Two for the Price of One


Keith McFarren


February 17, 2019


Luke 6:17-26


 


 


 


 


     Did you watch the Super Bowl a couple of weeks back?  Terrible game.  Boring game.  Sixteen total points scored in the whole game – the lowest in Super Bowl History.  It was 3 – 0 at halftime – the second lowest score in Super Bowl history.  The first half was bad; the second half was bad; and the halftime show?  It was worse than the game!!


      I think the best part of the game was watching all players and the media and the security rush onto the field after the game was over.  And there in the middle of it all, being pushed this way and that way was Tracy Wolfson, a petite female reporter for CBS trying to get an interview with the winning quarterback Tom Brady.  If I were Tracy Wolfson I would have feared for my life because it looked like she was nothing more than a pin ball getting pushed all over the place by the players and the media and was about to be swallowed alive by an out of control mass of humanity coming at her from all sides.


     I read somewhere that Wolfson said that the whole thing was exciting and euphoric and that as a reporter, there was no place else she would rather be.


     Maybe that’s how Jesus felt that day as he was being surrounded by a vast array of people from all over the region.  As he looked out among them he could see that some of them were his disciples, some were his faithful followers, and others were people who had just heard about him and decided to join the crowd to see what he had to offer and to learn a little more about him.  And as always there were others, perhaps Pharisees, who wanted nothing to do with him because he violated their values and beliefs.


     Google word search defines the word “crowd” as “a large number of people gathered together in a disorganized or unruly way…leaving little or no room for movement.”  Luke chooses to use the word “crowd” in describing all of the people there that day and to Jesus this was nothing new because he was used to being around a crowd everywhere he went. 


    


      But this was not an ordinary crowd.  They weren’t angry or unruly people.  They weren’t pushing one another aside like the reporters at the Super Bowl did.  This was an expectant crowd, a crowd full of anticipation because they knew that Jesus had healed others and all they had to do was believe in him and touch him and they could be made whole. 


     Despite being the son of God and despite all that spiritual power and energy that could have allowed him to place himself high above the rest of the world on a pedestal, Luke tells us that Jesus came down to a level place that day and stood with the people. 


     Jesus stood with them for no other reason than to show them that he wasn’t above the people, but he was just like them.  He came down to their level so that he could maintain eye contact and look out and see who was in the crowd and to see the sadness in their eyes and the weariness on their faces.  He could sense their expectations, their wants and their needs, their hopes and their dreams…all of which allowed him to respond with grace and compassion.   


     A couple of weeks ago Jesus kicked off his ministry in his own synagogue and things didn’t go so well.  As far as Jesus was concerned things went well because he clearly and forcefully spoke the truth about the coming of God kingdom…it’s just that the people in the congregation didn’t like what he said and tried to kill him.


     Today, as he preaches the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus knows who is in the crowd.  There are those who believe in him, there are those that aren’t sure about him and there are people like the people in his own synagogue – people who don’t believe in him or his ministry or anything he says.  With all these different people gathered around him and watching him he preaches two mini sermons combined into one.  Two mini-sermons directed at two different groups of people.


     It’s been said that “Every sermon ought to be aimed.  Have some listener or group of listeners in mind as you preach.  Only then will people receive your sermon as a word addressed to them” (William H. Willimon, wwwministrymatters.com/pulpit-resource-february-17-2019).  So I wonder…as Jesus preaches his two mini-sermons which sermon will be of greatest interest to you.


    


     “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is given to you.”  Most of the world in which we live is designed for the rich…helping the rich get richer and seemingly the poor get poorer.  But there is good news!  In God’s kingdom it will be just the opposite. Jesus says that those whom the world has made poor and intends to keep poor, through its taxes and legal structures and various systems of punishment and racism and prejudices and put-downs will be rich.


     “God blesses those who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.”  How fortunate are those of you who are hungry.  While you may be hungry now, take heart because with the coming of God’s kingdom, you will be full and you will be satisfied.  There will be more than enough food and there will be more than enough opportunities for your future instead of the broken promises and opportunities you were faced with in the past.  God has a special place in his kingdom for all of you who were sent away hungry and unfulfilled.


