Be Curious, Not Judgmental: “A Divine Attitude Adjustment”
January 29, 2023
Matthew 5: 1-12
I wonder….how many of you have ever tried snow skiing? If you have…you know there are various levels of sking marked by signs on the mountain….green slopes for beginners, blue for intermediate levels, and black diamond for experts.
Following our pastor in a sermon series is a little bit like following an Olympic black diamond skier down the mountain when you’re only used to the green or blue slopes.
But I’ve been fascinated with his series on “be curious not judgmental”, and so I decided to follow him down the slope.
So hop on the ski lift with me and let’s head up the mountain and look at this introduction to the sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5, the known as the beginning to what many have noted as the Greatest sermon ever preached by Jesus, the sermon on the mount . The full sermon is chapters matthew 5-7…111 verses that our pastor will continue in the weeks to come. Today we are looking at Matt 5: 1-12.
As our Pastor has emphasized these past few weeks, The Gospels are eye witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus of healing, teaching and preaching Most of the time the audience were the people of the land….your common ordinary people making a living and trying to survive under the oppression of the Roman empire.
The setting is in the area of Galilee…..not a mountain as we might think of mountains like the Rockies….a hillside really….sort of like an Amphitheater,….where Jesus could sit below…..and the people could see him and hear here him teach…..the sea of Galilee is the backdrop…..it is a beautiful setting, I have visited this place in Galilee…and am always astounded by its beauty and this passage of scripture..
”And Jesus seeing the crowds, went up the hillside and after he sat down, his disciples came to him and began to speak……Blessed are the poor in Spirit….. 8 declarations of blessing by Jesus for true followers of Christ. Not commandments like Moses on Mount Sinai…..but Blessings….
Some scholars say 9, Some 10…but for today I’m focusing on the 8
You have heard our pastor read these.
I’m indebted today by the commentary and book by the late J Ellsworth Kalas, the Beatitudes from the Backside, a different way of looking at what it means to be blessed.…..
If we were to take our pastor’s suggestion from the past couple of weeks and begin reading these words of Jesus today and asking the questions that emerge….so many questions come to mind for me.
1.Who was the audience? Was this teaching JUST for his disciples? Evidently not….
At the end of the sermon in chapter 7,
“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teachings for he taught them as one with authority….and not like their scribes”l
It began with his disciples… but as scripture notes…crowds had gathered…those who had heard about Jesus…seen him heal people, cast out demons…performed all sorts of miracles.
Keep in mind that these were oppressed people living under the Roman Empire values of wealth, and power.
What they were looking for was a message of hope.
But I love WHAT Kalas pointed out ….Perhaps…..of those who were among the crowds that day….some moved up to that inner circle of those who followed Jesus….perhaps some were in the group of 70 who were commissioned by Jesus in Luke 10, or some were among the 120 who received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts.
Some more questions that emerge:
2. “Are we expected to live out these 8 sayings in our lives each day?”
3. “Did Jesus really expect us to welcome persecution?”
4.. “And how could we expect ever to have such purity of heart that we could see God?”
5. “Was Jesus recommending a way of life for his followers in ordinary times, or was he simply trying to wet our appetite for a KINGDOM yet to come?”
6. “Was Jesus laying out a pattern for a select few, a company of extraordinary people who must be better than we can ever hope to be? Is it really possible for any of us to live out the beatitudes in everyday life?
Don’t worry….I’m not going to tackle all these questions in today’s sermon…..or we would be here all day…..but I hope these will make you curious enough to go and search for the answers!
So lets take look at the beatitudes as a whole:
They are declarations about a way of “being in the world”
Some scholars point out that they can be divided into 2 parts which I think is helpful.
The first 4 refer to OUR NEED for God:
Poor in spirit recognizing our need for God and God only
Mourn our need for comfort that can only come from God
Our need to be Meek, humble in heart, not better than anyone else
Our need to be treated rightly with justice…
The second 4 – Our Response to God
To be Merciful-
To be Pure in heart
To be Peacemakers-
To be willing to be Persecuted…_
You have to admit they seem impossible and written for another people in another time. Don’t they?
Jesus had just called His Disciples in Chapter 4: 17 with the words, “Repent and for the Kingdom of God is near.” …… Why was it important for this message to be His first?
Repent is not a happy sounding word is it? There’s a judging quality to it as if the judge were saying guilty before you’ve even presented your case.
Jesus did not begin with Repent, not be sorry,….not even DO or BE…but Blessed or some translate happy….
Happy, is one of those words we love……, so much so that we have written it into our declaration of independence.
We believe that humans are “endowed by their Creator, with certain un-alien-able rights, that, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness“ we think we are not only have a right to happiness, but even have a right to pursue it.
But when we start examining the beatitudes, we realize that in Jesus‘s view, Happiness is not something we get by pursuing it; indeed, almost the contrary. Happy contains the root ‘hap’ which means ‘chance.’
In the Greek new testament, the word happy or blessed is the word , “ma kar-i-os”.
William Barclay goes on to say that “Ma kar-i-os” for the Christian goes beyond happiness. Its joy that is self contained….completely independent from all the changes and chances of life.” It embraces all of life… the good with the bad.
