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Blessed: The Persecuted - Matthew 5:1-2, 10-12

We have been talking for two months now about Jesus turning our world upside down.Remember, as kids we enjoyed looking at the world upside down, but as grown-ups—not so much because when our world is turned upside down, we want to do everything in our power to get it righted again.Our world gets turned upside down not because we’ve decided to hang off the couch, a chair, a pull-up bar, or even a trapeze, but usually because something drastic has happened that causes us to shift our world view.Either a joyous or tragic event comes into our lives, such as the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, a promotion or a lay-off at work, moving into a new home or having a home destroyed in a storm, or someone reveals to us that what we have thought to be true, just really is not true.It is this final revelation, this final world-flipping scenario that we have been hearing from Jesus—and the truth of the matter is, society has not changed that much.The world flipping way Jesus changed th…

Psalm 23, Part 2 - Follow The Shepherd

Where are your still waters?Where are your green pastures?For some of us it may be along a lake or a riverbank where the water is as slick as glass or a field of green, maybe filled with colorful flowers.For me, still waters are anything but still, my still waters are crashing with wave after wave hitting my green pastures of sand and shells.Still waters and green pastures are about places of peace and refreshment…and while I will admit that sitting on a boat in the middle of a river or lake on a cool fall morning is peaceful and refreshing, trust me, real green pastures, dotted with ragweed this time of year are anything but peaceful and refreshing for me. Last time we gathered together, we began exploring what it means to live with the Lord as our Shepherd.Just why has this Psalm, one of a hundred fifty we have in the Bible, become the one that so many of us, so much of the world, has adopted as the one we know better than any of the rest?Is it because Jesus identifies himself as the…

Blessed: The Peacemakers - Matthew 5:1-2, 9

How many of you like ventriloquists?I really like the comedy, but also admire the ventriloquist’s ability to say something without really looking like they are saying something.In some ways they mimic what we often accuse politicians of doing, “talking out both sides of their mouth.”You’ve seen a ventriloquist get in an argument with his puppet—and you’ve seen a politician who will say one thing in this location, and turn around in another location, or maybe after the election, say the complete opposite.Why bring this up?Because if we take our reading from the Beatitudes today and place it alongside another selection from the Gospel of Matthew, some might accuse Jesus of speaking out both sides of his mouth—either that or a ventriloquist has hold of him making him say one thing in one location and something else in a different location…either that, or Jesus means something far more than what we might initially think at face value. In these nine verses of the beatitudes, Jesus has been …

Blessed: The Pure In Heart - Matthew 5:1-2, 8

As Jesus has turned our world upside down, have you been feeling blessed or challenged during our sermon series so far?  I have to admit that I have felt challenged quite a bit as I have worked on the sermons. Remember, as Jesus offered this message, it was not him telling people about being happy...too be declared blessed was to be declared privileged, well-off, or fortunate. That if the criteria Jesus mentions applies to you, you stand in a privileged status with God.
Those who are poor in spirit, having completely founded their identity in God instead of their accomplishments and their stuff, are privileged to find themselves already members of God's Kingdom.
Those mourn the condition of the world are well-off because they will find themselves comforted as God acts and wipes away their tears making everything right.
The meek are fortunate because as they pattern themselves after Jesus because they receive the promise that they will be citizens of the New Jerusalem.
Those who hu…

Psalm 23 Part 1 - What Do You Want

I have to confess that this well loved and well-known Psalm caused me trouble for many years as a kid.I mean, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”That’s exactly how it reads and that is exactly how I heard it for much of my life, beautifully read out of the traditional King James Version.For those here who know the 23rd Psalm by heart, I could almost guarantee that is the version of it that you have memorized.It is truly beautiful, though I don’t know if that beauty lies in the accuracy of translation or simply with how it connects us to what is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture.The King James Version is so much a part of what this verse is to so many, I have this King James Version of the Bible just for the reading of the 23rd Psalm, in the event I have to read it in a public setting. However, as usual, I have skewed from the point I was about to make.I mentioned that this verse caused me problems as a kid.What was the problem?The problem is simple, I just didn’t …