     “God blesses you who weep now, for you will laugh with joy.”  Your tears will turn to laughter.  With the coming of God’s Kingdom all of the bad news and troubles you have received in your lifetime because of who you are and because of you being considered an outcast will pale in comparison to the joy and the laughter God will give you.


     “God blesses those who are hated and excluded and made fun of and cursed because you have followed me.”  If you have been punished because of your faith in Jesus, if you have ever been laughed at or put down, or left out, or shunned or disrespected because you follow Jesus, a great reward awaits you in heaven.


     That’s the end of Jesus’ first sermon.  Was he talking to you?  Did you hear this sermon as good news to you and the way life has been to you?


 


     Sermon number two.  Jesus changes his voice from one of compassion and reassurance to one we don’t often hear in United Methodist Churches.  His voice suddenly sounds accusatory, harsh and judgmental.


     “What sorrows await you who are rich, for you have only happiness now.”  Bad news for all of you who base your life on possessions…on having a lot of stuff.  You had the best and the most of everything.  You have whatever your heart desired.  You take great pride in your possessions.  They made you feel safe and secure and successful.  You have received the best that this world has to offer…but know that your day is coming and they will be worthless.


     “What sorrows await you who are satisfied and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you.”  Those of you who have always cared about your own wellbeing and never cared about others, will soon find yourself having the least.  For the first time in your life, or at least in a long, long time, you will feel emptiness, and hunger and a sense of void in your heart.


     “Nothing but sorrow awaits you who laugh at others, because your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.”  It doesn’t look good for those of you who place yourself above others because of your successes and your accomplishment and your notoriety.  No longer will you look down upon others from the pedestal you’ve placed yourself upon.  No longer will you be content and well satisfied.  The laughter of the fool is the laughter of one who is unaware and unconcerned about the priorities of God’s kingdom


     “What sorrows await those of you who have lived only for yourselves, only wanting and waiting for praise from others.”  Those of you who are self-centered and love to receive the praise and admiration of others are about to find out how the other half lives.  You’re about to find out that the praise and admiration you receive from the world around you is only a testimony to the ways you have compromised your beliefs and taken advantage of others and sold yourself out to the world around you.


     That’s the end of sermon number two. 


 


     Jesus gives us two sermons for the price of one.  A sermon for the poor and a sermon for those who care more about themselves than others..  Maybe one of them hit home with you.  Maybe one sermon gave some of you a sense of relief, while the other sermon made some of you squirm a little bit.


     Someone once said that sometimes the difference between good news and bad news is where you happen to be in life, what your life situation is when you get the news.  Maybe that’s why the first sermon might sound like good news to some of us, while the second sermon is full of bad news…for some of us.       


     If life is all about you and your accomplishments and you feel proud and content and satisfied and care only about yourself…then maybe one of these sermons wasn’t what you wanted to hear this morning.  But on the other hand, if you’re down in the dumps because of the way the world and it’s people have been treating you and you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders this morning, if you seem to have lost all hope because of your situation in life and it seems as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then this may end up being one of the best sermons you’ve heard in a long, long time…because Jesus says there is hope out there on the horizon for people just like you.  For some of us Jesus’ sermon is just what you need; for others of us, the news isn’t good.


 


     Four promises and four warnings, four blessings and four curses, all based on the long list of blessings and warnings found in the book of Deuteronomy and today, Jesus gives us his version of those Old Testament blessings and warnings. 


     The beatitudes are meant to be acted upon.  They declare God’s favor of the poor, the hungry, those who shed tears and those who are social outcasts and hated by the world.  He comes right out and tells us that God’s kingdom is for the economically poor and the poor in spirit.  It is not only for those who are physically hungry but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  At the same time, the woes or the warnings that Jesus gives declare that those who are the self-serving, high and mighty people of the world, those that judge others, even though you’ve never walked a mile in anyone else’s shoes but your own, will someday be judged for the things you’ve said and how you’ve treated other people…and how terrible that will be. 


 


     Today we find ourselves not in a huge, massive almost out of control crowd like Tracy Wolfson did at the Super Bowl, nor do we find ourselves in a crowd like the one that surrounded Jesus.  Today we find ourselves singled out, all by ourselves, one on one with Jesus as he presents each of us with two mini-sermons in one; sermons that are meant to open our eyes.  


