What Do You Worship and What Will Be Your Reward?

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Last week we talked about the law and how it is meant to be understood. The main point Jesus was making was that it’s less important what you do and more important who you are. He urged us to look inwardly and be concerned with our interior condition which is the cause of all our actions. It is not simply enough to restrain ourselves from committing acts of violence – we need to address the fact that we have anger in our hearts at all. The condition of the human heart is the theme of this next portion of his teaching as well. Today we are going to look at pride and how it can taint what looks like good deeds from the outside. If our hearts are proud then our religious devotion is meaningless and Jesus makes this very clear.

When we pray, if we only pray in church on Sundays but do not have a personal prayer life then we are really talking to each other and not to God. If we make a show of our religious devotion on Sunday mornings for everyone else to see but do not pray in the quiet moments when we are alone, then we are not truly believing in God but instead are making a pageantry of our worship, a show which makes us stars in front of others. In the first part of this chapter (Matthew 6) Jesus is telling us about social treasures. The treasures of status and image, the treasures of praise and respect. He warns us to shy away from these treasures and instead store up treasures in Heaven. Jesus wants us to be more concerned with what God thinks than what people think. If we make a big show of giving to the needy and sound trumpets and make a parade, if we call in the media to take our pictures and write articles in the paper, if we go on missions to poor countries and then take selfies with the starving children and post them on Facebook – then we are serving ourselves and not God.

Jesus also talks about money in this section of his sermon, another earthly treasure like reputation and prestige. He warns us that money is a treasure of this world which can be stolen and can rot away. But in contrast the treasures of Heaven are eternal, they cannot be stolen and they never expire. The issues of social status and prestige mentioned immediately before this fall into that category as well. Our social status is an earthly treasure, it can be taken from us and we can never bring it with us when we leave this world. Jesus then goes on to say something that takes a little while to process. After describing the necessity of not striving for power and wealth he gives us a little piece about light and about our eyes. He said:

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.

Now, he’s obviously speaking metaphorically here. The eye is what we set our sights on, it is what we look at, it is that which captures our attention. He is saying that if we set our eyes on earthly treasures our whole being will be filled with darkness but if we set our eyes on heavenly treasures then our whole being will be filled with light. And so, where our treasure is there our hearts are also. He goes on to say that we cannot serve two masters, we cannot serve both God and money. And that is a really important message today just as much as it was then. Too often in this life we serve money instead of making money serve us. But we cannot serve both God and money. Most modern translations use the word money here, but when Matthew wrote his gospel in Greek he used the word mammon, which is actually an Aramaic word, the language Jesus spoke. So why didn’t Matthew translate mammon? Why did he choose to leave it in another language?

There is much debate about this but there is a long history in Christianity, and in other ancient religions of the time, to personify mammon as a god of wealth. If this is so, Jesus is not only talking about money as a physical thing which can corrupt us, but a false god which many worship. This would have struck a chord in the hearts of the Jews who were hearing this because worshiping an idol is a grave sin everyone knew about and understood. I do believe Jesus is warning us not to worship the false god of material possessions as well as the false god of praise and honour. Jesus is asking a very difficult question, one that was hard to hear then and is hard to hear today. What do we worship?

Now, the word worship brings up all sorts of feelings and opinions in people of all religions and even atheists. It’s hard not to have an opinion about worship in some form or another. But how often do we take the time to define it? How many of us actually know what it means to worship? The word worship itself has the same root as the words worthy and worth. To worship something is to ascribe value to it, to declare it as being an object of worth, and so we worship it. Up until the last few decades it was common to use it in many non religious ways. You might still here some more formal or old fashioned people refer to a judge as “your worship”. This doesn’t mean the judge is a god it means the judge is a worthy person to make difficult decisions. So something we worship is something we value and something we trust. That’s why the ancient Israelites were so against idol worship, because they didn’t want to put their trust in a statue made of wood or gold. So here, Jesus is drawing a parallel between worshiping an idol and worshiping money.

