We Got Your Back

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10)

Sermon by Pastor Mark Siler, 11/1/17


The Zealots said it’s time to stop complaining and fight for our freedom from Rome. The Sadducees compromised with Roman officials, trying their best to muddle through and avoid conflict. The Pharisees proclaimed that all that really mattered was to live a clean and pure life and that doing so would result in righteousness.  And in the midst of all that, Jesus walks up a mountain with a bunch of outcasts and delivers the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes, our scripture for today.  As we hear it, consider this question.  Why do you think Jesus begins his greatest teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes?

You may remember the tragedy that took place at Nickle Mines, PA back in 2006.  A very troubled man entered an Amish schoolhouse and began firing his gun. 5 girls were killed and 3 were wounded.  He then turned the gun on himself. Sadly, we have become accustomed to such events in our country.  What we are not accustomed to is the Amish response to such violence.  They publically announced that they forgave the shooter and refused to speak ill of him.  Then they visited the man’s widow and children and told them that they would be praying for them.  As donations poured in, the Amish shared them with the suffering family. They attended his funeral.  When one of the Amish elders was questioned about this unusual behavior, he responded that they were doing nothing remarkable, that they were simply doing what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes.

But how? How does living the Beatitudes become so natural, so instinctive?  Maybe the lectionary gives us a clue. Today, November 1st, All Saints Day, the lectionary suggests the Beatitudes as the appropriate text. Perhaps the Beatitudes remind us that if we are to live out this powerful mix of vulnerability and courage, we cannot do it alone.  If we are to embrace our blessedness amidst all the fear and feelings of unworthiness, we cannot do it alone.  We must lean on the communion of saints, the cloud of witnesses that surround us. We must hear the voices that are always reminding us of our God-given blessedness, and from that truth, that solid and holy ground, God can make us into a people who embody what real power looks like, people who live the Beatitudes.

We are not alone.  The saints are among us.  Sometimes, by the grace of God, those of us among the living tap into our own sainthood and share Beatitude blessedness with each other. You see that all the time at Haywood St. And always available is the faithfulness of our ancestors, whispering the divine truth in our ears.  Can you hear it?  They are cheering us on.  God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and the communion of saints, living and dead, have our backs.  They have our backs so that our fronts can be poor in spirit, can grieve, can be humble, can hunger and thirst for life-giving relationships, can be merciful, can engage the world with a pure heart, can be peacemakers, can suffer for love.  And when we do that, when our backs our strong and our fronts so tender, we help God bring about a little more of the kingdom of heaven on earth