Psalm 149 & Luke 6:20-31
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
November 6, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about blessings.
In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Chevy Chase plays the father of the Griswald family. In one scene as they sit down for Christmas dinner, Chevy Chase stands up, picks up his knife and taps his water glass and says “since this is Aunt Bethany’s 80th Christmas, I think she should leads us in the saying of grace.”
“What dear” Aunt Bethany says, the other aunt yells down the table “Grace”, to which Aunt Bethany replies: “Grace she passed away thirty years ago”. “They want you to say Grace” the uncle yells in her ear. Aunt Bethany shakes her head no. The uncle leans over closer “the blessing…” Aunt Bethany then begins and repeats the Pledge of Allegiance… “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and too the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” [see above or click here to watch the movie clip]
Blessing, we hear it all the time, “God bless you” when someone sneezes. Or “I am so blessed” usually referring to someone’s good fortune or when referring to having a good home, job or family. Yet when we read the Beatitudes from the gospels Jesus seems to be saying quite the opposite.
Blessed are the poor, blessed are the hungry, blessed are you who weep now, blessed are you when people hate you. Should we strive to be poor, hungry or weeping? Should we give up all we have, deprive ourselves of food and cry until our eyes can no longer produce tears?
No, that is not the case. Jesus sees everyone and is comforting us all. Who are the poor? The poor are not just those without money, those who cannot afford healthcare, or who cannot afford to fix the family car, or who cannot afford to have a roof over their head to shelter them from the cold and rain. No the poor are also the lonely, the child who sits at the lunch table by herself, the poor are the ones who are left out of the office lunch gathering, the poor are those who go unnoticed, who do the work of God when no one is looking.
Think of our Saints this morning. My grandmothers lived through the great depression. Grandma, my maternal grandmother, grew up in Dayton Tennessee on a farm with her 3 sisters and 1 brother. Dayton is located outside of Chattanooga and is known for the Scopes Monkey trial. The Scopes Monkey trial was an American legal case in 1925 in which a substitute high school teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. My grandmother and her sibling were there for this trial.
My grandmother grew up in a home which valued education. Her father insisted that all of his children (including the girls) receive a college education. So in 1928 my grandmother set off for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. A year later the Great Depression hit the country. Grandma’s father has just bought her a new fur winter coat prior to the depression and once it hit, he asked her come home to return the coat because the family would need the money. The coat was gorgeous, dark brown and black, long sleeves and ankle length. I imagine it was as soft as a rabbit’s coat. My grandmother returned home with the fur coat but when they went back to the store owner, he told them to never mind the amount owed for the coat and to keep it. She would need the coat, as the winter was coming. The store owner did this without pride and when no one was looking or expecting it.
I imagine my grandmother and others were poor in spirit when the depression hit, not knowing what was going to happen. This act by the store owner was a true act of kindness, a true blessing. Not because it involved a material good, but because the store owner acted out of kindness and generosity.
Who are the hungry? Have you ever been so hungry your stomach hurt, or you felt faint? Yes that is hunger. Yet what if we took it to a spirit realm. What does it feel and look like to be hungry for Jesus and God? Hungry for the Holy Spirit to come and fill you? Imagine that yearning that obsession for God and all things Holy that feels even greater than your physical hunger. Those are the hungry, when we are reaching out for God, and praying with all our might. Searching for answers and searching to know the risen Christ. And Jesus reassures us that “Blessed are those who are hungry for they will be filled”. We will know Christ and through our hunger do know him.
And who are the weeping? I can think of a time or two when I literally could not stand or hold myself up as I wept. Maybe you have been there also, on your knees or sitting on the floor with tears flowing down your face. And yet in those hardest times Jesus is right there with us, blessing us and promising a brighter day.
Jesus is reassuring and reminding us where we have been and what the future will hold. We are blessed, not because we are poor, hungry, weeping or have people who hate us. No we are blessed because God is with us and helping us through those tough times and we believe and trust that good will come. That Jesus who is all good, is by our side leading us to a closer relationship with God.
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5).
God is always with us, when we look back at times when we were poor in spirit, health or wealth, God was there. When we look back and asked or prayed to God to show up, God does (even when we don’t see it). God is there as we weep, because God too suffered when God’s son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. God was there. And God promises a better future if we walk and trust in God. That is not a future full of wealth and prosperity but rather a future with a Spirit filled heart.
As the holidays come and we sit around our tables ready for the blessing, no matter what is said, trust and know God is with you. May God bless you and may you bless others.