     The totality of Jesus’ sermon serves as a double edged sword.  What is a blessing and promise to the poor, at the same time is a pronouncement of judgment and woe to all those who put themselves first above all others and reject the values of God.    


 


     Jesus’ teachings are scandalous in nature because they overturn every conventional expectation.  His teachings are scandalous because we are called to live a life that is just the opposite of the ways the world uses.  The world only sees blessings in the things that are materialistic in nature, things that are ornate by design, things that are signified by status, things that are accepted or approved by society. 


     But God’s blessings are based on his grace.  He blesses those who society marginalizes, those that are oppressed.  His intent is to liberate the captive, to heal the sick and empower the poor and the weak.  His goal is to lift up the lowest of the low and to radically transform the economic, political and social systems of the world.  For these people, the kingdom of God awaits.


     But know also that God’s kingdom and God’s blessing is just not for the poor.  Know that God offers his blessing to anyone, including the self-serving, fault finding rich, who come to see the wrongness in their lives and want to depend upon God for the goodness in their lives rather than all that they have so selfishly worshiped.  God offers his blessing and forgiveness to those who come to him with a repentant heart…those who have seen that self-centeredness and greed and pride are wrong and want to give it all up and depend on God and care for God’s people.


 


     If you live the way of the world you have to abandon all the values of Jesus, and the values of the Kingdom of God.  If you live the way of God’s kingdom you have to abandon all the pleasures and values of the world in which we live.  Will you concentrate on the world’s pleasures and rewards or will you concentrate on what Jesus has to offer? The challenge of the beatitudes is this:  Do you want to be temporarily happy with what the world has to offer or do you want to be eternally happy in the kingdom of God?


Two for the Price of One


Keith McFarren


February 17, 2019


Luke 6:17-26


 


 


 


 


     Did you watch the Super Bowl a couple of weeks back?  Terrible game.  Boring game.  Sixteen total points scored in the whole game – the lowest in Super Bowl History.  It was 3 – 0 at halftime – the second lowest score in Super Bowl history.  The first half was bad; the second half was bad; and the halftime show?  It was worse than the game!!


      I think the best part of the game was watching all players and the media and the security rush onto the field after the game was over.  And there in the middle of it all, being pushed this way and that way was Tracy Wolfson, a petite female reporter for CBS trying to get an interview with the winning quarterback Tom Brady.  If I were Tracy Wolfson I would have feared for my life because it looked like she was nothing more than a pin ball getting pushed all over the place by the players and the media and was about to be swallowed alive by an out of control mass of humanity coming at her from all sides.


     I read somewhere that Wolfson said that the whole thing was exciting and euphoric and that as a reporter, there was no place else she would rather be.


     Maybe that’s how Jesus felt that day as he was being surrounded by a vast array of people from all over the region.  As he looked out among them he could see that some of them were his disciples, some were his faithful followers, and others were people who had just heard about him and decided to join the crowd to see what he had to offer and to learn a little more about him.  And as always there were others, perhaps Pharisees, who wanted nothing to do with him because he violated their values and beliefs.


     Google word search defines the word “crowd” as “a large number of people gathered together in a disorganized or unruly way…leaving little or no room for movement.”  Luke chooses to use the word “crowd” in describing all of the people there that day and to Jesus this was nothing new because he was used to being around a crowd everywhere he went. 


    


      But this was not an ordinary crowd.  They weren’t angry or unruly people.  They weren’t pushing one another aside like the reporters at the Super Bowl did.  This was an expectant crowd, a crowd full of anticipation because they knew that Jesus had healed others and all they had to do was believe in him and touch him and they could be made whole. 


     Despite being the son of God and despite all that spiritual power and energy that could have allowed him to place himself high above the rest of the world on a pedestal, Luke tells us that Jesus came down to a level place that day and stood with the people. 


     Jesus stood with them for no other reason than to show them that he wasn’t above the people, but he was just like them.  He came down to their level so that he could maintain eye contact and look out and see who was in the crowd and to see the sadness in their eyes and the weariness on their faces.  He could sense their expectations, their wants and their needs, their hopes and their dreams…all of which allowed him to respond with grace and compassion.   


     A couple of weeks ago Jesus kicked off his ministry in his own synagogue and things didn’t go so well.  As far as Jesus was concerned things went well because he clearly and forcefully spoke the truth about the coming of God kingdom…it’s just that the people in the congregation didn’t like what he said and tried to kill him.


