Sermon Outline

Matthew 5:1-12


I. Beginnings

A. Casablanca

· remember the movie?

· Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, an American who owns a café and saloon called "Rick's Café Amercain" in Morocco, during the early stages of WW II

· The movie is rich with intrigue, teeming with black marketeers, smugglers, thieves, spies, Nazis, double agents and refugees who desperately seek to obtain tickets (exit visas) on the daily plane to neutral Lisbon

· So many memorable moments, famous lines:

· "Play it again, Sam"

· Here's looking at you, kid."

· "Round up the usual subjects."

· And then there's that famous scene at the end, with Rick and Capitaine Renault walking across the wet runway into the mist, as they discuss what they might do together with the 10,000 francs they owe one another. As the fog closes in, a classic Hollywood line is issued: Rick speculates with Renault on hopes that they have forged a new alliance:

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

· Their new partnership is underscored with the triumphant sounds of La Marseillaise.

· Irony - words about a beginning at the end of the movie

· End of the movie, but beginning of something new

· Alliance against Nazis

· Optimism for victory

· Beginning of hope for liberation of France

A. Jesus

· A new beginning

· Beginning of a new public ministry

· The context

· Jesus had been around

· Born - that whole story

· Baptized - that whole story

· Tempted - that whole story

· Called disciples - Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John - that whole story

· Healing, preaching and teaching throughout Galilee, Syria, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea - that whole story

· But now, something different

· All previous stories, Jesus' previous activities seem geared to individuals, small groups

· This is different

· Big crowd

· Mountaintop

· It's like a small-town musician, who's been playing all the local clubs, finally getting a chance to play the Palace

· And it's sold out

· The people have followed

· Probably not just the disciples proper

· Average, everyday folk

· Heard about Jesus

· Interested

· "all who desired to learn from him" - John Wesley

· they're there

· the stage is set

· what will they hear?

· What will be the first number?

· Where does Jesus begin?

· He sits down

· Like the rabbis of old

· A position of teaching

· He opens his mouth, the text says

· A clue to us that something important, something significant is forthcoming

· And the first word he speaks?

· Blessed

· Perhaps more specifically

· More accurately

· God's blessing

  1. Blessings

A. God's blessings

· God's blessing sustains the poor by means of the Spirit

· God's blessing sustains those with grieving hearts

· God's blessing sustains those who choose gentle ways

· God's blessing sustains those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

· Jesus is giving us a list, a catalogue of God's blessing

· Jesus' first words in this new, highly publicized arena are about God's blessings

· God's blessing sustains people who live mercifully

· God's blessing sustains the pure by means of the heart

· God's blessing sustains those who make peace the end of their lives

· God's blessing sustains those who are subject to attack for doing the right thing

· God's blessing sustains all of you, when people deride you and make false remarks against you on Jesus' account

· Jesus finally hits the big time

· And with the spotlight shining on him

· The first thing he says

· Blessed

· Or more specifically

· More accurately

· God's blessing

· Notice the order

· Not "blessed are those who mourn," but God's blessing sustains those with mourning hearts

· Not "blessed are those who are persecuted," but God's blessing sustains those who are persecuted, attacked

· Some people are probably wondering why we are changing the order

· Well, there are reasons

· Reasons having to do with translation of the original Greek text

· But the real question

· The more important question is:

· What's the difference

· What difference does the order make

· All the difference

· When we're talking about beginnings

· When we're talking about blessings, and the context in which they exist

· Blessings, real blessings take place in the context of relationship

· Relationship with God

B. Blessings and context

· When we say, "Blessed are you," it's all about "you"

· About us

· We're the center of attention

· We're the point

· But when we say, God's blessing sustains you," it's not just about us

· Blessing is put in a context

· The context of relationship

· Relationship with the one whose blessing sustains us

· Relationship with God

· Jesus begins with a word about blessing

· But not simply that we are blessed

· Someone is doing the blessing

· Inviting us into relationship

· That comes first

C. Methodist pastors

· They come and go

· Someday you'll have a new one

· Maybe you'll meet him/her before you actually hear him/her preach

· Unpacking boxes at parsonage

· Bringing covered dish to new parsonage family

· But sooner or later comes the fateful day

· First sermon

· First time he or she will climb into that pulpit and proclaim the Word of God to you as your pastor

· Now if I'm any authority on pastoral behavior

· Especially within the unique Methodist itinerant system

· And I think I am

· I'm fairly certain that this pastor will not take that very first public opportunity to speak to you from the big stage to tell you:

· What an awful sinner you are

· How you've clearly fallen short of the glory of God

· How you're not fit for the kingdom of heaven

· And how, if you don't change your evil ways, you will undoubtedly drink the wine of God's wrath and be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb

· It's not that none of that is true

· But that might not be the appropriate place to begin

· Before he or she gets to all that, my guess is that there will be an invitation

· An invitation to enter into relationship

· Pastor-parishioner

· I'll try to be there to comfort you when you mourn

· I'll try to be there to listen to both your joys and sorrows

· I'll try to be there to preach the Word to all of you who hunger for it

· And then, maybe next week, maybe next month, or maybe quite literally, "next"

· I'll say a word to you about all these other things

· But first, the relationship

· Then once you know how I feel about you

· Once you know I'll do my best to love you

· Then perhaps you'll be willing to hang with me when it's time to proclaim the really tough sayings

· First, the relationship

  1. The Relationship between Relationships and Blessings

A. We talk a lot about blessings

· Perhaps so much that we have diluted the word itself

· Made it through two weeks in Austin alive - it's a blessing

· Found a dollar bill on the sidewalk - it's a blessing

· Even though it's a curse to whoever lost it

· Headache gone - it's a blessing

· Eventually, we reduce blessing to the simple absence of any bad "feelings"

· I'm feelin' good - feelin' no pain

· Blessings become transitory emotional states - moods

· Is that really what a blessing is?

· I think perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of "blessing" we can enter into is when we conceive of "blessings" outside of a loving relationship with God

· That relationship with God is the arena in which blessing can take place

· Outside of it, blessing cannot survive

C. The opposite of blessed

· So many times we seem to mistakenly reduce "blessing" to simply mean "happy"

· If we think of blessings as needing that relationship to truly exist

· It occurs to me that the opposite of blessed is not "unhappy," but could instead be "lonely"

· Alone

· Isolated from God

· Think how that would change Jesus' words

· Isolated are those who mourn in the absence of God

· Lonely are those who hunger for righteousness without Me

· Alone are those who are persecuted, without Me to watch their back

· Notice how I changed the order back?

· Because that's what happens when we step out of the relationship

· It's all about us

· Just us

· And it's lonely

C. Back to the beginning

· Beatitudes not so much about isolating us

· More about including us

· Calling us into relationship

· Because Jesus has lots more to tell us

· Soon he'll get into the real meat of his sermon

· "You are the salt" - "you are the light" - "you have heard it said…but I say to you…"

· We need to hear all that, even though some of it is tough talk

· And so before getting to all that, Jesus first seeks to establish some boundaries

· Jesus proclaims God's favor toward those who aspire to live under God's rule

· Who seek that special relationship

· Blessings that dwell outside of that context aren't really blessings at all

· They're just moods, passing fancies

· Jesus is interested in something decidedly longer-lasting

· And so Jesus begins at the beginning

· Proclaiming God's favor

· God's blessings

· And inviting us into that blessed relationship

· Maybe this really is "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."