Our Standing Announcements:
1st Sunday - Potluck Lunch following Mass
2nd Tuesday - Episcopal Church Women
3rd Monday - Vestry Meeting - 5:30 pm
Mon. Office closed
Wed 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist - Supper - Study: "Gifts of the Holy Spirit"
Next Sunday: The 24th Sunday After Pentecost
9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Reception and Lunch to follow
from this weeks Sermon: The Art of Blessedness
Not long ago, I was reading the account of the experiences of a patient with heart disease. While his life was dramatically affected but his illness, he made a very real choice not to become enslaved by his disease - unlike so many others who become bound by other circumstances they face in life - he chose to live each moment. One statement that he made, made quite an impact on me when he said: "Freedom doesn’t mean you get to choose what happens to you. But you do get to choose how you react to it.... and life depends upon choice."
So often in life we don’t get to choose what happens to us. We do, however, get to choose how we react to it. We can focus upon our emptiness and our loss or we can choose to see that which we do possess. Jesus didn’t say "choose to be poor," but rather said, "amid your poverty remember, you possess the Kingdom." Jesus didn’t say "choose to be mourners," but rather said, "amid your grief, remember, the Comforter is here." Jesus didn’t say "choose to be downtrodden," but rather, "amid your meekness, remember, the whole Kingdom is your inheritance." There is blessing in the choices we make, in how we respond to life’s broken edges that cut and tear the very fabric of life. In other words, things don’t always have to be as they appear to be in the life of one of God’s Saints.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" That’s getting things down to a pretty basic level. We all know to a certain extent what it’s like to be hungry or thirsty - and while we may never have been truly without food nor have experienced life threatening dehydration - all have felt the pangs of hunger and thirst at some point - and I am not just referring to what we stuff into our mouths because there are many types of hunger, and a variety of ways of satisfying that thirst. That’s where the choice behind this beatitude is.
The Prophet Isaiah spoke of ways of satisfying hunger and thirst that don’t really satisfy, asking "why do you spend your money, your time, your energy on things that only leave you as hungry and thirsty as when you started to eat or drink them, perhaps even more so?" Does it really satisfy hunger, for instance, to bite into pornography, or does it only leave us feeling even more empty than before? Quite often addictions, no matter which drug we speak of, often begin because we think they’ll satisfy the thirst within, but they never do.
Just like those preoccupied with wealth, or occupational or societal success can be as poor as any street person, unsatisfied and ever more hungry. Why waste yourself on bread which isn’t bread? That was Isaiah’s question. There is a blessing in such a choice.
Jesus said “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” The Lord’s Prayer amplifies this Beatitude for us when our Lord taught us about forgiving who have somehow stepped over the line in our lives. How quickly we rush over the words "as we forgive" in that prayer. Forgiveness is never an easy process. We don’t get to choose the ways in which we are wronged. And it happens all the time. Yet we do choose, how we will respond to it, and there is freedom in that choice. On the other hand, we can choose to become enslaved by bitterness. I’ve known a lot of people lost in that wilderness.
When Jesus said "Blessed are the pure in heart" He wasn’t calling us back into a spiritual naivete where everything could be cured by a cookie and a nap. He was and is urging those who hear Him, in holiness, to choose to open their arms.... to take a risk. To be genuine, to approach others without mixed motives or hidden agenda, to be on the outside the same as the inside.
Now, the blessing behind this beatitude, the direction toward which Jesus is pointing, becomes possible when we choose to no longer nurse our wounds, to no longer see only the tainted aspects and failures of others and even ourselves, and choose instead to focus upon God and what God perfect in us.
Finally, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Who amongst us can deny the need for peacemaking in our very broken world. Every Christian has the responsibility to truly live out the Gospel in their relationships - where the blessings of peace follow : marriages and families are strengthened, healthier churches emerge, and a thriving, gospel-centered ministry based on Jesus own example is found.
It’s more than interesting, how Jesus is calling us to live - possessing the Kingdom of God, comforted by His presence, enjoying the great riches of His Kingdom, hungering for what is really good, being full of mercy, being pure in heart and instruments of God’s peace. This is how the great Saints of the Church have always lived with open arms and open eyes, heads raised high, they became the salt of the earth, the light of the world. That’s the blessing of such a choice - such a life. And may it be so for us also. Amen!