He says you cannot put your trust in the money you make or the position you hold in society because these things can be stolen from you and are destined to fade into the dust of history. You should serve only one master, you should value one thing above all others – and that is God. And so this pressing question is equally important today. You need to stop and ask yourself what you worship, what you value, where you put your trust.

What do you treasure? What do you love? What master do you serve? Do you worship money? Do you worship social status and prestige? Do you worship your favourite hockey team? Or perhaps your country’s flag? Do you worship yourself or do you worship God?

One way to answer these questions is to take a good hard critical look at how you live your life. What do you have your eyes set on, what do you invest your time in? Jesus talks about worrying immediately after all this, he tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear but to trust in God who always provides. Where do you put your trust? What do you worry about? If you put your trust in your RRSPs or your savings account then your trust is misplaced because this life is fleeting and you can’t take those things with you. Jesus tells us instead to store up treasures in Heaven – but what does that mean, to store up treasures in Heaven? How do we even do that? Well, Jesus has given us some great examples so far in this sermon. A couple weeks ago we talked about how we need to be merciful peace makers who hunger and thirst for righteousness, how we need to be meek and poor in spirit, how we need to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Last week we talked about how we need to make sure we have healthy and fruitful interior lives, so that we do not lust after other people or carry anger in our hearts. We talked about how we have to interact with our own tradition and respect it while also being critical of it. This week we started off with some very practical advice about doing acts of charity and praying and this advice which Jesus gave us is both a test to see where our heart lie and also a practical method to build up treasures in Heaven. The next time you give to someone in need, don’t tell a single soul. Not your neighbour, not your children, not even your spouse. Give it a try. Go out and be generous to someone and don’t tell a single soul what you’ve done. And watch yourself as the days go by.

Are you tempted to tell someone? Why do you want to tell someone? Is it because you value the opinions of those around you more than the opinion of God? Is it because you really want the recognition and flattery that would come with it? Are you worshiping your own self image? Are you worshiping the way other people see you? Try the same thing when you pray. Try taking up a daily practice of prayer, if you don’t already do that, and don’t tell a soul what you’re doing. If you pray in church with everyone else but your are uncomfortable praying by yourself try to figure out why. Do you not actually believe God is listening? Do you not actually have faith in prayer? When times get rough do you put all your trust in your own efforts or do you put your trust in God? Are you worshiping yourself or your father in Heaven?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad to try and solve your problems or even to be seen giving and praying. After all Jesus started this sermon by saying you are the light of world, no one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket, he even made a point of saying that others need to see your good deeds so that they will praise God through what you do – but that’s the key, they need to be praising God, not you. Let your deeds be seen but go out of your way to avoid the credit. The light which we are meant to let shine is the light of our good deeds and not the light of our egos. It is essential that when people see the good works we do that they are led to praise God and not us. The weight of praise is too much for any soul to bear. Praise and adoration are heavy burdens you should not carry yourself but should give up to God. If you are not careful, the good deeds you do, the acts of charity you perform, the prayers you make, even the religious devotion you have, will become twisted into sources of pride and there is nothing more opposed to holiness than pride.

So hide, dear sisters and brothers, hide from the pride of recognition, do not even let your left hand know that your right hand is giving, lest you begin to praise yourself instead of God. For God searches our hearts and our minds and knows what is done in secret. Both Jesus and the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:5-10) tell us that God rewards those whose hearts are pure but that reward will not come in the form of riches or honour, it will come in the form of peace and love for all creation. The reward given for a pure heart is love – and a pure heart knows there is no greater reward. So if you are the least bit tempted to show your light to the world you should instead hide it in the closet and only when you have no desire to be praised by others should you let your light shine. Because where your treasure is your heart is also and if you treasure money and prestige then your heart is in darkness and you are not really shining at all.

