From Your Heart

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
February 16, 2014 – Epiphany VI

Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37

From the Fifth Book of Moses, Deuteronomy:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I think it is safe to assume that none of you came to church today hoping for a good sermon on anger, adultery and divorce; especially since Friday was Valentine’s Day. But our church is committed to a common lectionary and so the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany we get Matthew 5 with its hard words from Jesus on these very topics.

Jesus took six important Old Testament laws and interpreted them for His people in the light of the new life He came to give. He made a fundamental change without altering God’s standards; He dealt with the attitudes and intents of the heart and not simply with the external action. The Pharisees said that righteousness consisted of performing certain actions, but Jesus said it centered on the attitudes of the heart.

Likewise, with sin: The Pharisees had a list of external actions that were sinful, but Jesus explained that sin came from the attitudes of the heart. Anger is murder in the heart; lust is adultery in the heart. The person who says that he “lives by the Sermon on the Mount” may not realize that the Sermon on the Mount is more difficult to keep than the original Ten Commandments!

Anger is a powerful force. Some have said that we are living in the age of anger. We see the power of anger all around us. We see road rage; people swearing; people with no patience.

Now not all anger is bad. Our Lord was often angry at the religious leaders of His time for the way they enslaved people under the burden of rules and requirements. We remember that moment when Jesus was outraged to find merchants selling animals and exchanging money in that part of the Temple that was reserved for non-Jewish people to worship. Jesus fashioned a whip from ropes and drove the money-changers out, a classic example of what we would call righteous indignation.

But that is not the anger our Lord is addressing in today’s Gospel. He is talking about the kind of anger that is ego-driven, the kind of anger that is filled with jealousy and resentment, the kind of anger that wills and often causes pain and suffering for those whose only offense is that they displease us.

Jesus speaks about adultery and divorce this morning. I doubt any of you need those terms defined. There is a lot of it going around America today. In fact, many couples are foregoing the legal contract of marriage because of the possible financial cost if the marriage doesn’t last. I am sure all of us know someone whose marriage ended in divorce, perhaps even you. I myself am a product of a second marriage.

But I would encourage us to think of the many ways, beyond the destruction of a marriage covenant, that moral compromise can cause serious damage. The word adultery means literally to make something impure…to pollute what should be clean. How tempted we are everyday to abuse a variety of trusts we have. All of this Jesus wants us to know, undermines our relationship with others and ultimately our relationship with God.

Relationships…I am convinced that this is what our Gospel lesson is really addressing. We create a precious trust when we enter into a meaningful relationship with another…within our family and circle of friends, at our workplace, and certainly within our congregation.

In many ways this lesson from Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most difficult texts for us to understand. Matthew sticks our nose directly into the Ten Commandments, that ancient collection that most of us would prefer to ignore or, at best, think of as The Ten Suggestions. But our Lord ratchets up the weight of these requirements by insisting that we cannot sidestep them and the ideals they contain. He makes this clear in verses that immediately precede our text (Matthew 5:17-18):
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the law until all is accomplished.

So begins Jesus’ powerful commentary on what it means to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom. Our Lord speaks about the importance of making peace with those around us and not allowing conflict to define us or to get out of hand. He addresses the danger of unbridled personal hungers that can easily lead us in a direction that is personally harmful and generally destructive to the welfare of those around us. Finally, Jesus identifies the peril of degrading the honor that should be associated with that unique connection of two people that we call marriage.

A sign of the times in which we live is the reality that most people want to be their own priest or minister. We do not want any religious middle man looking over our shoulder. We want to form our own relationship with God, unfiltered by any churchly intermediary. In short, we want to be our own pope or bishop: the final authority on what is right and wrong for us. Most of us are convinced that all we need to do is live by the simple creed: Love Jesus and do whatever you want.

But how can we rationalize such a relaxed approach to ethical decision-making with these hard and clear words from Jesus captured in Matthew’s Gospel? Traditionally, this powerful text has been interpreted in two quite different ways:

One interpretation would claim that Jesus is urging us to take the law far more seriously than we’d ever imagined. In reality, this view would claim that Jesus is establishing a new law that both exceeds and extends the Ten Commandments. This approach takes the ethical demands of Christianity most seriously, and would argue that faith in Jesus is a kind of spiritual steroid that allows us to do what pious Jews in Jesus’ day could not. I don’t favor this interpretation.

