Thursday, 20 February 2020

Sermon Ash Wednesday 2020 Text: Matthew 27:11-26 – His blood be on us.


Sermon Ash Wednesday 2020
Text: Matthew 27:11-26 – His blood be on us.

Having just returned home from a cruise on the Princess cruise ship I have been watching with great interest and also relief what is happening in China with the Coronavirus and the passengers stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
When cruising there is great emphasis on hygiene to prevent spreading of disease particular gastric viruses.
When going to the dining rooms you are requested to both wash your hands and then also sanitise them.
But despite all these precautions we find that it still does not prevent you 100% from catching the virus.
Pilate today thinks that by washing his hands that he is ridding himself of all guilt in handing Jesus over to be executed.
But the reality is that the symbolic act does not remove his guilt.
Pilate knows that this is something he should not be doing.
He looked for every opportunity to have Jesus released.
He thought that for sure that if he offered the choice to release Jesus or a murderer that for sure they’d choose Jesus.
But no, they choose the murderer Barabbas.
Even Pilate’s wife knew it was wrong and tried to warn her husband – don’t have anything to do with that innocent man for I have suffered a great deal in a dream because of him.
So Pilate again pleaded with the people – “why – what crime has he committed”.
Pilate thinks he can get away with it by handing Jesus over to them and washing his hands of the matter.
But it won’t.
He reminds me of Judas who after he had betrayed Jesus and realised his wrongdoing thought he could just throw the money back at the Pharisees and that would be it.
But it doesn’t do anything to relieve his guilt and he takes his own life.
Maybe you’ve discovered that also;
That you’ve been living with a guilty conscience and have tried many ways to relieve yourself from the pain but there still lingers that heaviness of guilt weighing you down for Satan to accuse you with.
That’s how King David felt about the weight of his sin he was carrying.
He discovered that the weight wasn’t removed by trying to wash his hands clean but by confessing his sin to God and having him remove it.
It reminds me of the time Jesus healed the paralytic lowered through the roof.
He forgives his sin and the Pharisees complain – who can forgive but God alone?
So often God reveals the truth through irony.
In Psalm 32 he wrote - Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
And, again, ironically, although though not intended, in our bible reading we have God’s message to us about how we can be relieved from the guilt of our sin.
After he has washed his hands, Pilate hands Jesus over to the people and says – I am innocent of this man’s blood – it is your responsibility.
To which the people say – “His blood is on us and on our children”.
Although not intended that way the people have revealed God’s work of removing sin and guilt from our lives – His blood is on us and on our children”.
Tonight we begin our Lenten season again.
A season of reflection on our sinfulness and God’s graciousness.
Tonight you will be offered to come and lay your sins bare and receive the mark of ashes as a sign of your guilt and repentance.
You will then be invited to come forward and receive the remedy for your guilt and sin – the blood of Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Here you continue the statement of the people – his blood is on us and on our children.
That’s where we seek and find our comfort.
On our journey to the cross this Lent we will follow Jesus again and hear of his passion – the suffering and sacrifice for us.
And again the irony will be that his suffering and death are the outcome of our sinfulness.
But his suffering and death will also be the source of healing of our sinfulness.
We can’t deal with our sin simply by washing our hands of any guilt we might have.
Sin, guilt and the devil are too powerful for that.
Only by the blood of Jesus can we find comfort and relief from the weight of our guilt and sin.
There can be great shame when we have to admit our sin and guilt.
Like Judas, Peter had a great shame for having denied Jesus 3 times.
When Jesus approaches him on the beach after his resurrection Peter falls on his knees and  tells Jesus – go away from me for I am a sinful man.
When Jesus reinstates Peter as a disciple it took 3 goes for Peter to finally accept Jesus’ love and acceptance of him.
When you come forward, whether for the ashes or for holy communion – or both, bring all your sin and guilt with you.
Leave it here at the foot of the cross and let Jesus blood be on you.
You cannot wash your hands enough that will ever remove the guilt.
As King David discovered - Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Like Pilate and Judas there is nothing that can be done by human means to rid our guilt.
But Jesus blood on us washes away everything and creates a clean heart in us.
In these 40 days of Lent, reflect on what it is you want to bring to the cross this Easter and let Jesus blood be on you and wash away all your sin and guilt.

