“Jesus Celebrates Some Character Traits”

a sermon based upon Matthew 5:1-16 & 7:24-29

When I was away on Sabbatical in the Fall of 2018, the Rev. Gene Bacon filled in for me and he preached nine sermons on the text from this morning… “the Beatitudes” from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. So I know many of our church members have already delved deeply into Jesus’ words. However, because today is Scout Sunday, there are a few families with us this morning who were not here back then to hear those nine sermons. (In fact, I suspect there may be some of those people who were here back then who might not remember everything Gene Bacon told them. So let’s do it again.)

Furthermore, in March of last year (during Lent), I tackled the same topic using Brian McLaren’s treatment of these verses (from his book “We Make the Road by Walking”[1]). That sermon – which is entitled: “Jesus Proposes a New Kind of Identity” -- was not only recorded on YouTube (and can be viewed on our website), but it was the topic of one of the ten “Feedback Forums” which were also recorded and uploaded to our web-site. It’s available… verbatim!

So, let me just summarize (for the folks who are new here this morning, and for those of you who may have forgotten) what I said back then about the Beatitudes -- which are the opening words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount -- and then (after that) I’ll add a few comments about “the foolish man who built his house on sand” which served as the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus is going to pass on to his followers the “heart” of his message. This inaugural sermon will state his “agenda” somewhat like a political party platform does in an election year.

Jesus begins his sermon by using the term “blessed” several times to point to people with certain characteristics. In Jesus’ day, to say “blessed are these people” would be like saying “Pay attention: these are the people you should aspire to be like. This is the group you want to belong to.” And then he names them… just as our Scouts did this morning using those seven building blocks: (1) people who are poor in spirit, (2) people who mourn, (3) people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (4) people who are merciful, who are (5) pure in heart, who are (6) peacemakers, and (7) those who are persecuted -- picked on, bullied -- because of being that way.

Jesus’ words would have surprised everyone! You see, that’s because (as Brian McLaren says) we normally play by [different rules. For many people in our society] these [are the] rules of the game:

(Rule #1) Do everything you can to be rich and powerful. [Then you can get things your way! Then you’ll be successful: rich and powerful. To be “poor in spirit” is to be a Loser!]

(Rule #2) Toughen up, and harden yourself against all feelings of loss. [Losses are for losers! Grief is for wimps! Big boys don’t cry!]

(Rule #3) Measure your success by how much of the time you think only of yourself and your own happiness. [People may call it “narcissism” -- ego-centric selfishness -- but you can slough that off. Who cares what they think! It’s really all about you anyway, right? After all, if your name isn’t held in high regard… what do you have to show for all your effort? Get a clue: you gotta look out for #1.]

(Rule # 4) Be independent and aggressive – be hungry and thirsty for higher status in the social pecking order. [That’s what counts! Be somebody. Make a name for yourself. Who is “hungry for righteousness” anyway? I mean: get a cheeseburger!]