Jan. 29, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart. Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Micah 6:1-8

1Hear what the Lord says:
  Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
  and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
  and you enduring foundations of the earth;
 for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
  and he will contend with Israel.

3“O my people, what have I done to you?
  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
  and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
 and I sent before you Moses,
  Aaron, and Miriam.
5O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
  what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
 and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
  that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”

6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  and bow myself before God on high?
 Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
  with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
 Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
  and what does the Lord require of you
 but to do justice, and to love kindness,
  and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm 15

1Lord, who may dwell in your | tabernacle?
  Who may abide upon your | holy hill?
2Those who lead a blameless life and do | what is right,
  who speak the truth | from their heart; 
3they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil | to their friends;
  they do not cast discredit up- | on a neighbor.
4In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who | fear the Lord.
  They have sworn upon their health and do not take | back their word.
5They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes a- | gainst the innocent.
  Those who do these things shall never be | overthrown.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, 
 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The Beatitudes are first of all descriptive of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus is a messiah, a savior, who quite literally walks the talk. Before climbing the mount and preaching, Jesus has been very busy. He went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He cured diseases and every sickness among the people. It’s no wonder his fame spread. So, the one who preaches the Sermon is the one who is physically making all things new. The sayings of the Sermon on the Mount are the interpretation of Jesus’s life.

There were times Jesus was all those things he names in the Beatitudes. He was the ultimate peacemaker. His life and death encapsulate those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He mourned for individuals and for our broken world. And in emptying himself for the world he showed us what it meant to be poor in spirit. 

That Jesus lived what he preached may be a faithful reading of the Beatitudes. But it does not fully answer the question of what this iconic text means for us living some 2000 years later on a different continent. For that, it’s helpful to remember that the Sermon on the Mount was not addressed originally to individuals but to a community that Jesus began through calling the disciples. 

Sometimes the word makarios is translated as happy. Do any of you remember that translation? Our translation today uses the word blessed, which carries with it all sorts of problems, including what is sometimes called the prosperity gospel, the idea that earthly riches are a sign of God’s blessing. I prefer the translation I read online by a fellow pastor who wrote, “Jesus is saying to those who are hurting and those who side with them, God loves you too. Although it seems sometimes like God sides with the rich and powerful, Jesus has good news: God cares for those who feel they have lost in the game of life. So, good news, you who are poor. God is with you. When you are grieving, God is near. 

Jesus’ trip up the mountain is much like Moses before him. Like during the time of Moses, Israel suffers under an oppressive ruler. Like Moses, Jesus’ life is threatened in its earliest days. Like Moses, Jesus (and his family) has to flee the threat of death. Like Moses, Jesus too emerges out of Egypt to follow God’s call to liberate the people. Like Moses, Jesus wanders in the wilderness and relies on God for sustenance.

This morning, like Moses at Mt. Sinai, Jesus interprets God’s vision of a world aligned with God’s concerns. In this way, Jesus’ sharing and interpreting of these commandments is not so much an imposition of rules for an obedient life. It is instead a guide to a life of wholeness aligned with God’s creation and grace. So, both the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments are not rules as much as they are visions for communal wholeness rooted in God’s liberation of the oppressed. Also, like the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount is narrated and set within a larger story about the character of a faithful God.

You might ask, is this vision for the reign of God about heaven or about the here and now? The absolute answer is that it is about both. Are the Beatitudes supposed to drive us to God’s grace by showing us how we can never love perfectly or are the beatitudes showing us how to live now? The answer is both. It’s true that we cannot depend on our works for salvation, but we also cannot cast aside the radical demands of the law.

There is great symmetry and order to the Beatitudes and its worth paying attention to. Let’s take the first four as one stanza. Take a look at your bulletin. This stanza includes those who are suffering. Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, blessed are the dispossessed, abandoned, poor, homeless. Is anyone here mourning today, last week? This blessing if for you, who looks on the many tragedies near and far and weeps. They will be satisfied and comforted in the eschaton, the age to come. God loves them.