The second approach goes in a different direction. This view would claim that Jesus is taking the law to an impossible extreme to show us that we cannot fulfill its demands. Thus, we cannot point to our accomplishments but rather must see that we are wholly dependent on the grace of God. This interpretation can easily encourage us to believe that if we cannot fulfill the law, so why bother trying; it really does not matter what we do. While I think this interpretation is a little closer to the mark, I still find it wanting as well.

So, if neither of these interpretations is totally satisfactory, what do we do with Matthew 5? I am not convinced that Jesus’ greatest concern was that we pour ourselves into obeying every law, rule, and commandment. Instead, I think our Lord’s greatest concern was that we strive to put God first in our lives. Our Lord spoke more about the Kingdom of God than He did about the laws of God. And the first thing to remember is that when we are taking about God, we are taking about relationships.

I would challenge you to think about the law of God not in terms of doing a certain number of impossible things before breakfast, but in terms of being in the right relationship…with God and with those around us. It is not about your need to do the right thing, color within the lines, keep your nose clean; no, it is about loving your neighbor as yourself, controlling your anger, modifying your drives for personal fulfillment, all to the end that you might be an instrument for deepening and strengthening the community in which you live.

When we properly read the Ten Commandments, I think we will see that their purpose is not to limit our lives but to expand and enrich them. The first Three Commandments address our relationship with God, an essential step toward living the good life. The second section, Commandments Four through Ten, speak to our relationships to other people. Understood this way, the whole law is actually a way to challenge us to honor those that we are in a relationship.

The danger, I believe, is for us to forget about the importance of relationships, striving instead to be spiritual decathlon athletes, competing in endless categories with a determination to excel in our righteous achievements.

But as soon as we do that we fall prey to the second danger. When we live to fulfill the law, we can all too easily wind up being judgmental of others, who may not be able to achieve what we can. Jesus addresses this danger when He says: Judge not, least you be judged.

So let us be of good cheer. The genius of the Sermon on the Mount is not that it places before us the model of the perfect Christian life we ought to live or even the challenge of an unattainable goal. No, the genius of the Sermon on the Mount is that it brings us face to face with Jesus Christ; and realization of how much we need God’s forgiveness and grace. For when we know Jesus, we discover how we should live for God and for others in this world. Show love from your heart!

Let us pray:
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

God’s Recipe

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
February 9, 2014 – Epiphany V

Isaiah 58:1-9a, Psalm 112:1-9, 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, Matthew 5:13-20

From the Prophet Isaiah:
Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteous and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

There was this Peanuts cartoon which showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, “Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck,” He said, “My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” She said, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.”

While Peppermint Patty was seeking to pass the buck and not take responsibility for her actions, she does raise an important issue and in a sense she could be correct. We should be a good influence on our friends, our co-workers and our families. We can have an influence on others, for good or bad.

Our Gospel reading today starts out by saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” This is a continuation of last week’s sermon on “The Sermon on the Mount.” The theme of that great sermon was how people of the kingdom of heaven are to live; to achieve true righteousness. That true and vital righteousness begins internally, in the heart. It reflects a person’s true character and the influence or witness we have on others.
At this section of “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus says that, “You are the salt of the earth.” He is comparing you to salt. In fact, salt that has infinite value. When we think of salt today, it is very inexpensive. We use it to flavor our foods; many recipes call for salt to be included. We are also cautioned by our doctors, not to use too much of it, because it might be harmful to our health (according to some studies). So, when Jesus says that we are the “salt of the earth”; is that a compliment?

We have to look at what this phrase meant back in Jesus’ time. Because salt was a necessity of life in ancient times and thus great value was attached to it. Salt was so important that it was sometimes used in place of money. The Roman soldiers of Jesus’ day were at times paid with it. In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium which referred to the payments to the soldiers with salt. We still use the phrase saying that someone either is, or is not, “worth their salt.” We don’t think much about salt today because we can get as much of it in pure form as we want. It is just that little bottle with holes in the top on the table. But when you are completely dependent on salt to preserve your food, and when it is so valuable that it is used in the place of money, you get a completely different perspective on salt.