Sermon 23rd February 2020 – The Transfiguration Text: Matthew 17:1-9 – Listen to him


Sermon 23rd February 2020 – The Transfiguration
Text: Matthew 17:1-9 – Listen to him

Having recently returned home from a cruise in January I can’t help feeling for the 4000 people who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
The rooms are extraordinarily small – much smaller than a motel room.
The expectation of a cruise is that you’ll spend most of your time on deck throughout the ship or on shore, so the room doesn’t need to be that spacious.
Even having a balcony doesn’t really add that much to the room.
So even though those stranded passengers are on a luxury cruise ship there is very little enjoyment going on being trapped in your cabin.
Sometimes life can be like that.
Even though our surroundings might seem like everything is going great – job is going great – family life is great – church is going great – finances are going great – inside we might be feeling like our world is collapsing.
And like those on the cruise ship, what began as a holiday of a lifetime turned out with unexpected circumstances.
No one could have predicted what they are going through.
So too with life, life may be cruising along really well but then tragedy happens.
The Transfiguration of Jesus which we are celebrating today is a message that God sends to us to give a glimpse of hope because there are many times in life where we feel like life around us is very dark and dismal.
There are times when being a Christian does not add instant joy to our lives especially when we are going through difficulties in life – sickness, grief, financial worries, family worries, worries about the future – worries about the present.
Jesus is about to begin his walk to the cross and he has previously explained to his disciples what that would mean – that he would be handed over to the leaders, suffer and die.
No one could have predicted that outcome with everything Jesus is achieving.
Just like none of the passengers could have predicted their outcome on the cruise or they wouldn’t have gone on the cruise.
When Jesus chose his disciples and said – come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men – if he had said, follow me and you will suffer and die because of me – would they have followed him?
Peter was mortified and wanted to end this nonsense that Jesus, the Messiah, would have his life ended in such a way.
So Jesus takes them up on a mountaintop and there he reveals the truth to Peter and the other 2 disciples.
For a brief moment Jesus’ true glory is revealed.
And for Peter this is more like it.
This is the ending Peter wants for putting his faith in Jesus.
And so he offers to build 3 dwellings to keep Jesus, Elijah and Moses there for all to enjoy.
There are many times in our life where we would love to freeze that moment in our life.
To build dwellings for us to stay in so we don’t have to leave.
But Jesus says that they can’t stay there and that they must return, back down the mountain and to the real life.
We don’t really know what Peter, James and John experienced fully other than Jesus became dazzling white.
Probably similar to what the Israelites experienced when Moses appeared before God and came back and had to have a veil put over his face because his face was glowing so much that it blinded the Israelites.
On those occasions a cloud would cover the mountain or the tabernacle to announce God’s presence as Peter, James and John also experienced when a cloud enveloped them at Jesus’ transfiguration and heard God speak to them.
As I read this account again there are 2 things that come through which I believe are what Jesus prepared for them when he took them up the mountain.
It wasn’t just to be a dazzling light show.
Firstly there is the message that comes from the cloud – the presence of God.
God also spoke from a cloud in the Old Testament.