One scholar wrote, “no one is asked to go out and try to be poor in spirit or to mourn or to be meek. Rather, Jesus is indicating that given the reality of the kingdom we should not be surprised to find among those who follow him those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek.” And Jesus is not idealizing poverty. Later he will encourage his followers to fight it. The Kingdom of Heaven, which we will hear about throughout Matthew’s gospel, has come near you. When God reigns, the poor get a better deal.

If the first four beatitudes are about those who are suffering, the second four are about those who help them. Look again at your bulletin. Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

All of these are preludes to Jesus’ later teachings, in which he will favor mercy over sacrifice, in which he will emphasize forgiving not just in words but from the heart, in which he will teach peacemaking within community and in the larger world. Finally, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, or justice, sake. In other words, serve others and give generously, and see what happens. Blessed are those who hunger for the well-being of others, justice for all (Rinehart).

The last verses switch from third person to second person and things get personal. “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.” This world is suffering, Jesus says. Look around, listen, feel the earth groaning. God cares about the suffering, as God always has. If we are the people of God, the body of Christ, we will care about the suffering too.

We often talk about the Season after Epiphany being this time when we learn more and more about who Jesus is. His identity is manifested or revealed gradually over the course of weeks. But this season is also about what it means to be Jesus’ followers, both as individuals and as community of faithful followers. The scripture passages encourage us to have specific types of encounters—with those who are meek, mourning, poor in spirit, and yes persecuted for righteousness sake. When we have those encounters, we then have our own epiphanies. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Action in accord with Christ does not originate in some ethical principle, but in the very person of Jesus Christ.” In other words, our discipleship is inextricably tied to the person and ministry of the one we follow—Jesus. 

If none of this sounds like really good news to you, you are not alone. Remember that this is the very beginning of Jesus’ very long Sermon on the Mount. For today we do well to pair the Beatitudes with our reading from First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that early church community, with its many dysfunctionalities. Paul reminds the Corinthians that God is making all things new. 

As is consistent with God’s character, God chooses what looks foolish to the world. In this case that includes both the Corinthians themselves and the cross, that ugly symbol and wretched thing which Jesus died on. The new life the Corinthians, you and I enjoy is not the result of our worthiness. It is the result of the connection between God and Jesus the Christ, and the choice God made to give us life in that same Jesus Christ. Today, tomorrow, forever, Jesus Christ is both the messenger, preaching the Beatitudes and painting a vision for the reign of God coming to us, and Jesus Christ is the message itself—the message of God’s abundant and unfailing love. Amen. 

Prayers of Intercession

Called together to follow Jesus, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Cultivate humility in your church. In gatherings of every size, teach us to boast only in the cross. Shape your church to be people of kindness, generosity, and justice. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

The foundations of the earth bear witness to your faithfulness; the mountains and hills echo with your holiness. When we mistreat your creation, show us the error of our ways. Inspire us with reverent awe to honor all you have made. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You make foolish the wisdom of the world. Raise up honorable leaders who seek justice, love mercy, and pursue peace. Frustrate plans that are corrupt, wicked, and self-seeking. Prosper the work of peacemakers (local and international reconciliation efforts may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Bless all whom the world rejects. Accompany those who are regarded as foolish, weak, low, and despised; reveal your power and presence at work where it is least expected. Give your life, strength, and wisdom to all in need (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

As with your people Israel, remind this congregation of your saving acts. Remind us how your faithfulness brought us through difficulties and sustained us despite our weaknesses. Establish the cross as the center of our life together. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Praise to you for your blessed saints in every time and place (especially). Trusting you accompanied them in poverty, persecution, and in every trial, we trust you abide with your people always. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We bring to you our needs and hopes, O God, trusting your wisdom and power revealed in Christ crucified.


This entry was posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.