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You Have Heard That It Was Said

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You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

-Matthew 5:38-42

Last week we started a little series on the sermon on the mount. We talked about the beatitudes and being salty and shiny. (You can find that article by clicking here) Today we are continuing our way through Jesus’ sermon as we look at the section where he reinterprets Jewish law. Jesus starts off this section with a plain and undeniable assertion that he has not come to supersede the law. Despite what many later Christians would say, Jesus wants to get it right out in the open that he did not come to abolish Jewish law. In fact, he gave a pretty stark warning to those who would dare turn away from any part of the law. He said:

Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven

The message is clear, no one has been following the law properly and we’ve all got to do a lot better if we want to enter the kingdom of Heaven. It was a very bold statement to say your righteousness has to surpass that of the Pharisees if you want to be right with God. In fact, he is boldly and plainly calling out the clergy of his day and saying that they are not following their own teachings and in their current state are not fit to be citizens of God’s kingdom. What an introduction!

After he had made very clear that he was about to teach the true meaning of the law of Moses and that the clergy of his day were anything but righteous, he went on to bring into question a number of commonly held traditions and beliefs. He spoke about murder, adultery, divorce, swearing oaths, retribution, and dealing with your enemies.

Each of these subjects had a commonly held belief that Jesus identified by saying “you have heard that it was said…but I tell you” one of the most familiar expressions like that is one we’ve all heard “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Ironically, most people use it as an example of what you shouldn’t do. I can hear a friend of mine saying “I’m not just going to turn the other cheek you know, I’m going to fight back” and everyone agreeing and supporting him.

The laws which Jesus gives are not easy to follow, they aren’t in place to make your life easier, they aren’t clever advice on how to avoid trouble and be successful. They are difficult and rigorous commandments which any person in any time or place would be hard pressed to follow. Jesus actually tells us that if anyone sues us we should give them double what they’re asking for.

Imagine that, someone takes you to court over something you disagree with (Because they wouldn’t be suing you if agreed) and you show up to the court house and give them twice what they ask for. Your friends and family would call you a sucker and if you kept up that kind of behaviour you would end up broke. So, why does Jesus tell us to live this way?

Why does he tell us that even being angry with someone is tantamount to murder or that being attracted to someone without acting on it is adultery? If we were all charged for murder every time we got angry the whole world would be serving a life sentence. If we were guilty of adultery for simply being attracted to someone then we could never turn on our TVs.

It’s because the worldly understanding of law is about fairness and keeping anarchy at bay. We have laws to keep society civil and to make a consistent framework for business to happen on so that we can play the game properly. That understanding of law gets us into the same trouble the Pharisees had gotten into, and dare I say it’s gotten the church into the mess it is in today as well. We’ve taken the gospel and turned it into a manual on how we should act and what we should do, when it was really meant to give us a glimpse into who we should be.

Murdering someone is what you do, and remember Jesus said the law still applies in that fashion, you still shouldn’t murder. But being angry is who you are – and Jesus is clear that it is equally important. The same goes with lusting after other people. If you are laying next to your spouse wishing you were laying next to George Clooney or Julia Roberts then there is probably something inside your soul you need to look at and work on. Jesus is insisting that what we do is only part of the equation, and we can’t neglect who we are inside either. We’ll talk more about that next week when we look at how to pray and how to give to charity.

Our laws today talk about actions and relationships but they also talk a great deal about property, and so does Jesus. His command to give to everyone who asks of you, to give twice what is asked if you are sued, to do twice as much as the government requires of you is meant to show that we should not value our possessions or even our labour above our eternal souls.

Nothing in this world can ever compare with the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven and being a good citizen therein. Jesus also talks about keeping promises, entering into mutual relationships, and swearing oaths. Jesus’ very brief discourse on divorce is this:

It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

We have to remember that marriage was a very different thing in those days than it is today. Divorce was permissible in Jewish culture for men, women could not file for divorce. A man who had grown tired of his wife, or who was disappointed that she couldn’t bear children, could give her a certificate of divorce and leave her.

Gender roles were very strict back then and a woman without a husband had no means of supporting herself. This meant she would either have to remarry, become a servant in someone else’s house, or beg on the streets. Divorcing your wife in those days was a very harsh sentence. She could theoretically remarry but the culture at the time considered only virgin wives to be pure and desirable.

