You are Blessed!

diversity

What do you think it means to be “blessed”?

I hope that you know that you are deeply loved by God and that you are an important part of what God’s doing in the world today. I also hope that God has surrounded you with people who love and support you because even God said that it’s not good for any of us to journey through life all alone (Genesis 2:18).

But, even when we know that God loves us and sends people into our lives to encourage and support us, life is not always easy.

Many of us have been taught that people who are blessed by God live in positions of power and prestige. The Prosperity Gospel teaches us that God is ready to bless us with prosperity and good health – if we plant the right “seed.” We, normally, don’t call people blessed when they’re struggling to make ends meet or to figure out where they are going to get their next meal. Many people, in fact, believe that people who are struggling and who need help from others just need to learn to get out there and pull themselves up by the bootstraps (whatever that means) and start living their lives in the “right” way – which, of course, often means: “in the way that I do.”

Jesus said something very different than what most of us believe (Matthew 5:1-12).

Jesus calls people “blessed” when they are being crushed by the circumstances in their lives and when they’re longing for God’s comfort as they mourn. Jesus calls people “supremely blessed” when they find themselves longing for better days and when they are trying to mend relationships with other people. Jesus said that we’re “blessed” when people are criticizing and belittling us because we’re standing up for what we believe. Jesus says that people, who openly speak about truths and principles that other people don’t want to think about, are “blessed” – even thought we may not think so.

Several months ago, I read a book, entitled “Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor; and, in that book, I was challenged to think about something that I had never considered in my journey of faith.

Have you ever thought about how many things God did in the dark?

The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (chaos), in the dark, before God created the sun and the moon (Genesis 1:2-3.) Think about the story where Jacob sees a ladder reaching into the heavens in the dark (Genesis 28:10-19) and about the Angel of Death moving through the land of Egypt on the night of the Passover in the dark (Exodus 12:28-32). And, of course, the Gospels tell us that the women came to the Tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning at sunrise (Matthew 28:1) and found it empty. And why? Because God raised Jesus from the dead in the dark.

This week, I want you to think about the fact that God is with you and that God’s blessing you every single day. God is with you when you are living on top the world, and God is with you when you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. God is with you when you (and perhaps, your family) are blessed with the goodness of life, and God is with you as you mourn the death of people that you have loved and cared about for many years. God’s with you when you find yourself surrounded by people who love you, and God is with you when you are struggling to mend relationships in your life that are broken because of conflict. God is found in the “light.” God is found in the “dark.” God is found in every moment…!

And so, remember: You are blessed…!

Jesus calls you “supremely blessed” even when your life isn’t filled with an abundance of things that we normally associate with success and happiness. And Jesus also calls you “blessed” when your life isn’t filled with all of the things that the empty Prosperity Gospel promises to those who plant the right “seed.” And why? Because God’s love is always a gift that is freely given to us. It’s not a gift that has to be earned by doing whatever we think we need to do (or are told that we need to do) to catch God’s attention.

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Striving for Justice and Peace

JusticeAndPeace

How would you define the word: “Fair”?

I suspect that we’d define the word “fair” in a lot of different ways. Some of us would say that it’s “fair” when good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell. Some of us build our lives around the Protestant Work Ethic – believing that success and happiness in life (even eternal salvation) are based upon hard work, dedication, thrift and determination. Some who embrace the Prosperity Gospel believe that financial blessing and our physical well-being are the will of God; and that our faith, positive speech patterns, and donations to religious causes will eventually increase our material wealth.

I’ve learned that life isn’t always “fair.”

Is it “fair” when a young mother is killed in an automobile accident, or when a child dies from brain cancer? Is it “fair” that God equally sends rain upon the just and the unjust? Are poverty and homelessness “fair” in a society where some people amass tremendous fortunes; and is it “fair” when people lose their homes (and are forced into bankruptcy) because of an unexpected and undeserved illness that sent them to a hospital?

Many pastors are criticized for being too political every time they try to address an issue in society that exists because life isn’t “fair.” Whether we want to admit it or not, poverty is not God-ordained. Homelessness in America exists because people who live their lives in positions of power continue to create systems that ensure that some people will rise to the top (themselves) and others will never have that chance. Hunger isn’t being created by a lack of food – it’s caused by poor distribution and use of food (think about that the next time you throw food in the garbage). The Bible’s filled with condemnations that are directed at the powerful, and the Sacred Story speaks of a Great Day when God’s going to turn everything upside down. Mary once proclaimed that God will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53). Jesus once said that the poor, the mourning, the humble, the hungry and thirsty, and the persecuted are “blessed” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, also, said that there’s no such thing as being a disciple without bearing the Cross; and, sometimes, bearing the Cross calls us, as God’s people, to live our lives of faith – “Striving for Justice and Peace”.

We can’t get around the fact that Jesus stirred people’s nests and stepped on people’s toes. Jesus spoke to the “wrong” kinds of people. He touched lepers. He lived among sinners and outcasts, and called religious leaders of His time (people who enjoyed their positions of power) “white-washed tombs.” Jesus was not afraid to be political. Jesus (and all of the prophets who lived before Him) spoke-out and condemned human-created systems that trap people in difficult positions that they cannot escape. And, Jesus also calls us (modern day disciples and followers of Christ) to take-up our Cross by putting skin in the game, by “Striving for Justice and Peace” in all the earth, and by speaking on behalf of those who don’t have a voice of their own – even when it costs us something like our reputation, or our job, or even our life.

This week, we’re called to remember that, when the Reign of God breaks into the world, the “way things are” is challenged by the “way things could be.” When the Reign of God breaks into the world, justice will roll down like mighty waters and righteousness will gush from the ground like an ever-flowing stream…!

Discipleship is not for the faint-of-heart. Bearing the Cross and “speaking to power” have never been easy. And yet, we must remember that we can’t be disciples of Christ without being filled with the passion-creating fire of the Holy Spirit that sends us into the world to change it – “Striving for Justice and Peace” in all the earth.