Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Jan. 29, 2017, on Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12
Audio: click here
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Once, when I was in middle school I was at a table in the cafeteria where someone, an older boy, had brought some playing cards, so we were playing Rummy or something. Then he suggested we play Black Jack, which we did. Then he suggested we play for money – which is called gambling, and at that moment, doing something transgressive seemed oddly appealing. So, I was in.
It was small stakes. All the money I had was my lunch money. We played several hands. The older boy dealt, and kept winning. I kept loosing. Once I actually looked up from my cards to observe him sneaking a peak at the next card coming up – which is cheating. So I caught him. It mad me so mad. I had already lost enough that I was not going to be able to buy lunch. I was going to be hungry all afternoon. It wasn’t fair. I felt taken advantage of. But what could I do? He was older, much larger than me. He had the power, and he was abusing his power. Recalling that, I can still feel the feelings I had.