Because we live in a part of the world where we have an abundance of food, we don’t understand the monotony of the diet of those who live in Jesus’ day and for most of those who live in third world countries even today. In a great portion of the world rice is the common food, three times a day. In part of Africa today the subsistence food is corn meal, at every meal. In fact the Swahili word for corn meal is “posha” meaning daily ration.

Salt in Jesus’ day was important for survival, because it was the only way they had to preserve meat. Obviously, they did not have refrigerators back in Jesus’ time, so salt became very important in their ability to preserve their food. The salt was rubbed into the meat before it was stored. Salt was to arrest or at least slow the process of decay, so too Christians are given the task of arresting the decay of our world.

Christianity has in fact had a profound positive effect on the world. The most dramatic impact of Christianity on the world is that it has attached new value to human life. Christianity stopped human sacrifice. Prior to Christianity infanticide, and abandonment of children was a common practice. Hospitals as we now know them began through the influence of Christianity. The Red Cross was started by an evangelical Christian. Almost every one of the first 123 colleges and universities in the United States has Christian origins, founded by Christians for Christian purposes. The same could be said of orphanages, adoption agencies, humane treatment of the insane, and the list goes on and on of dramatic impact of Christianity around the world.

But we have our work cut out for us; many of these same colleges and universities have abandoned their Christian roots in favor of secular and humanistic diversity. Instead of orphanages and adoption agencies, there has been an explosion in the number of abortions.

Christians, however, continue to have a positive benefit on our world. As a moral antiseptic, Christians keep the corruption of society at bay by opposing moral decay by their lives and their words. Do you believe this? I do believe that if we were to remove Christianity and God completely out of our society, then literally “all hell would break loose.” But the reality is, Christianity and God are under attack in our country and around the world. God is being removed from our society by nonbelievers and even our courts! And we are letting it happen.

We also need to ask ourselves: are we as Christians any different from non-Christians? Do our friends, co-workers and family know we are Christian? They might know that we go to church on Sundays, but do they know we are Christians by the way we live; by our character? Or have we assimilated into the secular world where society can’t tell the difference?

The fundamental moral and ethical difference that Christ can make in how we live is fast disappearing. When our teens claim to be saved, but then get pregnant or do drugs at the same rate as the rest of society – when Christians cheat in business, or lie, steal, or cheat on their spouses, at the same rate as non-Christians – something is horribly wrong. Where is our witness?

If we as Christians lose the qualities of Christ that make us distinct and become like the rest of society around us, we no longer have a positive impact. We become a hindrance instead of a preservative.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:7 we read, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” One day prior to our Lord’s return the Church will be removed from this world, and when Christians are finally removed from the world scene, all Hell literally breaks loose.

The other thing about salt, is that is makes you thirsty. In an arid climate or athletic competition, salt is used to promote thirst. Christians are to make Christ attractive and desirable. In Titus 2:9 the Apostle Paul tells Christian servants that they must act in such a way “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” The idea here is that Christian servants have the power through their exemplary behavior to make Christian life and faith beautiful to those outside.

Whenever we as Christians are introduced into a setting, whether it is social or work related, the unbelievers should see evidence of the difference that Jesus Christ makes in our lives. They should be able to look at us and say, “I don’t know what you have, but I want it.”

What happens when salt loses its flavor? According to our scripture reading, “it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.” Technically speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. But in the part of the world where Jesus lived, salt was collected from around the Dead Sea where the crystals were often contaminated with other minerals.
These crystallized formations were full of impurities, and since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, the rain could wash out the salt, which made what was left of little worth since it lost its saltiness. When this happened, the salt was thrown out, since it was no longer of any value either as a preservative or for flavoring. When the salt was leached out it still looked like salt, but it lost its taste. The essential difference can be leached out of a Christian’s life by the constant flow of the world’s values through our lives.

When Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India, he was asked by some missionaries, “What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?” His reply was, “Christians.” It wasn’t the message, it was the witness.