The glory cloud in the Old Testament was called the Shekinah Cloud.
The Shekinah Glory Cloud was a visible presence of God on earth.
The word Shekinah is a Hebrew name meaning “dwelling” or “one who dwells.”
It helps us to understand why Peter said – let me make 3 dwellings.
3 dwellings that we could keep coming back to when we need to.
But the message said that this would not be where they would come to for hope and strength.
He says: This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
When we start to worry about the future or the present we need to come back to Jesus and listen to him.
The dwellings Peter wanted to build were human made dwellings we make for God.
God is saying – come back to Jesus and what he has created.
Where are those places – there are 2 of them that we have always taught: Word and Sacrament.
Jesus is God’s Word made flesh who came and dwelt among us.
There again is that word “dwelt”.
God makes his dwelling with us – we don’t make a dwelling for God.
In a way God was sad when David and Solomon wanted to build a temple for God because he designed the Tabernacle to be transportable so he could go with them and not remain static.
In the Greek the word “dwelt” among us it is the same word used in the Old Testament for Tabernacle – the dwelling of God.
Jesus is the new transportable tabernacle who goes with us.
In times of worry or distress – we go back to God’s Word.
We read it – we listen to it in worship – we pray it.
God’s Word is where all that God has to say is written.
All of God’s promises are there to give us hope.
It’s what John’s gospel says towards the end:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name – Listen to him.
And God has given us the Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion.
In our Baptism we are washed and affirmed as God’s children.
The same statement made about Jesus at the transfiguration - This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him – is the same promise made at his Baptism.
In our Baptism is where Jesus made the promise to us – I am with you always till the end of the age.
That was important for Peter, James and John.
As Jesus sends them back down the mountain it says that Jesus went with them.
He was sending them back to the way of the cross but he was going to lead them and be with them.
And he is with you and leading you too.
Which is why he had earlier said to Peter when he feared the way ahead to the cross – Get behind me.
So, as fearful and uncertain as the present and future may be we stay behind Jesus who has promised to be with us always.
Listen to him.
The other Sacrament, Holy Communion, is Jesus promise to us also that he is with us.
This IS my body – this IS my blood.
And it is through this Sacrament that Jesus now makes his dwelling in us as our bodies now become the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
The blood that was used from the sacrificial lamb to cleanse the temple is now the blood of Jesus the Lamb of God used to cleanse God’s temple in us as God makes his dwelling place in us.
And that’s why God didn’t want Peter to build 3 dwellings at the Transfiguration.
God has already made his dwelling place and it is in each of us.
The Transfiguration continues in us as God continues to give us a glimpse of the glory awaiting us when we gather before him to worship him.
That’s why we leave the world behind today for a brief glimpse of glory in worship.
Like Peter, James and John, we are given a glimpse to keep our faith strong until the day we gather in God’s presence in eternal Glory.
As Paul says in Colossians to keep us strong : set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Until that day of glory may the peace of God that surpasses all our understanding keep your hearts and minds forever in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Sermon 16th February 2020 – 6th Sunday after Epiphany Text: Matthew 5:21-37 – Reconcilable differences


