Sunday, Feb 2, 2020: 4th Sun after Epiphany- Scout Sunday
Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and Jesus revealed savior of the world God’s only son. What a great privilege it is to be with you today. The presence of boy scouts and their families, the festive gathering of a baptismal family adds so much to the life and vitality of our congregation and our worship.
Last week’s odd combinations seems to lead to this week’s odd stories. Last week we talked of odd combinations maybe not so bad or so odd after all. Peanut butter and siracha can be up there like PBJ. God’s choice for worldwide evangelists could be fishermen. Odd but as we gather two thousand years later we can be living proof that the odd combo was amazingly effective.
This week has another kind of odd combination- Blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn. Odd blessings we call the “Beatitudes” after the literal translation of the Bible’s Greek word for blessing. Its an odd combination by Jesus that takes a little digging into to fully comprehend. It reminds me of the preacher who on Easter morn the children of the church in the front of the sanctuary for the children's sermon. He began with a thematically appropriate question. "Children, today is Easter Sunday. What do we celebrate on Easter?" One girl spoke up quickly: "We remember our mothers and how much we love them."
Trying to get them to dig a little deeper he said, "No, that's not quite right. You're thinking of Mother's Day." Then, an eager boy took a shot: "Easter is a time when we say, 'thank you' to God for all the good things in our lives." "We can always say 'thank you' to God," the pastor said, beginning to worry about the dullness of the children in his church. "But you're thinking of Thanksgiving, not Easter. Children, what is the meaning of Easter?"
After a few seconds of awkward silence, another girl in a fancy Easter dress gave it a try. "Easter," she said tentatively, "is the day when we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Then he was buried in the tomb. On Easter morning, God rolled the stone away and Jesus came out of the tomb." "Excellent," cried the relieved pastor. "And then," the girl continued, "Jesus looked and saw his shadow, so he went back into the tomb and there were six more weeks of winter!"
It’s ground hog day, I couldn’t resist… Anyway what an odd combination that little girl had in her head of the story of Easter. Odd combinations don’t always work like high heels and marathon races but sometimes they unexpectedly do like potato chips and ice cream. Today we have a unique combo of Scout Sunday, a baptism, the Beatitudes, and ground hog day. But somehow, I think it works.
First of all I can assure you there is no shadow in the light of God’s love. It figuratively is going to be an early spring every time someone puts their trust in Christ. For we believe whether its Easter morn or the day of our baptism life is going to spring forth with faith in Christ.
Oddly blessed- reminded once again that God’s perfection isn’t what we often predict it to be. Most believers accept the idea that God created all that exists and did a good job with that. Scouts spend a lot of time learning of the perfection of creation, there is a lot of evidence for an intelligent design in nature. But God’s perfect creation can often be kind of odd- -platypuses, come to mind. So oddly shaped, but I was reminded of God’s joy in making things unique even odd.
Many of you know I had ear surgery on my left ear back in Oct and then a follow up surgery on my right ear at the end of Dec. (Thank you for all the prayers they’ve helped!) At my follow up visit with the surgeon she mentioned that the interior of my right ear looked extremely different than my left. When I asked why? She said there’s a left and right of your face. Your facial structure is half mom, half dad- same with ears. Odd combo but everybody has it and somehow it works.
God seems to like these odd combo’s. When Christ gave his sermon on the mount he proclaimed these odd combo’s in the Beatitudes- blessed are the poor in spirit, Bless are those who mourn, Blessed are the merciful. These are attributes that most societies don’t think of as blessed. Yet if you dig deeper you find that these people with these outlooks, in these situations often are most likely to draw near to God for help and sustenance. And that is where the blessing comes in, not in the struggle so much as with the source of their strength. Their relationship with God.
This morning we started by acknowledging our Scouts and having them recite their oath like they do at the opening of their meetings. The oath is a reminder of what they are to be about, reciting it regularly says this is direction I intend to go, its what I’m striving for to stay physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. Things that direct you for lifetime
Scout Oath- list of things you’re hoping to achieve, master, better yourself.
If you look at it, it makes sense but it is odd. There’s nothing in there, in the scout oath about success, fame, riches. You could do all these things and never earn or achieve the things our society say are important- the big house, the wonderful toys, the popularity. Yet, despite these goals not truly fitting in with what much of what our society strives for, lifts up, and expects from our youth the scout program has thrived. Its because these goals aren’t for the sake of being a more successful person- that might be a side affect- they are specifically goals to become a better person, human being. And in so doing influence the community to be a better community because of one better person in it.
The list of things Jesus lays out as blessings- our Beatitudes- could be looked upon like the Scout oath… it’s a list of things that Christians strive to achieve, and master so that they can be a better follow Christ. Can we be poor in spirit rather than proud in spirit so we are more dependent on God? Can we allow ourselves to mourn, so that we open ourselves to God’s comfort and learn to comfort others with the comfort God has given us? Can we be better at being meek, so that we find joy outside of our possessions, so that our possessions don’t possess us, so that we find joy in the world around us not just through the parts of the world we’ve stuffed in our closests?
As you can see this list regarding how one should live their life may seem a little odd to a nonChristian. How is living a meek, merciful, peacemaking, pure in heart life the “good life?” Don’t you know the person who dies with the most toys wins?! To which the Christian response is the person who dies with the most toys, still dies. There is no shadow of darkness in Christ, all those who live in Christ will defeat the shadow of death, will inherit eternal life. Its not about the toys, of even the joys of life- its about the giver of life, God. God who calls us broken and crazed people back into a relationship with him through his son Jesus. And in him we learn to be pure of heart. Through Jesus were learn the priority of peacemaking. In Christ we become capable of persevering even through persecution because we know of the love of God through Christ Jesus. A love that gives us joy that begins now and is fulfilled completely in the life that is to come.
Its an odd combination but it works, the love of Christ Jesus and the divorced father of two. Its an odd combination but it can bring joy, the love of Christ Jesus, and the octogenarian with lung problems. Its an odd combination but it can bring a peace the world can’t give, the love of Christ Jesus and the recovering addict. Everyday we live with odd combinations that work (face) God’s asking you to trust this odd combination, of pursing him wholeheartedly and discovering the odd blessings- the beatitudes- of a faithful life. Amen.