Mountain Meditation: Kingdom Blessings

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 5:1-12.

In times of great transition I find that it is not the best choice for me to consider the big picture. While the big picture is important, it is also quite overwhelming. Often I am energized by the abundance of tasks to be completed, but when I feel like my feet are on shifting sand, which usually follows the reminder that I am not actually in control, my energy drains faster than a white chocolate mocha out of my husband’s coffee cup.

And that, friends, is fast!

So rather than focus on the big picture and feel so daunted that I cannot accomplish anything, I choose to focus on the immediate next. What is the next immediate task for me to accomplish? And then once I do that, what follows? It could be a snack break; when I am stressed I forget to eat! It could be sending a quick message of encouragement or reading one sent to me. It could be – and maybe should be! – finding another two-by-two area of wood on my desk. Whatever my immediate next, this truth endures: small acts grow into tasks. Tasks grow into accomplishments. Accomplishments piece together the big picture.

And once the big picture is present, God invites us to look beyond that big picture and start the process all over again.

I have paused quite frequently this week to ask God to help me identify my immediate next. As I have studied the Beatitudes I feel my immediate next is peace. God is calling me to be peace as the prelude to any further activity, be it a conversation, compilation, or complication.

In an article he wrote for The Huffington Post, Eric Simpson says, “The Beatitudes teach us how to be peace not just be at peace, but to become peace so that peace can spread, and that peace can come from being rooted both in the life of God and in the physical world.” When I feel restless, anxious, worried, or out of control, being at peace is the furthest act from my mind. Being peace, however, helps calm my mind and my heart. Through peacefully approaching my immediate next – with a clear heart and mind; with encouragement from my God, family and friends; with the confidence that yes, there are trials in this life, but joy comes in the morning – I am able to accomplish whatever is before me as well as join God in nurturing peace in the world.

What is my immediate next? To trust that God knows what is coming. Right now I see glimpses of the big picture, but our God has the entire horizon in his view; God has the whole world in his hands. So with trust I walk forward to my immediate next – for myself and for our congregation.

Prayer: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”* Amen.

*”Blessed Assurance,” The United Methodist Hymnal 369.

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Plot From The Plain: Woah and Woe

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 6:17-26

This week Reeves will begin a sermon series entitled Plot From The Plain based on lessons from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain found in Luke 6.  Jesus’ first sermon in Luke begins similarly to Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew – with a sharing of beatitudes.

The Beatitudes are Christ’s promise of coming blessings.  The blessings will arrive when the Kingdom of Heaven is in it’s fullness and completion on earth.

The Beatitudes are not the first blessings we encounter when we read Scripture.  Old Testament and New Testament texts are punctuated with blessing.  Each blessing is an authoritative pronouncement of God’s favor.  In some of our Bibles handy-dandy editors have come through and organized the Scripture with headers that somehow indicate “find a blessing here!” and then you read that blessing.  Other blessings in Scripture are not as easily noticed at first glance, but they are no less powerful and gracious in their gifting.

One of my favorite blessings that I return to again and again is Isaiah 46:4b.  God says, “I have made and I will bear; I will carry and I will save.”  I believe this blessing from God is pure gift.  And it is this blessing that beckons me, draws me, and inspires me into service for my God who has made the commitment through my creation to bear, carry, and save me.

No. Matter.  What.

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As I ponder blessings this week I can’t help but think about how we have limited blessings in our lives.  Yes, we can read them in Scripture, but where else do we encounter blessings?  Sadly, I feel that we have limited blessings to words before we eat, sneezes, offertory prayers, and worship service dismissals.  You may participate in a faith community where clergy regularly steward the sacraments – there you will also encounter blessings.

But where else do we encounter blessings?

I am drawing a blank…and I think that shows the graveness of this predicament.

Which leads me to my next question – how can we develop a culture of blessing?

The Beatitudes are Christ’s promise of coming blessings – but I believe that we are presently in the world of Christ’s blessings and anticipating their completion.  We don’t anticipate idly.  We anticipate actively knowing that we do not bring about the completion of Christ’s blessings ourselves, but that we are helpmates in the completion and pronouncement of those blessings.

Through blessings we affirm people.  Through blessings we affirm the worthiness of others; we affirm our appreciation for their gifts, their presence, their dedication.  Through blessings we also encourage.

When we practice giving blessings – blessings from our own experience of others or speaking blessings of Scripture into the lives of our neighbors – I believe we develop a culture of blessing.  This culture of blessing could start with one – with me – with you – and grow exponentially.  I believe this is the task that Christ calls us to as helpmates in the Kingdom.

God bless you my friends.  Now go and do likewise.

Reflection: Who has blessed you in this life?  What was communicated in that blessing?  Was it spoken, written, expressed physically through a hug or some sort of service?  Who have you blessed?  How did you communicate it?  Who is someone that God is calling you to bless?  When will you communicate that blessing?

Prayer: “Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine!  O what a feeling of glory divine!  Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.  This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”*  Amen.

*From “Blessed Assurance,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 369.