Blessed As We Are

Blessed As We Are

The Beatitudes
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he began to speak and taught them, saying:

“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 receive 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 for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSVUE)

Friends, I wonder, have you ever heard the amazing story of the Bee-Attitudes? Okay, now I know that some of you might be thinking of the scripture reading we just heard from the book of Matthew because that is sometimes referred to as the Beatitudes, too. You know, when Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount telling people strange things that turn the world’s understanding upside down, and how we are blessed when difficult things happen to us. You’ve heard it before. “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.” It all sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Well, this week I read an article that said experiencing the beatitudes when we look through the lens of our everyday worldly life is kind of like going to a grocery store and getting paid to take groceries home! It’s not quite what we are used to, is it?

Well, a Bee-Attitude is kind of similar. But rather than understanding how our human lives work, either through the lens of today’s society, or the lens of the kingdom of God, it’s about how bees live and work. (I know this might sound a little confusing to some of you! But just hold on!) Did you know that it was once said, that according to the laws of aerodynamics, bees should not be able to fly? Their wings are too small, and their bodies are too big to get off the ground. But we have all seen them fly, haven’t we? So I guess, what the bees are teaching us is that if you are willing to “bee-lieve” that you can achieve something, and if you are willing to work hard, then you too can “fly.” That’s what the Bee-attitude is all about. Its about “bee-lieving” you can. And it’s about living your life with the attitude that you know you’ll succeed.

Well, Jesus’ Beatitudes are kind of similar. But with Jesus, rather than being able to physically fly when we truly believe, we are not afraid to open our hearts to see the good all around us, even and especially in the midst of difficulty and struggle. And when we learn to do that, we begin to understand that we are blessed not because of what is happening around us but because of who and whose we are.

Friends, last week we held our annual meeting here in Oldtown, and we voted on our proposed nominating slate. What that means is right now, we have lots of excited volunteers working on our varied ministries. And this week, we opened the conversation around the ministries and started getting a little organization with the new groups. Now I am sure that some of you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. And it can sometimes be frustrating to work with others to find a day and time when everyone can meet. But rather than getting caught on the stumbling blocks and the challenges along the way, I would encourage all of you to remember the beatitudes, either Jesus’ beatitudes or, I guess, even the BEE -Attitudes, focusing your energies on the blessings around you and within you as you think about all the amazing things that you and your ministries can and will do in the coming year.

I wonder, are you going to be serving on the Missions Ministry? If you are, what are you excited about doing? Or will you be working with Christian Education? What amazing ideas do you have to teach and share? Maybe you’ll be working with Buildings and Grounds? How might you use your gifts to make our church shine? Or perhaps you’ll be serving on Deacons, Flowers, or our Music Ministry? How might you spiritually support our congregation, brighten our sanctuary with flowers and decorations, or invite others to make a joyful noise as you and your ministry continue to inspire our congregation?

Friends, each and every one of us is created in the image of God, and we are all gifted and blessed in so many ways! And the best news is that our church is the amazing recipient of so many of those gifts and blessings that are so generously shared!

Now many of you have heard this story before, but I know that others of you may not have. When I first arrived here in Oldtown to serve as your pastor back in 2010, both the Sun Chronicle, our local newspaper, and North TV, our local access television station, came to interview me. The big story was “Pastor returns home to Oldtown,” because this is the church where I grew up as a child.

But when North TV came to film the interview, I was told that there was a problem. The problem, they told me, is that there is too much light here in Oldtown. Too much light? I thought to myself, isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that our call to share the light of Christ with the world? But you see, I was looking at the situation through the lens of faith, which tells us that light is a good thing and you can never have too much. Whereas Peter Gay from North TV was telling me that through the camera lens, there was too much physical light coming through our windows to make for a clear video. Not a problem, I thought, and we closed the shutters here in the sanctuary. But even with the shutters closed, the message remained the same: there is too much light here in Oldtown! Folks, I’ll be honest, that is a message that I have held tightly to and cherished over the years, especially on those darker and more difficult days.

Friends, over the past month or two, it feels as though our church is getting back on its feet after almost three years of a pandemic that not only closed our building for a year and a half but also changed society and the way that many of our families–and to be honest the world–now look at church participation and worship attendance.

A lot happened over the last three years. A lot happened in our individual lives, in our church family, in our communities, and in the world. Now I know that we have been joking and taking the idea of the beatitudes and the “BEE Attitudes” very lightly, but in all honesty, it was Jesus’ words as he began his ministry and his well-known Sermon on the Mount that gave me the strength and the courage to just keep going when day after day, week after week, month after month, and even year after year, was filled with the uncertainty of the pandemic. During that time, we watched the daily infection rates and did our best to make the safest choices for our community while being overwhelmed by illness, loss, and fear of the unknown.

But through it all, Jesus’ words, as he began that sermon on the mount, told us, don’t worry about where you are right now. Don’t worry about the struggles just look for the blessings. Don’t stress over that which you can’t control, but open your hearts to find goodness all around you.

I’ll never forget how scary it felt filming our first online worship service. It was new and different. It felt uncomfortable, and I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, what if we have to do this for a few weeks?” Well, more than a year and a half later, we recorded our final online service as we prepared to return to this sanctuary. And you know what? That felt scary too, but for different reasons. But each and every step of the way, the Beatitudes reminded me that we were blessed no matter how difficult the journey was.

And if you remember, every day for over a year, you and many others received a “Glimpses of Grace” email–an email that pointed out a simple moment of grace or something good out in the world. And those Glimpses of Grace caught on like wildfire! Though we were still in the midst of a full-blown pandemic and separated from our physical church home, everyone started to see the blessing all around them. And each week, we heard from more and more people through our Glimpses of Grace emails. Because we learned to look at the pandemic, the world around us, and our everyday lives through a lens of faith. And rather than being frustrated, and lost during our time in the wilderness, we were living in the Beatitudes. Because Jesus taught us that even in the darkest moments, we were surrounded by blessing, and because of that, we were truly blessed ourselves.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, don’t let the difficulties and struggles of life get you down. Look for the light, the Glimpses of Grace, and the blessings all around you, because they are always there, reminding you that you are truly blessed just the way you are!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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