Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“Beatitudes Reconsidered”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 2 February 2014 by the Rev. Dr. John LeMond. The scripture readings that day were Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12.

How should we live our lives?
That is a question that we ask and answer constantly
And it is answered in many different ways
I was reading an article recently about the new rich in China.
While the country boasts pockets of extreme wealth in the coastal provinces,
There are hundreds of millions of China’s people who remain in poverty.
The once classless society…
Now has an upper class who have the resources to purchase every opportunity;
And every top brand of every product available on the market.
There is a growing middle class who enjoy a comfortable style of life
And a huge lower class who continue to hope for a new tomorrow.
There was a feeling among those interviewed in the article
That now is the time to get as many material possessions as possible
And if they had the intelligence, and the opportunity
Almost any cost is worth the accumulation of wealth.

The Chinese people are no different from any other people in this respect.
This is only an example of the kind of world in which we live
An example of the options that face us.
A world in which people choose to gather huge wealth in the face of extreme poverty.
This is nothing new,
And it does not necessarily shock us.
But it is in the midst of this reality that we ask the question:
 “How do we choose to live our lives?”
What kind of world do we choose to live in?
The Chinese new rich are very straightforward
About what they are doing and why:
They have chosen the world in which they want to live.
What about us?
First of all, what causes us to choose one way of life over another?
What is it that causes us to choose a particular way of seeing the world?
Where is it that we turn when making a decision about how to live our lives?
The prophet Micah speaks to the people of Israel
About the way they have chosen to live.
It is a way that is very familiar to us
And one that has its own compelling logic:
Live richly, accumulate an abundance of material possessions,
And this will benefit not only our own lives
But it will please God as well.
The theology of prosperity is nothing new.
And it is not necessarily either good or bad.
In fact, it makes a great deal of sense
In the face of the demands of our world
Be rich, be wealthy…this is what God wants.
In this state of wealth
We can return even more to God
As Micah says:
Tens of thousands of rivers of oil
Thousands of rams.
But we don’t want to focus too much on wealth
Because it is not the question at the center of the scripture passages for this Sunday.
The central question remains: How will we choose to live our lives?

There are many paths that we can choose,
But the scripture passages for this Sunday
Offer us a particular path to follow.
As Micah says: Accumulation of wealth is not the way to go
Rather, the path to follow in your life is this:
To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
There it is.
Not a command…but a choice—
A choice that is perhaps… no better or worse than the accumulation of wealth
Or of any other path we might choose.
Yet it is clearly central to the morality and ethics of our religion.
Often, one of the reasons we choose to live our lives in one way or another
Is because of the results that a particular path will bring in our lives.
We plan our lives based on many things
And one of them is planning for the future.
What do we have to look forward to if we accumulate wealth?
What do we have to look forward to if we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God?

The Apostle Paul has this to say about what we have to look forward to
If we follow the recommendation of the prophet Micah:
It is foolishness, and you will be seen as a fool
To proclaim the power of God through death on a cross?
To seek justice through mercy?
To love kindness in the face of persecution?
To walk humbly with God when there is no sign of God?
And your reward will be the reward of fools
Contempt and scorn…and death.
Who would choose to live life in such a way?
Yet…it remain a choice for us.
Why would we choose such a path?
Paul has an answer to this question:
“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters…”
And there we have the reason for choosing such a path
It is a call from God.

This path of justice, love and humility
This path of foolishness
Has come to us as an invitation from God
We are not required to take this path
We are offered this path.
“Here,” God says, “walk this way.”
Because…I call you to walk this way.
I call you to choose to follow this way of life.
Is this the only path you may follow in order to enjoy life
No, it is not.
But this is the path I invite you to follow.
Now it is up to you to choose how you will live your life.
As Jesus was with his disciples, he saw the crowds before him
And he knew that they wanted to hear him tell them how to live their lives.
And so he taught them:

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are the persecuted

Blessed are those who follow the path that I have called them to follow:
They will be humble in spirit, and they will mourn
They will be meek and contemplate righteousness
They will be merciful to all and will cultivate pure hearts
They will seek peace and will suffer persecution
And by following this path…
We will be filled with a sense of fulfillment and happiness?
That is not promised.
What is promised is that your whole life
Will be seen by others as foolish and naïve.
Your whole life you will be given over
To values that the world despises.
In the face of the many options we have before us
This one is not particularly appealing.
And yet…in the calling…and in the following of this path
We are changed.
Because our values begin to change:
Wisdom becomes foolishness/Foolishness becomes wisdom
Meekness and mercy become powerful elements of change,
And power becomes weak and ineffective.
Seeking peace becomes valued over seeking reward.
The path begins to mold us…
And what we didn’t see about this path in the beginning becomes clearer
We are called to be blessed,
In a way that we could not have imagined;
In a way that we perhaps still cannot imagine.
But  even this change in our system of values
Is not why we choose to walk this path.
We choose to walk this path simply because…
We have been called to do so.
Something inexpressible compels us to follow;
Not because it is a better path than others
But because we discover that it is our path
The only path that makes sense of our foolish lives.
We discover that, after all,
It is, simply, what the Lord requires of us:

To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.  Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, February 02, 2014

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