Sermon Recordings MP3 Post:-

20110220am Red Letter Series 1: Subversive!

Matthew 5:1-12

Liturgy

Annie Dillard writes, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”

Intro to Readings

Series: Red letters – Words of Jesus in red. Just about everything in ch 5,6,7 are red. (A bit like John 15-17)It’s called “the Sermon on the Mount” and it encapsulates Jesus’ key teachings on living a life with God. This is crash-helmet Christianity.

Over the next couple of weeks we are going to examine what Jesus says about life, prayer, being a goody-goody, marriage, divorce, our enemies, and a whole bunch of other uncomfortable stuff. Don’t miss a moment!

The first part has the title “The Beatitudes” (from Latin) “Blessings”.

There are nine Blessings in this section – eight of which are short couplets that reflect a state of being and the blessing that will come. The ninth is a paragraph and gives us a clue to the picture Jesus is working with.

The Be-attitudes

Most of us have heard the beatitudes as a list of qualities we should try to emulate…
Let’s be brutally honest for a moment – most of us would prefer that these are true of others.

  • Who wants to be poor in spirit??
    especially bearing in mind that Luke just says “poor” (leaves out the “in spirit” part)
  • And who wants to mourn??
    Some people say that we should be mournful over our sin… but Jesus doesn’t qualify it like that?
  • And who wants to be meek???
    We’d prefer our opposition to be meek!
  • Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is OK….
    – as long as you don’t go too far…
  • Being Merciful and Pure in heart are nice qualities…
    But let’s not be too perfectionistic you know…
  • Being a peacemaker is great
    – just as long as we don’t get taken advantage of… oh but those are the next two – being persecuted and insulted?
    No thank you!

It’s time we get this right…
These are not BE-attitudes – something that we should BE.
This is about where we find God working!
The beatitudes are not so much about what we should DO as much as what God is doing!

God is Found

  1. Among the poor
  2. Among the Mourning
  3. Among the Meek – because they bow to Him
  4. Among those longing for righteousness (oppressed and disillusioned people)
  5. Among the pure in heart – the undivided ones
  6. He is at work in the peacemakers
  7. He is with those who are persecuted and insulted because they know that they need Him

Subversive God

The crowd Jesus spoke to were expecting to hear that God was among the rich, the powerful and the influential.
The problem, you see, is that our definition of blessing is success!
We think that if we are close to God, if we are blessed then
– we will be healthy, wealthy and wise
– we will have all the answers, we’re always triumphing, and already have righteousness sewn up
– we’ll be powerful, beyond reproach (nudge nudge wink wink say no more)
– and always get our parking place when we order it (I mean pray for it)

Jesus turns all of that on its head.
He opens His sermon by explaining that God is a subversive God.

  • He’s found where you don’t expect Him – Poor, mourning
  • Working in ways you don’t expect Him – Meek, Persecution, Insults
  • Working with people you don’t expect Him to – Meek, Seekers, Merciful and Peacemaking

Most people think that when we go through trouble, sadness, hardship or persecution we have done something wrong.
We must have done something to deserve this? Right????
WRONG!
Sometimes the only reason these things happen is that we live in a desperately broken world.

But listen to what Jesus is saying to the poor, mourning, hungering, merciful, pure, peacemaking, persecuted and insulted ones:

  • God’s Kingdom is Yours
  • God will comfort you
  • You will inherit the earth – you will fulfill God’s purposes
  • Your hunger will be filled
  • You will receive mercy
  • You’ll see God
  • You’ll be called God’s Children
  • You’ll be certain of your heavenly citizenship

Conclusion

In the very opening comments of His sermon, Jesus is throwing the cat among the religious pigeons.
God doesn’t work in the way you’d expect Him to.

Three implications:

  1. Be careful of making God in your own image: We tend to assume we know where God is and how He works. Be prepared to be surprised. The crowd would have loved the idea of God being with the the poor and mourning. The hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful and peacemaker would have been less comfortable. He is a subversive God and wants to take us on a journey of transformation.
  2. You might be uncomfortable with me describing God as subversive. I’m in good company – Eugene Peterson and many others have described Jesus’ teaching as subversive – undermining the status quo and exposing falsehood. But at the end of the day – is anything more subversive than the cross?
    – Did we deserve to be rescued?
    – Did we expect Him to take on our frailty at His birth and our sinfulness at His baptism?
    – Did we expect Him to save us by dying?
    – Did we expect Him to conquer death or take our humanity into heaven at the ascension?
    – Did we expect Him to place His reputation into the hands of a motley crew like the disciples and you and me?
  3. He calls us to do His work in the world through love, hope and faith.
    Some of you will remember the church that does evangelism in an unusual way.
    Car wash for a dollar – discombobulating people.

The bottom line of the beatitudes is this: When you deal with this God: prepare to be discombobulated by His grace, mercy and love for you.

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