Sunday, January 29
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
At lunch-time on Sunday, February 5, enormous crowds of Patriots and Falcons will be preparing to struggle for the National Football League championship in Houston, Texas— the annual Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, in the social hall of a church near Elkton, Virginia (and many other houses of worship around the nation), some followers of Jesus will be lining up to eat some soup and sandwiches in solidarity with poor people— the SOUPer Bowl of Caring.
It’s scheduled so you can experience both: you don’t have to miss the Super Bowl to take part in the SOUPer Bowl !
At the SOUPer Bowl of Caring, we bring gifts of non-perishable food and money to be shared with ministries that feed hungry people. In our area, we support Elkton Area United Services’ Food Pantry, which offers a monthly food distribution to low-income people on the Third Friday of each month, as well as emergency food aid throughout the month, and classes on healthy food preparation methods and good nutrition on a tight budget.
I ask you to pray about your role in feeding the hungry. When Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me... when you did it for the least of these sisters and brothers of mine” (Matthew 25: 35, 40) – how do you and I respond to that ?
This is our year of reading the Gospel according to Matthew. For the next four Sundays, we will be focusing on Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, as reported in Matthew. Jesus sat on a hill and taught his first disciples, along with the crowds who came to him for healing. This “Sermon on the Mount” gives Christians a big part of our direct instruction from Jesus.
It begins with nine blessings that Jesus pronounced. Jesus named nine practices, nine things that humans can do, which God loves and affirms. Because the Latin word for “blessed” is beata, this list of blessings came to be called the Beatitudes. But beware ! Contrary to what some preachers have said, in our lifetime, Jesus was not blessing “attitudes.” Instead, Jesus gave his blessing to people as they— we— do God’s will.
If you can, read Matthew 5: 1-12 and try to prepare yourself to claim these blessings for yourself.
By the grace of God, we may do what God wants and God will bless us.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit….
“Blessed are those who mourn….
“Blessed are the meek….
“Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst for righteousness….
“Blessed are the merciful….
“Blessed are the pure in heart….
“Blessed are the peacemakers….
“Blessed are those
who are persecuted for righteousness' sake….
In the Fall of 2006, I had the privilege of learning from Archbishop Elias Chacour, who was a major leader of Christians in the Holy Land— specifically, in the Galilee, the area where Jesus lived and conducted most of his ministry. He challenged us seminary students to obey Jesus’ teachings in the spirit Jesus intended. A prime example was the “Beatitudes.”
Chacour explained to us the lesson which Jesus taught on the little below-sea-level hill by the hot shore of the lake: “Straighten up! Take the steps you must take to reach your goal ! Get up, get moving, do something ! Peace needs no contemplators ! Get your hands dirty ! The ‘Beatitudes’ are blessings, but only on people who get busy and do the work Jesus called for. They are not attitudes. Humble your spirit for dirty work. Sit and weep and mourn WITH those who suffer. Behave meekly. Stand in for Jesus even when your own people hate you for it. These are actions that Jesus blesses.”
Another teacher who has helped me to grasp Jesus’ strange blessings in the Sermon on the Mount is Shane Claiborne. In his book, Irresistible Revolution, he quotes the French theologian Jacques Ellul: “Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society.” Claiborne adds, “You don’t get crucified for being cool; you get crucified for living radically different from the norms of all that is cool in the world. And it’s usually the cool people who get the most ticked off, since you are disturbing their order, for it was indeed the cool religious leaders and the cool politicians who killed the Lover from Nazareth. Some things never change.”
God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom....
-1 Corinthians 1:25