Sermon 16th February 2020 – 6th Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Matthew 5:21-37 – Reconcilable differences

There are some tough teachings in the Bible but none would be as challenging as the one Jesus has placed before us today.
Jesus says: if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment;
Anger is all around us these days.
There seems to be so much to get angry about that even the smallest thing going wrong can see us explode with anger.
Anger can make us do and say things we normally would not say or do – and often it’s to those whom we love most.
We have anger stored up in us throughout the day that we hold in and then we get home and the smallest infraction sees us taking all that anger out on our loved ones.
Storing up anger does not get rid of the anger but can make it fester and get worse.
St Paul sees anger as a source of sin – not sin itself – but anger that leads us to do hurtful things to others, especially our loved ones.
In Ephesians St Paul says - “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Paul doesn’t say – do not get angry – which is a natural human inclination to an injustice.
Paul says in your anger do not sin.
Jesus also got angry but it was how he used that anger to bring about justice.
Jesus was angry when the Pharisees criticised a sick person for looking for healing from Jesus on the Sabbath.
But Jesus didn’t respond against the Pharisees in his anger but healed the sick man.
Paul say that the devil is particularly active during our times of anger and he sees it as a foothold into using our anger and emotions to hurt others and breakdown relationships.
So Jesus knows about anger and to deal with this situation Jesus says, like Paul, to deal with anger immediately and not to let it fester: He says:
When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Like Paul, Jesus says – deal with it immediately.
Conflict and anger becomes like a festering wound that infects others around us like a virus.
And we see that in families where anger affects not just the person who is angry but everyone around them.
We see that in the church when anger enters that it affects the entire mission and ministry of the church.
We don’t really need reminding that anger over the last Synod continues to affect the mission and ministry as it consumes all our energy and focus.
As Christians we are urged to lead the world in dealing with anger through reconciliation.
As Jesus said in our text – leave your gift – God doesn’t need your gift – he needs you to be reconciled.
Leave your gift at the altar – FIRST be reconciled.
Reconciliation is at the heart of Christian mission and ministry.
In 2nd Corinthians St Paul says -If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
And he goes on to say: We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
God desires for us to live in relationship with him and with one another.
The nature of God is one of relationship as we worship God who is one God in three persons.
The strength of the Trinity is Unity – hence we refer to God as our Triune God – the Three in Unity.
Sadly society today struggles with reconciliation; it doesn’t have strong examples.
One only has to watch our political divide.
Social media allows us to so easily de-friend someone if we get into a dispute with them and avoid confronting our anger with them.
How do we find common ground in the midst of our differences?
Jesus came to this world to reconcile us with God.
But in that reconciliation we discover that reconciliation goes through pain and sacrifice.
God experienced pain in his reconciliation with us.
Reconciliation requires us to make the first move as we saw in Jesus teaching where the one offering the gift at the altar was told to leave the offering and go and be reconciled.
So too God made the first move for our reconciliation.
It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
We see in the parable of the Prodigal Son – a story of reconciliation between a father and son.
While the son is on his way home to reconcile with his father it is his father who was wronged against who rushes out to forgive him.
Meanwhile his older brother cannot accept either his brother’s return or his father’s reconciliation with him and his anger sees him furious and refusing to join in the celebrations which not only affected him but his father and all those celebrating.
And that’s what festering anger does – it saps all joy out of ourselves and all those in our life.
It’s really hard to make the first move in reconciliation but the longer we delay the harder it is to reconcile and the more hurt we experience.
Jesus exampled the pain of reconciliation when from the cross he asked his Father to forgive his executioners.
Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.
The pain Jesus experienced was both physical – the nails pounded into his hands and feet.
But it was also spiritual as he feels abandoned by God – My God, my God – why have you forsaken me?
The pain of reconciliation, as we see in Jesus’ request to his Father, is foregoing human justice.
The human need of eye for an eye.
But Jesus, when teaching on human justice says – you have heard it taught “eye for an eye” but Jesus says when someone strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer the other cheek.
Our human instinct for justice is to strike back.
But striking back never achieves reconciliation – it creates more and prolonged hurt.
Reconciliation takes the hurt and seeks a way to find forgiveness and renewal and to stop the hurt.
Anger keeps the hurt going and growing.
God could have struck back when we crucified his Son – but he chose to reconcile us to himself through Jesus.
God had previously struck back when he sent a flood to destroy all life because he had regretted creating human beings.
But his love prevented him from doing so and now the water that was once sent to destroy is now sent to save us as the waters of our baptism washes away our sin and reconciles us to God.
Reconciliation is a precious gift from God.
It’s not easy – it is the hardest thing we have to confront sometimes.
To forego our human inclination to hold a grudge – to seek retribution – to live with the pain of being hurt.
But grudges and retribution do not heal hurts.
They can masquerade it and bury it deep down where we think it is doing us no harm.
But in reality only forgiveness – giving and accepting – and seeking reconciliation can heal.
And as Christians, knowing that God himself exampled reconciliation when it was us who needed to act first, shows us the true blessings that come from leaving everything and going to be reconciled with our brother or sister.
And it is in that reconciliation where we discover the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding.


Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Sermon 9th February 2020 – 5th Sunday after Epiphany Text: Matthew 5:13-20 – Salt or assault


Sermon 9th February 2020 – 5th Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Matthew 5:13-20 – Salting the earth

Do you ever get frustrated when you buy fresh produce from the supermarket and in a couple days it’s already looking like it’s ready to be thrown out?
Bananas, for us, is a big one.
They look nice and yellow and firm in the supermarket so you buy a bunch of them and then, not too many days later, they’re brown and soft and not much good for anything except making some banana muffins.
I saw with much interest on the internet recently a picture that a person posted of a McDonalds Hamburger that they had purchased 10 years ago and not eaten along with a serving of French fries.
The hamburger and fries looked no different to the day that they purchased it.
No mould and no decay.
And the reason why, according to “experts”, is because of the high salt content in the ingredients that preserve the meat and buns.
However, just because it looks like it did 10 years ago – we are warned that the salt has only preserved the looks of the hamburger and not the health aspect; you would get violently ill or perhaps die from eating it now.
And today we are warned that too much salt in our diets is not good even though it might enhance the flavour of the food we eat because manufacturers have already put high levels of salt in their foods to help the products last longer.
So it’s interesting that Jesus says that we are the salt in the world.
And he says that while salt is good it can have the danger of not being good when it loses its saltiness.
Now I believe that salt really can’t lose its saltiness but what it can do, as we see in today’s highly processed food procedures, it can be used in a way that might seem good because it preserves expiry dates  - but in reality it causes health issues.
That’s probably more along the lines of what Jesus was teaching.
Sometimes we can use our Christian faith in ways that are good but sometimes we can use it that causes hurt to others.
Salt is good – essential even – but when it is used in a way that is unhealthy then it is not.
Salt is good:
Salt has healing qualities – washing or rinsing in salt water can sterilise and heal a wound.
But salt can also cause hurt to that same wound - as the term says- rubbing salt into a wound.
God’s Word can bring healing when a person weighed down by the law and sin hears the freeing Gospel that comforts them through forgiveness.
But God’s word can also be used to judge further a person who is already suffering from sin.
It can be the same sin and the same Word;
One can bring healing – the other can bring hurt.
It can be used to judge a person rather than comfort and heal.
Jesus taught that when he was accused of eating with sinners.
He said, the sick need a doctor.
The sinners already knew they were sinners – they were treated that way by the religious leaders.
They needed to hear that God loved and forgave them.
It didn’t mean they could do whatever they wanted.
No, the woman caught in adultery was first healed with the freeing word of God’s forgiveness – and then sent on her way – go and sin no more.
God’s word acts as Law and Gospel – rather than Gospel and Law.
It is the Gospel that is God’s proper work – God’s final word.
Salt is good.
Could you imagine food without salt?
Fish and chips without salt?
Eggs without salt.
Salt and Vinegar chips without salt.
And so too a world without the salting of Jesus’ love would be a world without flavour.
So we are to live in the world expressing our Christian faith in a way that brings flavour to the world rather than a bad taste to people’s mouths.
Similarly Jesus says that we are the light of the world and that no one hides a light under a bowl.
Two things would happen if we kept our light hidden under a bowl.
Firstly the light would go out because in Jesus’ day light came from fire which needed to be in the open.
And secondly the world would not see all the good things that God does in the world.
That’s why Jesus says - let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
God’s glory comes through us.
People can easily cite all the bad things the church has done – the sexual abuse; the wars they say are started by religion; the fighting between different religions and so on.
The purpose of what we do in the world as salt and light is to give glory to God.
It’s not to be God’s police officers using the law to weigh people down but to bring them to the Gospel..
The whole purpose for us as Christians is to be the light of God.
That’s why the very first thing God created was “let there be light”.
That was not the light of the sun which was only created on the 4th day.
No “let there be light” refers to the glory of God that was necessary to start life in the world and is still needed.
A light that God has place under our responsibility.
A world without God’s light is a world that has no life.
Even though the world doesn’t recognise God’s light and doesn’t always accept us as Christians, the same happened to Jesus -  John 1 says - The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
So we are not to be discouraged if the world rejects us as it rejected Jesus, but to continue to be God’s salt and light in the world by living in ways that bring glory to God
And that is done, as Jesus says, by loving one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But sometimes, just like rubbing salt into a wound, sometimes we are not examples of Christ’s love.
So we need to keep looking at ourselves and asking whether or not we are reflecting Jesus light and love in the world by what we do or say.
We know that, sadly, Christians and the church aren’t always good examples of salt and light in the world by the way we fail in living out God’s love in the world.
Jesus is calling us to be Love like salt.
Love is to make up the very essence of who we are and why we are here.
We come from God’s love, we return to God’s love.
That’s why Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.
Jesus says – ALL the law and prophets depend on these 2 commandments.
As we search for the meaning of life and the questions of why am I here – why did God create me – it was to love.
What does it mean to be human – created in God’s image?