     Today, as he preaches the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus knows who is in the crowd.  There are those who believe in him, there are those that aren’t sure about him and there are people like the people in his own synagogue – people who don’t believe in him or his ministry or anything he says.  With all these different people gathered around him and watching him he preaches two mini sermons combined into one.  Two mini-sermons directed at two different groups of people.


     It’s been said that “Every sermon ought to be aimed.  Have some listener or group of listeners in mind as you preach.  Only then will people receive your sermon as a word addressed to them” (William H. Willimon, wwwministrymatters.com/pulpit-resource-february-17-2019).  So I wonder…as Jesus preaches his two mini-sermons which sermon will be of greatest interest to you.


    


     “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is given to you.”  Most of the world in which we live is designed for the rich…helping the rich get richer and seemingly the poor get poorer.  But there is good news!  In God’s kingdom it will be just the opposite. Jesus says that those whom the world has made poor and intends to keep poor, through its taxes and legal structures and various systems of punishment and racism and prejudices and put-downs will be rich.


     “God blesses those who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.”  How fortunate are those of you who are hungry.  While you may be hungry now, take heart because with the coming of God’s kingdom, you will be full and you will be satisfied.  There will be more than enough food and there will be more than enough opportunities for your future instead of the broken promises and opportunities you were faced with in the past.  God has a special place in his kingdom for all of you who were sent away hungry and unfulfilled.


     “God blesses you who weep now, for you will laugh with joy.”  Your tears will turn to laughter.  With the coming of God’s Kingdom all of the bad news and troubles you have received in your lifetime because of who you are and because of you being considered an outcast will pale in comparison to the joy and the laughter God will give you.


     “God blesses those who are hated and excluded and made fun of and cursed because you have followed me.”  If you have been punished because of your faith in Jesus, if you have ever been laughed at or put down, or left out, or shunned or disrespected because you follow Jesus, a great reward awaits you in heaven.


     That’s the end of Jesus’ first sermon.  Was he talking to you?  Did you hear this sermon as good news to you and the way life has been to you?


 


     Sermon number two.  Jesus changes his voice from one of compassion and reassurance to one we don’t often hear in United Methodist Churches.  His voice suddenly sounds accusatory, harsh and judgmental.


     “What sorrows await you who are rich, for you have only happiness now.”  Bad news for all of you who base your life on possessions…on having a lot of stuff.  You had the best and the most of everything.  You have whatever your heart desired.  You take great pride in your possessions.  They made you feel safe and secure and successful.  You have received the best that this world has to offer…but know that your day is coming and they will be worthless.


     “What sorrows await you who are satisfied and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you.”  Those of you who have always cared about your own wellbeing and never cared about others, will soon find yourself having the least.  For the first time in your life, or at least in a long, long time, you will feel emptiness, and hunger and a sense of void in your heart.


     “Nothing but sorrow awaits you who laugh at others, because your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.”  It doesn’t look good for those of you who place yourself above others because of your successes and your accomplishment and your notoriety.  No longer will you look down upon others from the pedestal you’ve placed yourself upon.  No longer will you be content and well satisfied.  The laughter of the fool is the laughter of one who is unaware and unconcerned about the priorities of God’s kingdom


     “What sorrows await those of you who have lived only for yourselves, only wanting and waiting for praise from others.”  Those of you who are self-centered and love to receive the praise and admiration of others are about to find out how the other half lives.  You’re about to find out that the praise and admiration you receive from the world around you is only a testimony to the ways you have compromised your beliefs and taken advantage of others and sold yourself out to the world around you.


     That’s the end of sermon number two. 


 


     Jesus gives us two sermons for the price of one.  A sermon for the poor and a sermon for those who care more about themselves than others..  Maybe one of them hit home with you.  Maybe one sermon gave some of you a sense of relief, while the other sermon made some of you squirm a little bit.


     Someone once said that sometimes the difference between good news and bad news is where you happen to be in life, what your life situation is when you get the news.  Maybe that’s why the first sermon might sound like good news to some of us, while the second sermon is full of bad news…for some of us.       