When Jesus said that divorcing a your wife makes her the victim of adultery he meant that she was going to be labelled as a harlot if she remarried and that any man who accepted her would be shamed as well. He isn’t saying that a divorced woman shouldn’t remarry but he is saying that you should consider the life you are condemning her to if you divorce her.

The common practice of divorcing a woman who no longer suited you, or had fallen ill, or who couldn’t bear children, was not permissible in Jesus’ eyes. He didn’t care that it was legal – he demanded that his followers be more compassionate than that and keep their social contracts. The integrity of your word is more important than following the exact letter of the law. In fact, Jesus valued the importance of a person’s word so much that he urged people not to swear oaths.

In my own Quaker tradition my ancestors were jailed and some were even killed because they refused to swear oaths on the Bible in court and it was based off this very passage. It was felt that to swear an oath is a double standard – as if you were going to lie until the law bound you tell the truth. I believe Jesus agreed with this principle, which is why he said “let your yes be yes and your no be no” It’s about who you are not what you can get away with. Are you a person who always lives in the truth or are you a person who will lie unless you think God is watching because you have your hand on a Bible?

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You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

-Matthew 5:43-48

It’s all about who you are and the ultimate test of that is what Jesus ended this section of his sermon with – a command to love your enemies. He says if you only love those who love you and you only have regard for your own people then your love is really selfish. It’s about what you can get from it or about keeping it in the family for your own sake.

Jesus gave us one last very difficult command to follow when he told us to pray for those who persecute us and to love those who we consider our enemies. He tells us not to consider our own feelings in who we show love to but to freely and openly care for all people – even those who we hate. The Christian life is not an easy one, we are supposed to be meek in a prideful world, we are supposed to pure of heart in a world where the law is used to hurt people, and we are supposed to love people who we know will never return it.

It’s not enough to just follow the rules – Jesus told us to be perfect, therefore, as our heavenly Father is perfect who causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. So, my friends, when you follow Jesus, if you dare to do so, remember that the letter of the law kills but the spirit of the law gives life. Do not allow yourself to commit what you know is injustice simply because it is within the bounds of the legal framework you follow. The laws of man change from age to age but the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven are eternal and they are written directly on our hearts. You know if what you are doing is kind and humble, so do not let following the rules be an excuse to sin.

Therefore, sisters and brothers, as you live your life, I invite you to consider the values you’ve been taught by society and by the church. Take a long hard look at the law you follow and see if it lines up with what Jesus taught. Do our laws require us to turn the other cheek or to take an eye for an eye?

Ghandi once said that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. And if our laws are focused on what is fair instead of what is right our blind justice will not be anymore righteous than that of the Pharisees. When Jesus examined the laws of his people he was saying “everything you have known your entire life is about to change” He was saying “the way you grew up and what you were taught in church needs to be called into question”

Jesus respected the law and the tradition, he respected it so much that he dared to ask if it was being followed the way God intended. What he found was that people were, as Paul would say later, following the letter of the law and not the spirit. The letter kills but the spirit gives life. So follow the spirit in all that you do, for the law of Heaven is not written on paper but in the hearts and minds of the people.

Paul quotes the book of Jeremiah in his letter to the Hebrews when he says:

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Be God’s people dear sisters and brothers. Follow the law written in your heart and not the law of men. Be followers of Jesus even though it’s hard – because once we all live the way he has described in his sermon the Kingdom of Heaven will be realized and the world will know only peace.

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To Bless and Be Blessed

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Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“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 righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown 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 because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

-Matthew 5:1-12

Over the next four weeks I would like for us to take a look at the sermon on the mount. It can be found in the book of Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 and is the longest discourse we have given by Jesus himself. After he fasted in the desert and was tempted by Satan Jesus came out a new man ready to preach to the world – and he did just that.

Today we are going to take a look at the beatitudes, which is a word not actually found in the Bible that we use to describe the opening of Jesus’ sermon. It essentially means “the blessings” and Jesus starts off by giving a list of people he considers to be blessed. He gives examples of what people who live the Holy Life are like and how they interact with the world.

