to be blessed are indeed blessed.  Hear these words form Jesus as you keep the loved ones and those around us in your mind:

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 receive 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 for      righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.