Third Sunday before Lent: 02/03/2019

Jer 17: 5-10Psalm q, 1 Cor 53:12-20,Luke 6:17-26

I wonder where our priorities lie? I wonder if it’s learning about God in the same way one learns about the animals in the Amazon, from our armchairs? Or whether it’s a about a way of life? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to begin bible bashing but these are the texts we have today, and I have to ask: “Where do our priorities lie?”

This week we have the Beatitudes as our Gospel reading. In one way it is a reading that is lovely to read but the theology contained within is more than enough to encompass three or four sermons. The name Beatitude is derived from Latin and it refers to a state of happiness or bliss.The Beatitudes of our Lord are powerful, holding before the world a … picture of the true disciple of God. The Beatitudes cover the glorious hope and reward the believer can expect, now and as well as in eternity. The Beatitudes speak of a different mindset. One of the Kingdom of God, rather than that of the world. A kingdom that seeks to break into the world at every opportunity, if only we let it.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven;

But like our readings from Jeremiah and Psalm One, the Gospel reading also shows the flip side of the coin.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

It makes for really uncomfortable reading. But then Christianity isn’t supposed to be comfortable. And if you are looking for something you can observe from your armchair then perhaps Christianity isn’t really your thing. Let us have another look at the reading from Jeremiah.

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.

They shall be like a shrub in the desert and shall not see when relief comes.

They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

I wonder if you notice the pattern? In Jeremiah the curses come first, followed by the blessings. And the blessings follow the same route that the curses took.

Those who follow the Lord, who put their trust in Him are likened to trees planted by water. Their feet are in the waters of God’s grace, and provided they stay rooted, the faithful can withstand those times of testing. Those times when all we want to do is walk away and say enough is enough.

Remaining rooted in God’s grace allows us to remain fruitful. But if we step outside of that grace then perversity and deviousness awaits.

Psalm One gives voice to the cry of humanity in times of desperation but also gives the converse or flip side – songs of thankfulness and joy. And how does that joy appear in our lives? Is it through wealth and material things? Or is it something that is contained within us, that strengthens our faith internally? Our internal spiritual being, where it says elsewhere in the Gospels, God already is present. Psalm One speaks of the joy that comes in following the Lord and then turns and explains the consequences of not following him.

In none of our readings is there the promise of earthly prosperity. The Beatitudes certainly don’t speak of such things because Jesus knew that the crowd he was speaking to were experiencing serious hardship. They were also being prepared to suffer on Jesus’s account. But in the midst of it he declares that there will be joy and true blessings. Jesus was asking the people to think with a different mindset that breaks into the world. That of the kingdom of God. One that turns the ways of the world on its head, Shows the flip side of the coin.

The readings from Jeremiah, Psalm One and Luke all have a past- present point in them. But they also have a present-future time. One that we can all step into. A place, a spatial moment in time where we embrace that of the present and future and say enough is enough of the past and decide to move forward, facing forward. But that’s not enough. We could choose to put the past behind us and discipline ourselves to be mindfully objective and positive. But are we moving out of grace in that instant? Are we saying that we can do this on our own, and that we don’t need God? Are we rooted in God’s grace? Are we thinking with our world mindset or that of God’s kingdom?

And that is where we find our reading from the first letter to the Corinthians. We’ve now moved past Jesus’s death and we look to the new life given after Christ’s resurrection. We have Paul’s incredibly dense and complex theology to contend with but if I were to try to summarise what I think Paul is saying then it is a calling to a radical way of life that is so different from the one where we began today. He asks the Corinthians to think outside of the box, and so should we. Change our world mindset to that of God’s. How do we do that? Well, I am hoping and praying that the Lent course will do just that. 

Where do our priorities lie? Our present-future is also our future-present as the future that God has for us bursts into our present in our response to the Christ crucified.