When we claim our dependance on the one in whom we place our trust and faith…..God alone….. happiness or Blessing..This kind of trust in God……is what Jesus was calling for in the Beatitudes. And declaring it HERE and NOW…not some day.
and who doesn’t need God’s Blessing today?
I think I know what you might! thinking….wait a minute Lynn….
This is all upside down!
Is it really possible to live out the 8 Beatitudes
It just needs a Divine attitude adjustment!
Its all about character….the beatitudes….. a radical living out of our character with traits like compassion, meekness, mercy and being a peacemaker.
Jesus is calling us here and now today to claim our true identity as Christians.
Do you remember the first time you encountered Jesus? You made a decision to ask Jesus to be in your heart….to make him Lord of your life…to desire to follow him completely?
It was an intimate moment just between you and God. It was a life changing moment….
So how do we do that? You ask questions! The disciples had a lot of questions for Jesus along the way…that’s how they learned.
Author Mike Yaconelli says… “In the life of faith in God, there are no “wrong” questions….when you are hungry for God, every question is “right”. Faith opens our eyes and brings us face to face with a new reality of knowing.
Curiosity requires courage….a bold grasping of God’s truth. We march into the presence of God with armsful of questions. God is not afraid of them…People are afraid….institutions are afraid, but God is not”.
The Beatitudes are not another thing on our “to do” list, but a change in our character to be who God created us to be.
Encountering Christ is transformational. Our way of perceiving the world radically changes. We become more sensitive to others’ hurts and struggles. We are able to identify the evil of oppression and unjust power systems.
Our attitude toward the world dramatically shifts to be more in line with God’s attitude of love and compassion.
The key to understanding the transformative shift lies in the word itself. “Be” “Attitude”. Our attitude towards existence undergoes a revolutionary change with Jesus at the center of our life.
So another curious question came to my mind this week.
How do we do this?
Do we do this on our own? Or can we do it together with others?
and my conclusion was YES! To both!
It begins with a personal relationship with Jesus. The realization that you need and desire to enter a relationship with Jesus that is deeply and intimately personal. The decision to bravely follow Him.
A man asked a 5 year old little girl one day, “Does God like you? Without hesitation she replied with confidence..”yep”……”How do you know? He asked”
Because he tells me and I recognize his voice.”
Followers of Jesus hear His voice.
He taught not only with authority, but his message was different from anything else they had ever heard…..it was full of grace and hope and blessing.
It was an invitation to enter into the Kingdom of God in its purest form from now and throughout eternity.
The message began with the need of repentance…..but quickly changed to that of having as passionate a love for Christ as He has for us.…
And then….I thought about Jesus surrounding himself with those who were like minded….his small group of 12……knowing that these with the exception of one…..would follow him to the end.
I was challenged and moved this week as I read the following
story from Congressman John Lewis: Great Civil Rights Leader
“When I was four years old, the only world I knew was the one I stepped out into each morning, a place of thick pine forests and white cotton fields and red clay roads winding around my family’s house in our little corner of Pike County, Alabama.
We had just moved that spring onto some land my father had bought, the first land anyone in his family had ever owned—ten acres of cotton and corn and peanut fields, along with an old but sturdy three-bedroom house.
On this particular afternoon—it was a Saturday, I’m almost certain—about fifteen of us children were outside my Aunt Seneva’s house, playing in her dirt yard.
The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore. I was terrified.
Aunt Seneva was the only adult around, and as the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, she herded us all inside. Her house was not the biggest place around, and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside. Small and surprisingly quiet. All the shouting and laughter that had been going on earlier, outside, had stopped.
The wind was howling now, and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. Even Aunt Seneva was scared. And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then a corner of the room started lifting up.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.
That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands.
Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising.
From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof.
Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift. And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.
More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me, more than once over those many years, that our society is not unlike the children in that house rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.
But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together, and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.
And then another corner would lift, and we would go there. And eventually, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand. But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again.
And we did. And we still do, all of us. You and I. Children holding hands, walking with the wind (John Lewis, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998).
When the storms of life come….we need each other!
“What if we as the church decided that we were going to join hands together as the storms of this life seem to be pulling us apart?
What if we are were to shift our attitudes and claim once again our identity in Christ Jesus ? The one who loves us just as we are…..who desires a relationship with us more than anything?
Imagined it like this……
From Acts 2:
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved..
Barbara Brown Taylor describes is like this:
,“I think Jesus should have asked the crowd to stand on their heads when he taught them the Beatitudes, because that is what he was doing. He was turning the known world upside down. “Upside down, you begin to see God’s blessed ones in places it would never have occurred to you to look.
“Upside down, you begin to see that those who have been bruised for their faith are not the sad ones but the happy ones because they have found something worth being bruised for, and that those who are merciful are just handing out what they have already received in abundance.
The world looks |Different| upside down, but maybe that is just how it looks when you have got your feet planted in heaven.”  Taylor, Barbara Brown. Gospel Medicine, ix.
Let us Pray:
First, Jesus…..forgive me…. I want to follow you Lord with my life , my attitudes and my actions….….I need you to Bless me Lord.
And Jesus, forgive us as a body of believers, we want as your church to follow you completely today…whatever it takes…We need your blessing Lord! Through the grace of your Son Jesus….
….open our hearts to believe that we can live the life you’ve called us to….Amen.