Well, John’s letter explains it in 1 John 4: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Now we can understand what Jesus meant if salt loses its saltiness that it is useless.
If we lose our love we are nothing:
St Paul says the same in his great love chapter - If I speak but do not have love, I am only a noisy gong. If I have the gift of prophecy and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love defines the very essence of who we are and whose we are.
And 3 things remain – faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.



Thursday, 30 January 2020

Sermon 2nd February 2020 – 4th Sunday after Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:1-12 – Simply blessed


Sermon 2nd February 2020 – Epiphany 4
Text: Matthew 5:1-12 – Simply blessed

Sometimes the solution to a problem is so simple that we often overlook it because, it can’t be that simple.
In fact a Franciscan monk, William of Occam from the 13th Century stated that the simplest solution is most likely the right one.
It became known as Occam’s Razor where all the non-essential parts were cut away leaving the simplest solution.
How often don’t we complicate situations, making it worse and discovering the answer was there all the time under our noses and we wonder why we didn’t see it.
In today’s Gospel reading this is what Jesus teaches when in his Sermon on the Mount he delivers what have become known as The Beatitudes to explain the secrets of life hidden under the obvious which we complicate by our own view of how to find true happiness in life.
So, let’s look at what Jesus says and how it applies more than ever in our world today:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is not talking about poor in financial terms but is speaking about a quality we call humility – Poor in Spirit.
Often seen as a weakness, humility allows us to see through superficial barriers.
When Jesus came to dwell with us, Philippians says he emptied himself and became humble all the way to the cross.
Humility allows us to accept life the way it is even if we don’t always understand it.
Rather than needing to prove ourselves before others humility allows us to be the people God has made us to be, whether or not we are accepted or praised in the eyes of the world.
And when we see life as a gift from God regardless of what we achieve or attain in this life – we see the Kingdom of Heaven is really all that matters and that it is awaiting us – a place and gift that puts this life in true perspective.
If we want to keep chasing this life, we will never be satisfied and we will never appreciate what God has prepared for us.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Death is the most difficult experience we face – the death of a loved one and the prospect of our own death.
But death for Christians is also the most beautiful experience in that it is not the end of this life but the beginning our new life in heaven.
And that’s why St Paul says – let us grieve – but not like those who have no hope.
Death is difficult and painful as we see also in Jesus who weeps at the death of Lazarus.
But he assures the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha – that he is the resurrection and the life and those who die trusting in him, even though they die they shall live.
Without faith, death becomes something we don’t talk about – we try to prolong life – we call it anything but death.
But in Christian faith Jesus simply puts it – those who mourn shall be comforted by the assurance of eternal life where there will be no more mourning because there will be no more death.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Like poor in spirit, meekness is about accepting the life God has given to us.
The difference is that Jesus wants us to still focus on life here on earth as God’s gift as we wait to enter our home in Heaven.
We are here for a purpose – God has created us – we are all special.
Ephesians 2 says: For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Even if the world values us differently, we know that we are created in God’s image.
God wants us to enjoy the bounty of this life while we wait for our true eternal home.
This life is a gift from God and meekness allows us to inherit all that life has even if the grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence.
How often don’t we hear of millionaires and celebrities and sports stars who are so unhappy with their lives despite seemingly having it all.
Every day is a gift from God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
I hear it so often – life is so unfair.
Why do people get away with it?
Who are they answerable to?
So often you read the news or turn on the TV and you see something that just isn’t right.
And you feel powerless to make things right.
Jesus assures us that we must all give an account before God.
St Paul urges us to not get angry but to leave room for God’s justice.