The peculiar property of salt is that even though it may have lost its pungency, it still retains a very devastating potency. This rare and remarkable material can still…destroy plant life on the land…the same principle applies in the case of the Christian. Either our lives are counting for God and for good or our lives are counting for evil and the enemy. The way we live, the things we say, the attitudes we have, the lifestyle we adopt… are continuously producing either positive or negative results in our society; in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, we either count for God or against Him.

Lastly, you need to use salt for it to have any benefit. As we have already noted, the Christian is to be a preserving force in the world wherever God has placed them. But the salt never did any good when it was sitting on a shelf and the meat was somewhere else. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way Christians are to allow God to use them wherever He has placed them. It does the Christian or a church no good, if their salt is stored in a warehouse or on a shelf, you must use it and make contact in order for it to have an effect.

Jesus did not say, everyone is the salt of the earth. Jesus said to His followers, “YOU are the salt of the earth.” As a Christian, you and you alone are the salt of the earth! To be salt, we do not have to be spectacular; to be salt, we do not have to be sensational; to be salt, we do not have to be successful (at least by the world’s standards); to be salt, we just have to affect our little corner of the world; To be a witness for Christ to those around us; to have that extra ingredient that sets us apart for God.

Let us pray:
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

Blessed Are You

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
February 2, 2014 – Epiphany IV

Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12

From the Prophet Micah:
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

What does it mean to be happy? To be fortunate? To be blessed? Who are the ones we as people regard as the lucky ones; the fortunate; the blessed ones? What do we think of? We tend to think of those with money; people who have acquired the material things of this world. They never have to worry about paying their bills. We think of those who can afford a nice home, a nice car. When they travel they fly in first class. It could also be people who are attractive; the beautiful people. How about people who have power or access to privilege and status? They are the rich, beautiful, powerful people: The fortunate ones, the lucky ones, the blessed ones. People like pop stars, movie stars, sports stars, and yes, even some politicians.

Why do we desire these things? Perhaps we think that if we had these things, it would make us happy, fortunate and blessed. But are these the things that bring true happiness? Are these the things that bring lasting, eternal, happiness? And most importantly, are these the things that Jesus regards as the true hallmarks of happiness?
We only have to look at the downward spiral of Justin Bieber lately, where he keeps getting in trouble with the law, to see that money and fame, does not bring happiness. It can actually bring destruction.

Today’s gospel reading is on the Sermon on the Mount which is commonly known as the Beatitudes. This is one of the most misunderstood messages that Jesus ever gave. One group says it is God’s plan of salvation, that if we hope to go to heaven we must obey these rules. Another group calls it a “charter for world peace” and begs the nations of the earth to accept it. Still a third group tells us that the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to today, but that it will apply at some future time, perhaps during the Tribulation or the millennial kingdom.

What is the one word that is repeated verse after verse? It is the word “blessed.” Jesus describes those who are happy or blessed. And He turns our idea of happiness and fortunate on its head.

We think happiness is to be rich. Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We say happiness is one who is not sad. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We say it is the powerful that are happy. Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We say those who are able to indulge in whatever vice they want and get away with it that are happy. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

We think we are happy when we are popular and everyone thinks we are wonderful and everyone looks up to us. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

Wow, what a difference. What sort of happiness is this? What sort of blessedness is this that welcomes persecution, poverty and humility?

If we look at Matthew 5:20, it might give us the key to this important sermon: “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The main theme is true righteousness. The religious leaders had an artificial, external righteousness based on Law. But the righteousness Jesus described is a true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart. The Pharisees were concerned about the minute details of conduct, but they neglected the major matter of character. Conduct flows out of character.

Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. The Pharisees taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc. In the Beatitudes and the pictures of the believer, Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.

Imagine how the crowd’s attention was riveted on Jesus when He uttered His first word: “Blessed.” This was a powerful word to those who heard Jesus that day. To them it meant “divine joy and perfect happiness.” The word was not used for humans; it described the kind of joy experienced only by the gods or the dead. “Blessed” implied an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that did not depend on outward circumstances for happiness. This is what the Lord offers those who trust Him!

So, Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, to do away with sin. And so He came to usher in God’s rule, His kingdom. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He defeated Satan and sin and death and inaugurated His kingdom. However when Jesus came the first time, He only inaugurated His kingdom and we, at this point in time in history, still await the time when Jesus will return again, sometime in the future, when we will live directly under God’s perfect rule. In that time there will be no sin, no disease, no sickness, no injustice, we will be living fully in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

But in the meantime, in this time period that we are in now, we live in the time when God has inaugurated His Kingdom in Christ, but we still wait for the full outworking of Christ’s rule. But when we come to God by repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ for our salvation, the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us, and we experience in part the Kingdom of God in our own lives right now as a foretaste of the fullness of the kingdom which is coming.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the people He is looking for, who count as nothing the things of this world. The people who do not strive after the earthly things, man-made kingdoms, but instead have their eyes set on the coming reign of God.

The person who is attuned to God’s purpose will realize that the root cause behind the world’s problems is our sin. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, when a person submits to God’s rule in their life, and in a fuller sense, when Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom in all its totality, there will be no more oppression, injustice, poverty, disease and death, because there will be no sin.

What will this Kingdom of Heaven look like? When Christ returns and ultimately sets up His eternal kingdom, it is not just a kingdom in the clouds, but as Revelation 21:1 reminds us: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” That is God’s future kingdom is not just heavenly, but is a totally renewed creation – heaven and earth.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? It means that when you sin, it creates a hunger and thirst in you that you won’t sin again. Think for a moment what it’s like when you don’t eat or drink for a while. Perhaps you were busy and went right past lunch. Or perhaps you had to fast because of some medical test.
At a certain point, having something to eat is all that matters. You hunger and thirst for food. Do you have that hunger for righteousness?

When we become Christians, and when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and change us, we change. And one way we change is that we despise our own sin. So that when we do sin, we know something is wrong, we feel it. Have you ever experienced that? Perhaps you shouted at your spouse in anger? You exaggerated your deductions on your tax return. You yelled an obscenity at a driver who cut you off. How do you feel after you’ve sinned? Do you shrug it off, or does it bother you that you sinned? Do you think, well, everyone does it, so what’s the big deal? Or do you have a hunger not to sin; to do God’s Will. That’s what it is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And in the Kingdom of God, as we come under Christ’s rule now, we will sin less. And when Christ’s kingdom comes in its fullness, we will sin no more. Our hunger for righteousness will be satisfied!

Let’s review for a moment some of the characteristics that Jesus considers blessed:
Poor in spirit mourning meek merciful pure in heart
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness peacemakers

Are these the things the world values? Are these the things that characterize the beautiful people in our society, those we tend to look up to? No they aren’t. If anything, they are the opposite. It is not easy to be a dedicated Christian. Our society is not a friend to God or to God’s people. Whether we like it or not, there is conflict between us and the world. Why? Because we are different from the world and we have different attitudes and values.

As we read the Beatitudes, we find that they represent an outlook radically different from that of the world. The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin, especially if you “get away with it.” The world is at war with God, while God is seeking to reconcile His enemies and make them His children. We must expect to be persecuted if we are living as God wants us to live. But we must be sure that our suffering is not due to our own foolishness or disobedience.

How does the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes apply to our life today? Jesus introduces a whole different way of viewing the world. Who does the world regard as happy, fortunate, and blessed? Is it the rich, beautiful, strong, famous, and powerful? But who does Jesus say? If you look at each of these beatitudes, Jesus is looking for people who are the opposite of what the world is looking for.

He is looking for the poor in spirit – for those dependent not on themselves, but on God for everything.

He is looking for those who mourn – for those who aren’t happy with the world the way it is and mourn at those who are lost in sin.

He is looking for those who are meek – those who are humble and don’t think of themselves as more important than others.
He is looking for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness – those who are intensively dissatisfied with their own sin and long for the day when they will be perfected in righteousness and no longer sin.

He is looking for those who are merciful – taking pity on those who are in need, and willing to forgive those who sin against us.

He is looking for those who are pure in heart – those who are pure on the inside, not just on the outside.

He is looking for the peacemakers – those who will bring the message of peace to others.

And He is looking for those who will endure persecution and reviling and slander on account of His name. He is looking for those who will die to self, and who will shun temporary happiness in this world, in order to receive eternal happiness in His coming eternal kingdom. What are your values of happiness, of blessedness? Are they the values of this world – which will only last a short time? Or are they God’s values – which will last for eternity?

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!