     If life is all about you and your accomplishments and you feel proud and content and satisfied and care only about yourself…then maybe one of these sermons wasn’t what you wanted to hear this morning.  But on the other hand, if you’re down in the dumps because of the way the world and it’s people have been treating you and you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders this morning, if you seem to have lost all hope because of your situation in life and it seems as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then this may end up being one of the best sermons you’ve heard in a long, long time…because Jesus says there is hope out there on the horizon for people just like you.  For some of us Jesus’ sermon is just what you need; for others of us, the news isn’t good.


 


     Four promises and four warnings, four blessings and four curses, all based on the long list of blessings and warnings found in the book of Deuteronomy and today, Jesus gives us his version of those Old Testament blessings and warnings. 


     The beatitudes are meant to be acted upon.  They declare God’s favor of the poor, the hungry, those who shed tears and those who are social outcasts and hated by the world.  He comes right out and tells us that God’s kingdom is for the economically poor and the poor in spirit.  It is not only for those who are physically hungry but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  At the same time, the woes or the warnings that Jesus gives declare that those who are the self-serving, high and mighty people of the world, those that judge others, even though you’ve never walked a mile in anyone else’s shoes but your own, will someday be judged for the things you’ve said and how you’ve treated other people…and how terrible that will be. 


 


     Today we find ourselves not in a huge, massive almost out of control crowd like Tracy Wolfson did at the Super Bowl, nor do we find ourselves in a crowd like the one that surrounded Jesus.  Today we find ourselves singled out, all by ourselves, one on one with Jesus as he presents each of us with two mini-sermons in one; sermons that are meant to open our eyes.  


     The totality of Jesus’ sermon serves as a double edged sword.  What is a blessing and promise to the poor, at the same time is a pronouncement of judgment and woe to all those who put themselves first above all others and reject the values of God.    


 


     Jesus’ teachings are scandalous in nature because they overturn every conventional expectation.  His teachings are scandalous because we are called to live a life that is just the opposite of the ways the world uses.  The world only sees blessings in the things that are materialistic in nature, things that are ornate by design, things that are signified by status, things that are accepted or approved by society. 


     But God’s blessings are based on his grace.  He blesses those who society marginalizes, those that are oppressed.  His intent is to liberate the captive, to heal the sick and empower the poor and the weak.  His goal is to lift up the lowest of the low and to radically transform the economic, political and social systems of the world.  For these people, the kingdom of God awaits.


     But know also that God’s kingdom and God’s blessing is just not for the poor.  Know that God offers his blessing to anyone, including the self-serving, fault finding rich, who come to see the wrongness in their lives and want to depend upon God for the goodness in their lives rather than all that they have so selfishly worshiped.  God offers his blessing and forgiveness to those who come to him with a repentant heart…those who have seen that self-centeredness and greed and pride are wrong and want to give it all up and depend on God and care for God’s people.


 


     If you live the way of the world you have to abandon all the values of Jesus, and the values of the Kingdom of God.  If you live the way of God’s kingdom you have to abandon all the pleasures and values of the world in which we live.  Will you concentrate on the world’s pleasures and rewards or will you concentrate on what Jesus has to offer? The challenge of the beatitudes is this:  Do you want to be temporarily happy with what the world has to offer or do you want to be eternally happy in the kingdom of God?


Two for the Price of One


Keith McFarren


February 17, 2019


Luke 6:17-26


 


 


 


 


     Did you watch the Super Bowl a couple of weeks back?  Terrible game.  Boring game.  Sixteen total points scored in the whole game – the lowest in Super Bowl History.  It was 3 – 0 at halftime – the second lowest score in Super Bowl history.  The first half was bad; the second half was bad; and the halftime show?  It was worse than the game!!


      I think the best part of the game was watching all players and the media and the security rush onto the field after the game was over.  And there in the middle of it all, being pushed this way and that way was Tracy Wolfson, a petite female reporter for CBS trying to get an interview with the winning quarterback Tom Brady.  If I were Tracy Wolfson I would have feared for my life because it looked like she was nothing more than a pin ball getting pushed all over the place by the players and the media and was about to be swallowed alive by an out of control mass of humanity coming at her from all sides.


     I read somewhere that Wolfson said that the whole thing was exciting and euphoric and that as a reporter, there was no place else she would rather be.