Bless is one of those words that seems to have a hundred meanings. It means to be happy, it means to be made holy, it means to make a sacrifice, it means to praise and speak well of something, it even means to worship – that’s why we say “bless God’s holy name.” But in the passage above from the book of Matthew to be blessed is to be made holy and to be made happy. Seems simple enough – until you actually stop and listen to what Jesus is saying. He starts out the sermon with Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Poor here literally means poor, this could be translated as spiritually bankrupt just as easily. So what on earth does it mean when he says that spiritually bankrupt people are happy and holy? Jesus often talks about the kingdom of Heaven – and the sermon on the mount is about that very subject. We, as Christians, are all citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and the beatitudes describe what a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

In this new kingdom, this radical kingdom, this counter cultural kingdom, there will be a new way of understanding worth and value. In the kingdoms of his time – and indeed our time- the qualities we value in our citizens are very different from the qualities Jesus describes here. And, as Jesus tells us, when you live a life that is counter cultural it will get you in trouble.

The beatitudes teach us that there is no need for titles, prestige, or social standing. They teach us that political power, determination, and a go-getter attitude are not important. They teach us that the ones who are the blessed citizens of the Kingdom of God are the meek, merciful, and poor in spirit. Those are the exact opposite qualities of what idealize today. Now, kingdom is an old fashioned word based in the monarchies of the ancient world. Today Jesus would probably say the Nation of Heaven, because that’s the sort of language we know today – democracies and republics.

What sort of person is the ideal citizen in our nation today? What qualities make someone a good Canadian? What characteristics do we value in ourselves and expect from others? Are we in line with what Jesus describes in the beatitudes? Our ideal citizen is someone who is confident and self assured – not someone who is meek. Our ideal citizen is someone who is objective, can make the tough choices, and not let their feelings get in the way of necessary decisions – not someone who is merciful. Our ideal citizen is someone who is an upstanding moral person – not someone who is spiritually bankrupt.

The beatitudes are all things which people would have seen as ridiculous when Jesus said them and which I bet we would as well. If I were to write this myself and say to you that all the sad people are lucky and that those who are persecuted should rejoice – you would probably quit reading my blog altogether. If it wasn’t Jesus saying this you wouldn’t even give it the time of day. This sermon starts off with a pretty unusual premise. The beatitudes are a radical paradigm shift and so is the Kingdom of Heaven – one which we have still yet to embrace.

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“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

-Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus goes on to describe his followers as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In our modern world it is a little strange to think of describing someone as the salt of the earth, salt is something you put on your fries and it doesn’t seem to have much significance. But in the ancient world salt was extremely valuable. In fact, the word salary today comes from the Latin word for salt. Roman soldiers, and many other people, were paid their wages in salt – they received a salary or a salt allowance. When Jesus says we are the salt of the earth he is saying we are something very valuable and important.

But what does it mean when salt loses its saltiness or its flavour? It means that it has lost its value. We are valuable by nature, but we can lose our value if we are not careful. Jesus just described our value in the verses before this. He said blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the meek. The beatitudes describe the flavour he is warning us not to lose.

We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world – we are valuable and needed. Yet, if we lose our flavour, if we hide our light under a basket, we are not useful citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We need to be made of the right stuff and we need to be seen by the world. Because this is how the world will change, this is how the Kingdom of Heaven will be fully realized.

I’d like to delve a little deeper into the metaphor of salt. What are some of the qualities salt has? One quality of salt is that it preserves food. We still use it for that reason today but in the ancient world this was the primary use of salt. They didn’t have refrigerators or deep freezers so they salted their food to keep it from spoiling. In the same way citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, if they have not lost their saltiness, preserve the world and keep it from going bad. When enough people live like Jesus described in the beatitudes the world will be preserved. The kingdom will be sustainable, our nations will be righteous and holy.

Another quality of salt is that is gives flavour. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are supposed to give flavour to the world. We are supposed to take what is bland and give it some pizazz. The flavour of a Kingdom citizen enhances the whole dish. Even just a pinch of what Jesus described in the beatitudes can make the world a much better place. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are meant to give the flavour they possess to the world.

