The Blessed LifeMicah 6: 1-8, Matthew 5: 1-12.
Sometimes human beings are just thick.
Maybe that is a bit hard.
Sometimes human beings are so confident in their own ability to understand a situation that they don’t realise just how wrong they are.
Have any of you heard about Matthew Davis? (From the Dunfermline Press)
You might have without realising you have.
He decided to rob a Bank of Scotland (other banks are available to rob) and he had a great plan. He would go in with a meat clever and threaten the cashier, get all the money and then leave the bank.
But what if someone recognised him?
Well he would wear a pillowcase over his head.
So he carries the meat cleaver in the pillowcase and then gets to the bank.
He then takes the meat cleaver out and puts the pillowcase over his head...and then realises he can’t see a thing because he didn’t put any eye holes in the pillowcase, so he then takes the pillowcase off so he can see where he is going.
He robs the bank and then walks home petting a dog he meets on the way, not realising that one of the customers was followed him.
So he walks all the way home, gets to his house and the customer then phones the police who promptly go round and arrest him.
Here’s the thing, I am sure in his head, Matthew Davis thought he had it all worked out. I am sure, in his head, everything was understood.
And the reality was that he didn’t have a clue.
I would like to say, in my modest opinion, that I believe that most of the time we are just as thick as Matthew Davis; most of the time we are just as clueless, most of the time we are as much in the dark as Matthew Davis ever was.
I know that sounds hard.
But I have a good source.
When Jesus is giving his sermon he is telling us the truth.
Jesus is saying, ’This is what God is like, this is the way life is.
If you understand these truths then you will do OK.’
And we read this stuff, and to be honest it goes in one ear and out the other.
The readings that John read today from the Gospel of Matthew are called the Beatitudes.
Beatitudes are just blessings, or things that make us feel amazing, or things that make us feel happy.
And we get it wrong.
We get it wrong because we don’t believe any of it.
Think about it...
Happy are the poor...
Do we believe that?
No, we don’t.
I have yet to go into any house and a mother says to me, ‘My son has just gone onto universal credit. There is a fair chance that he may ever get a job and will never own a house. In fact there is a fair chance that he will spend his life living from hand to mouth and he may need to use food banks. I am so proud of him.’
Never heard that yet.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard...
‘My son has just had a promotion which means another pay increase. I am so proud of him.’
I have heard...
‘My daughter has just been interviewed for this very prestigious job, If she gets it she will be able to afford a brand new house in that new estate... I am so proud of her.’
But never heard...
‘I am so proud of my daughter. Looks like she is going to be made redundant and may loose her house. She might have to move back home.’
Even ministers are like that.
My first charge was Castlemilk West. When I was asked to be their minister I was so excited. Then out the blue I got fellow ministers phoning me up to commiserate that I hadn’t been able to get a better charge.
I couldn’t believe it.
When we all studying we would talk about the chances of doing good and making a difference, and in a place like Castlemilk I thought there was great potential to do good and make a difference, yet to my fellow ministers Castlemilk was just a place to be avoided.
The truth is that in our head all these beatitudes would make more sense if instead of ‘Happy’ at the start of the sentence we put, ‘You don't want to be...’
You don’t want to be poor, because that means you will be ignored by those in power. Councils will put you in houses that aren’t fit to live in, they may even be death traps. If you get a job it will be right at the bottom of the ladder and those above you will be the ones making the money out of your hard work.
You don't want to be mourning, because that means you have lost everything. You will feel nothing but deep sadness, people might even ignore you and avoid you because they don’t know what to say.
You don’t want to be humble, if you are humble then you are ignored. If you are humble then your opinion is worth nothing. The argument belongs to those who speak loudest and longest, those who are heard.
If you’re not willing to be assertive then you deserve to be the last in the queue, deserve to wait months for hospital appointments, deserve to be the last one the carers go to in the day.
You don't want to be merciful. If you are merciful then people will take advantage of you. If you forgive people all the time then you deserve to be treated like a doormat. People only respect someone they fear. If they know you will hit back as hard as they hit you, then they will leave you alone.
It’s kind of sneaky how it sneaks in.
But most of the time we don’t believe in the beatitudes.
Most of the time we believe the exact opposite.
Every time we praise someone for doing materialistically well, or even worse feel really pleased with ourselves because we are doing materialistically really well...
Every time we have pity for someone who is grieving and secretly give a wee prayer of thanks that it isn’t us...
Every time we get angry because we feel no one is listening to us and we boast about how we just phoned up someone and told them exactly what they should do...
Every time we want revenge for some hurt or slight that we have felt someone gave us...
Every time we feel one of these things we reveal what we really believe in.
I’m not getting at you.
The problem is that everyone believes it.
Blessed, happy are the rich, the powerful, the influencers, the proud, the trend setters, the attractive, the entitled.
And they should be happy because God has given them everything they have.
And the rest?
They should feel ashamed, they should be sad, they should be isolated, for we wouldn't want them to contaminate us.
You know what it is like.
It is like we have decided to read the Bible, but read the Bible with a pillowcase on our head.
Because we have a pillowcase on our head we aren’t actually able to read what the Bible says and understand it. We can’t see a thing, but for some reason we haven’t taken the pillowcase off.
So we have all these attitudes that we live by and we don’t question them.
The really sad thing is, that the person we hurt the most by these attitudes is ourselves. For when we are struggling we try to hide it from others, we are ashamed of what has happened to us.
When we are mourning we try to pretend that everything is fine, we don't want that feeling of others cutting themselves off from us, so we cut ourselves off from them.
When we want to be humble we force ourselves to be aggressive so people don't walk over us, and we feel so ashamed of what we do to others, so angry at ourselves.
When we are merciful we feel as if we have lost, that we have done something wrong.
And more than anything else, we feel that we have failed. That we are alone, that we are isolated, that no one cares.
In fact we might even believe that all this bad stuff is happening to us because no one cares. It might even be a sign that no one should care for us.
Jesus came to remove the pillowcase. Jesus came so that the blind could see.
And the greatest truth that people needed to see, the greatest truth that we need to see, is that God cares.
When we are down and out, God cares.
When we have a gapping whole in our heart that feels that it will never heal, God cares.
When we feel no one is listening, God cares.
When we feel overwhelmed, God cares.
When we try to do the right thing and it seem to backfire on us, God cares.
When you realise that everything you have is like sand slipping through your fingers, God cares.
In fact, if anything you can feel happy, because you realise that God has not abandoned us, he is with us and is willing to guide us.
We can feel blessed, because we realise the one thing we have is the one thing we need, God’s love, and strength, and peace.
We can feel rich, because what we have can’t be taxed or taken away from us, we have a relationship that is based on deep love, a relationship where God was willing to give all he had to help us.
And that gives us the one thing we can rely on.
We can’t rely on our riches, because they will run out.
We can’t rely on our strength, because it will fade.
We can’t rely on our power, because someone out there will always be more powerful.
Everything in this world will be taken away from us at some point, so we can’t rely on any of it.
And the more we try to rely on our stuff the more we will feel insecure and frightened and alone, because we will; be scared that someone else will try to take what we have away from us.
The only thing that can’t be taken away from us is God’s love, and every love that has been inspired by God.
The truth is, we are all like Matthew Davis, we spend too much time with a pillowcase on our head and trying to get riches that will not make us truly happy.
Until we take the pillowcase off our head we will always be blind, we will never see the true joy, contentment, true peace and happiness of accepting the care of a loving God.
Let’s take the pillowcase off.
We don’t need to stay blind, we don’t need to follow the lies.