     Maybe that’s how Jesus felt that day as he was being surrounded by a vast array of people from all over the region.  As he looked out among them he could see that some of them were his disciples, some were his faithful followers, and others were people who had just heard about him and decided to join the crowd to see what he had to offer and to learn a little more about him.  And as always there were others, perhaps Pharisees, who wanted nothing to do with him because he violated their values and beliefs.


     Google word search defines the word “crowd” as “a large number of people gathered together in a disorganized or unruly way…leaving little or no room for movement.”  Luke chooses to use the word “crowd” in describing all of the people there that day and to Jesus this was nothing new because he was used to being around a crowd everywhere he went. 


    


      But this was not an ordinary crowd.  They weren’t angry or unruly people.  They weren’t pushing one another aside like the reporters at the Super Bowl did.  This was an expectant crowd, a crowd full of anticipation because they knew that Jesus had healed others and all they had to do was believe in him and touch him and they could be made whole. 


     Despite being the son of God and despite all that spiritual power and energy that could have allowed him to place himself high above the rest of the world on a pedestal, Luke tells us that Jesus came down to a level place that day and stood with the people. 


     Jesus stood with them for no other reason than to show them that he wasn’t above the people, but he was just like them.  He came down to their level so that he could maintain eye contact and look out and see who was in the crowd and to see the sadness in their eyes and the weariness on their faces.  He could sense their expectations, their wants and their needs, their hopes and their dreams…all of which allowed him to respond with grace and compassion.   


     A couple of weeks ago Jesus kicked off his ministry in his own synagogue and things didn’t go so well.  As far as Jesus was concerned things went well because he clearly and forcefully spoke the truth about the coming of God kingdom…it’s just that the people in the congregation didn’t like what he said and tried to kill him.


     Today, as he preaches the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus knows who is in the crowd.  There are those who believe in him, there are those that aren’t sure about him and there are people like the people in his own synagogue – people who don’t believe in him or his ministry or anything he says.  With all these different people gathered around him and watching him he preaches two mini sermons combined into one.  Two mini-sermons directed at two different groups of people.


     It’s been said that “Every sermon ought to be aimed.  Have some listener or group of listeners in mind as you preach.  Only then will people receive your sermon as a word addressed to them” (William H. Willimon, wwwministrymatters.com/pulpit-resource-february-17-2019).  So I wonder…as Jesus preaches his two mini-sermons which sermon will be of greatest interest to you.


    


     “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is given to you.”  Most of the world in which we live is designed for the rich…helping the rich get richer and seemingly the poor get poorer.  But there is good news!  In God’s kingdom it will be just the opposite. Jesus says that those whom the world has made poor and intends to keep poor, through its taxes and legal structures and various systems of punishment and racism and prejudices and put-downs will be rich.


     “God blesses those who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.”  How fortunate are those of you who are hungry.  While you may be hungry now, take heart because with the coming of God’s kingdom, you will be full and you will be satisfied.  There will be more than enough food and there will be more than enough opportunities for your future instead of the broken promises and opportunities you were faced with in the past.  God has a special place in his kingdom for all of you who were sent away hungry and unfulfilled.


     “God blesses you who weep now, for you will laugh with joy.”  Your tears will turn to laughter.  With the coming of God’s Kingdom all of the bad news and troubles you have received in your lifetime because of who you are and because of you being considered an outcast will pale in comparison to the joy and the laughter God will give you.


     “God blesses those who are hated and excluded and made fun of and cursed because you have followed me.”  If you have been punished because of your faith in Jesus, if you have ever been laughed at or put down, or left out, or shunned or disrespected because you follow Jesus, a great reward awaits you in heaven.


     That’s the end of Jesus’ first sermon.  Was he talking to you?  Did you hear this sermon as good news to you and the way life has been to you?


 


     Sermon number two.  Jesus changes his voice from one of compassion and reassurance to one we don’t often hear in United Methodist Churches.  His voice suddenly sounds accusatory, harsh and judgmental.


     “What sorrows await you who are rich, for you have only happiness now.”  Bad news for all of you who base your life on possessions…on having a lot of stuff.  You had the best and the most of everything.  You have whatever your heart desired.  You take great pride in your possessions.  They made you feel safe and secure and successful.  You have received the best that this world has to offer…but know that your day is coming and they will be worthless.