One last quality of salt I would like to look at is that salt makes us thirsty. One of the things Jesus mentioned in the beatitudes was that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we are meant to make the world thirst for righteousness. We are meant to inspire a hunger in those around us for justice and goodness. The flavour we carry in our faith is one which should spur the kingdoms of the world into a thirst for what is right, into a thirst for what Christ offers, into a thirst for righteousness.

As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we are meant to preserve the earth from wickedness, we are meant to bring flavour to the bland kingdoms of the world, and we are meant to make people thirst for righteousness. We are the salt of the earth but if we lose our saltiness what good are we?

The way of Christ will be thrown out and trampled underfoot if we do not maintain the flavour of the beatitudes. If we lose the saltiness Christ gave us we will have no impact on the world whatsoever – and we are meant to have an impact on the world! That is why Jesus says we are the light of the world meant to shine for all to see. Jesus says that the world should see our good deeds and through them come to glorify our father in Heaven.

It is not enough to call ourselves Christian, we must retain our flavour and be the salt of the earth. But it is not even enough to do that for we must share our light with the world. We must know the qualities of a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven, we must embody those qualities within ourselves, and we must share them with the world.

We must be poor in spirit – we should not imagine ourselves to be morally sound people, we must acknowledge the spiritual poverty within us. The first instruction in the whole sermon is to acknowledge that you are a sinner. The Kingdom of Heaven can not be yours if you think of yourself as inherently good and righteous.

The second instruction flows from the first. After we truly accept our spiritual poverty we must mourn for the state of our souls and the state of the world. Once we do this we will be comforted. We do not comfort ourselves, but we are comforted by God. In our mourning there is honesty and in that honesty God comforts us with truth.

The humility which comes from this honesty makes us meek. We no longer imagine ourselves to be righteous and so we become gentle and unassuming. We do not force ourselves onto the world because we have realized our own inner poverty.

Instead we live in solidarity with the brokenness around us, of which we are a part. We come to inherit the earth as it is and in our meek and mournful spiritual poverty God begins to work in and through us.

That solidarity with the brokenness of the world leads us to thirst for righteousness. It makes us realize how much work there is to be done. Hunger and thirst can only be satisfied by food and water. If we thirst for righteousness we cannot rest until we find it and there is no substitute. But, in that search God promises that we will be satisfied.

The water which quenches the thirst for righteousness is mercy. We begin to practice mercy and have our thirst satisfied. The brokenness of the world, and within ourselves, requires mercy – for retribution can never fix it.

To find mercy is to lay down our need to make everything fair or even and to embrace a love for our enemies. This is what God does for us every day. Every time God forgives he is saying that love is more important than rules.

Once we have purged ourselves of our false spiritual riches, once we have come to mourn the injustice of the world, once we have embraced mercy both inside and out, then we can say we are pure of heart and we come to see God. To see God is to see the truth, to see with eyes that are open.

Once our eyes are open we know what we must do. We must become peacemakers. Not peacekeepers who avoid conflict but peacemakers who go out into the conflicts of the world and bring peace to them. The true citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven makes peace wherever they go.

Christ is the Prince of Peace and he is Lord over our Kingdom. Peace is the culmination of all the beatitudes – it is the prime directive of our great nation, it is the essence of what makes us children of God.

All this is well and good, but the final blessing of the beatitudes is both a blessing and a warning. Because there are many kingdoms in this world and peace is liked by very few of them. When you proclaim the gospel of the Prince of Peace war mongers and capitalists will insult you. But not only the kings and princes of this world will be against you. Even common people will oppose you when you live a Holy Life. To be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven who shines the light of God into the world means that you will expose the shadows around you.

There will be people who do not want to see their own shadows. There will be people who fear the power of the light will take away their own petty power. There are people who will falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of your saltiness. Rejoice when this happens, for you are being the light of the world. Rejoice when this happens because you are being a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Rejoice for your reward in heaven will be great. When you truly work for justice in the world those who profit from injustice will persecute you. That is the cross we must all bear with Jesus, and in bearing it our poverty of spirit is assured and we are named citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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