Blessed Are You
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
6 Epiphany, C: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26
February 11, 2007
Pastor Mary Blessing,
Vicar, St. Philip’s, Scotts Valley CA
Jesus first heals all who seek him; then he delivers what we call “The Sermon on the Plain”. Not on a mount, but “on a level place.” In a very steady, sort of “level headed” way, Jesus stops to teach his sincere followers what it means to be a disciple, to be disciplined enough to follow him, to learn from him, to be in relationship to God through him.
Jesus does not start with a list of rules and regulations, like “follow this rule, and God will love you”. No. Jesus begins by pronouncing God’s blessing on the disciples. Those whom the world has rejected now hear words of inclusion, love and blessing. Those who suffer now, those who are denied the fullness of life, are invited into relationship with God the Creator. God gives his blessing to those he chooses—and today, says Jesus, God chooses the poor, the hungry, those who weep, and those who are hated by other people.
God’s commitment of BLESSING to those rejected by humankind is a reminder of the BLESSING God offered Abraham. God told Abraham and Sarah, the faithful couple who had everything they needed, except the child they so desperately desired. God said to Abraham, “I will bless you”. God said, “I will make of you a great nation”. (Genesis 12: 2) Go where I tell you to go, follow me, and I will bless you as you grow all the families of the earth, and they, too, shall be blessed.
Just as God offered a “Covenant of Blessing” to Abraham and Sarah if they would turn their hearts toward the One God, forsaking all other gods, and cleaving to the One who is the source of all blessing, so, too, does Jesus now offer God’s blessing to those who will become his disciples, those who promise to follow where he leads, into all truth, even when the truth he proclaims is not evident in the present moment.
Jesus told his disciples that God blesses them. Jesus tells us that we are blessed. It has always been in God’s plan to bless Creation, to bless humanity, to bless you and me. Jesus tells us the relationship God wants us to have with him is a Covenant relationship, grounded in a profound love that says:
· “I love you so much I care more about you than about myself”.
· “I love you so much I will give up my selfish ways for you.”
· “I love you so much I will turn back toward you whenever I find that I have strayed away.”
God’s “blessing” to us is a Covenant Love like the Covenant Love we ask of our life-long partners in marriage. It is a Covenant Love that comes together in mutual joy, to honor and keep one another, in sickness and in health—a “forsaking all others” love. A love based on faithfulness. The kind of faithfulness that says, “oops, I goofed up” when I have truly turned away from the one I love, and turns back to the beloved with a desire to reconcile, to make the relationship whole again.
The “dance” of our Covenant relationship with God is, in my experience, a dance of a life-time. The challenge is to discover how to let God truly do the leading. It isn’t easy. Just as marriage isn’t easy. Anyone who has been married a decade or two knows, it isn’t easy to continually take into consideration the needs of another, to place their best interest ahead of your own, to agree to move forward in a life decision even when you don’t both agree on the direction you are going, but you have to trust the other enough to get going forward. One of the ways to trust is by each of you having faith in God, trusting in the God who is at the center of your life, and the center of your Covenant relationship with one another.
Jim and I have been married nearly 30 years. We have been through a tremendous amount of individual and couple’s growth in that time. When we took our marriage vows we added some personal promises to the usual ones: we promised to support one another in the “building of a home”—at the time I was thinking about the relationships that are built in the context of a couple and a family—I didn’t realize he had a more literal meaning about the physical construction (or destruction and re-construction) of a house or two!! But in the process of working together, with our different “takes” on how to be a married couple and later a family--because each of us has had a Covenant relationship with God, and because we have had a covenant relationship with GOD AT THE CENTER of our Marriage—things have worked out better for each of us together than either of us could possibly have done alone. When I was alone, before my relationship of love centered in God and with Jim as my partner, I was rather sad. Lonely and sad. As Jesus said, “Blessed are you who weep now, but you will laugh.”
I believe the relationship of a priest to his/her ministry congregation is similar to the “Covenant Relationship” of marriage. The priest centers his/her life in Christ, the congregation has Christ at the center of their lives, and together they are joined in mutual affection for each other and Christ. Just as the married couple promise to be faithful to one another, so does the priest and the congregation promise to be faithful to one another. And, just as the married couple promise to return to one another for reconciliation if there is a break in the relationship, so, too does the priest and congregation promise to reconcile their differences so that together they may go forward in the work of God.
Before I began my work with you, your former Vicar, Martin Yabroff, told me that “the people of St. Philip’s will bless you. You will bless them and they will bless you.” He was quite right. In the few months that I have been here, it is clear that you have blessed me with love, hospitality, patience, prayer, honesty and a willingness to work through difficult changes.
God has given his Blessing (pun intended??) to the people of St. Philip’s through some very hard work done by your Bishop’s Committee and your Vicar Search Committee. Jim, Christy, Becky and I feel blessed to be here with you. We pray you will respond to accept the continued call of this Covenant relationship and offer your personal blessing to our mutual ministry at St. Philip’s.
As we take time today to fellowship with one another over brunch, let’s look around the room and take note of all who are here faithfully giving of themselves, offering their lives as a blessing to God and each other. Take a moment to pause and thank God for those present. And remember, that it is by the grace of God, bringing us here in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we are blessed by one another.
Back to sermons