And so too Jesus says – trust God.
You who are seeking justice and righteousness – you will find it when God sets things right on Judgment Day.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
This is not a “tit for tat”.
This is not what some people call “karma” – that if you do good things to others then others will do good things to you.
No, this is about experiencing the peace of God that goes beyond human understanding when we can live lives that show mercy to others.
It enables us to experience the knowledge of God’s mercy by showing that same mercy to others.
It’s like what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer – forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
It’s not saying God won’t forgive if we don’t forgive.
But if we don’t forgive others can we truly know how much God has forgiven us?
You sort of get that peaceful feeling when you do something good for someone else without them doing something for you.
Maybe you’re driving and you let someone else in who is looking for someone to let them squeeze into the traffic.
Even though the next person may not return the favour to you, you have that sense of knowing you did the right thing even if the right thing hasn’t been done to you.
Alternatively you can demand your rights and that person can just wait like I had to wait.
What feeling do you have in you then?
Instead of a feeling of anger or frustration for all the things done against you, you can experience peace by showing mercy.
A feeling that is much more powerful than the feeling of being right.
It’s like when you’re having a dispute in a relationship and you know you’re right and you’re not going to back down.
But what is better – to be right and be unreconciled – or to show mercy and work towards reconciliation?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Jesus is reminding us that sin breaks down our relationship with God.
No matter how small or how many people are doing it today or others are doing much worse than I am – sin breaks down our relationship with God as it did for Adam and Eve who hid from God when they realised they had sinned.
This is not about works righteousness to earn God’s love.
No, Jesus forgives our sin.
But living in right ways enables us to have a clean conscience – a pure heart to see God’s presence in our lives and to see his work in our lives.
In Jesus’ tine so many people wanted to see God at work through the miracles Jesus was doing.
But Jesus made it really simple – if you have seen me you have seen the Father.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Peacemakers is not about what we saw in the 60s with the peace movement.
No this is about peace with God.
These are the ones who seek to end conflict through forgiveness by exampling forgiveness they have with God with others.
These are the ones who, as stated before, are prepared to seek reconciliation rather than their own rights.
Before his accusers Jesus remained silent even though he could have demanded justice.
When Peter cuts off the ear of the arresting soldier Jesus rebukes him and tells him to put away his sword – don’t you think my Father could send a multitude of angels to protect me.
Even from the cross, writhing in pain, Jesus calls out to his Father to forgive those who were nailing him to the cross.
Jesus calls us to bring about peace by being the peacemakers.
Being the peacemakers by being the ones who will forego our own justice for the sake of peace.
By loving our enemies and by loving one another as Jesus loves us – and by this all will know we are Jesus disciples – Children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Note the beatitudes begin and end with “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.
There is no doubt that it is getting harder to express our Christian faith.
Whether it’s defending what we believe or trying to keep Christmas and Easter with a focus on Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t need us to defend him – as he told Peter – put away your sword.
Our response to persecution is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Again, we can be right in our defence, but will that achieve anything?
Jesus won the affection of others by eating with sinners not by proving to them that they are sinners.
The Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, is a reminder to trust God in adversity.
While the world highlights adversity as weakness or negatives, Jesus says that they are assurances of God’s presence with us – as St Paul says – when I am weak, then I am strong.
Not that we should look for adversity or welcome it – but that we should use them to remind us of God’s plan for us and remember that our sufferings are not worth comparing with the joy that awaits is in the Kingdom of Heaven where there will be no more suffering or death.
Blessed are all because of Jesus Christ our Lord.