     “What sorrows await you who are satisfied and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you.”  Those of you who have always cared about your own wellbeing and never cared about others, will soon find yourself having the least.  For the first time in your life, or at least in a long, long time, you will feel emptiness, and hunger and a sense of void in your heart.


     “Nothing but sorrow awaits you who laugh at others, because your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.”  It doesn’t look good for those of you who place yourself above others because of your successes and your accomplishment and your notoriety.  No longer will you look down upon others from the pedestal you’ve placed yourself upon.  No longer will you be content and well satisfied.  The laughter of the fool is the laughter of one who is unaware and unconcerned about the priorities of God’s kingdom


     “What sorrows await those of you who have lived only for yourselves, only wanting and waiting for praise from others.”  Those of you who are self-centered and love to receive the praise and admiration of others are about to find out how the other half lives.  You’re about to find out that the praise and admiration you receive from the world around you is only a testimony to the ways you have compromised your beliefs and taken advantage of others and sold yourself out to the world around you.


     That’s the end of sermon number two. 


 


     Jesus gives us two sermons for the price of one.  A sermon for the poor and a sermon for those who care more about themselves than others..  Maybe one of them hit home with you.  Maybe one sermon gave some of you a sense of relief, while the other sermon made some of you squirm a little bit.


     Someone once said that sometimes the difference between good news and bad news is where you happen to be in life, what your life situation is when you get the news.  Maybe that’s why the first sermon might sound like good news to some of us, while the second sermon is full of bad news…for some of us.       


     If life is all about you and your accomplishments and you feel proud and content and satisfied and care only about yourself…then maybe one of these sermons wasn’t what you wanted to hear this morning.  But on the other hand, if you’re down in the dumps because of the way the world and it’s people have been treating you and you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders this morning, if you seem to have lost all hope because of your situation in life and it seems as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then this may end up being one of the best sermons you’ve heard in a long, long time…because Jesus says there is hope out there on the horizon for people just like you.  For some of us Jesus’ sermon is just what you need; for others of us, the news isn’t good.


 


     Four promises and four warnings, four blessings and four curses, all based on the long list of blessings and warnings found in the book of Deuteronomy and today, Jesus gives us his version of those Old Testament blessings and warnings. 


     The beatitudes are meant to be acted upon.  They declare God’s favor of the poor, the hungry, those who shed tears and those who are social outcasts and hated by the world.  He comes right out and tells us that God’s kingdom is for the economically poor and the poor in spirit.  It is not only for those who are physically hungry but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  At the same time, the woes or the warnings that Jesus gives declare that those who are the self-serving, high and mighty people of the world, those that judge others, even though you’ve never walked a mile in anyone else’s shoes but your own, will someday be judged for the things you’ve said and how you’ve treated other people…and how terrible that will be. 


 


     Today we find ourselves not in a huge, massive almost out of control crowd like Tracy Wolfson did at the Super Bowl, nor do we find ourselves in a crowd like the one that surrounded Jesus.  Today we find ourselves singled out, all by ourselves, one on one with Jesus as he presents each of us with two mini-sermons in one; sermons that are meant to open our eyes.  


     The totality of Jesus’ sermon serves as a double edged sword.  What is a blessing and promise to the poor, at the same time is a pronouncement of judgment and woe to all those who put themselves first above all others and reject the values of God.    


 


     Jesus’ teachings are scandalous in nature because they overturn every conventional expectation.  His teachings are scandalous because we are called to live a life that is just the opposite of the ways the world uses.  The world only sees blessings in the things that are materialistic in nature, things that are ornate by design, things that are signified by status, things that are accepted or approved by society. 


     But God’s blessings are based on his grace.  He blesses those who society marginalizes, those that are oppressed.  His intent is to liberate the captive, to heal the sick and empower the poor and the weak.  His goal is to lift up the lowest of the low and to radically transform the economic, political and social systems of the world.  For these people, the kingdom of God awaits.


     But know also that God’s kingdom and God’s blessing is just not for the poor.  Know that God offers his blessing to anyone, including the self-serving, fault finding rich, who come to see the wrongness in their lives and want to depend upon God for the goodness in their lives rather than all that they have so selfishly worshiped.  God offers his blessing and forgiveness to those who come to him with a repentant heart…those who have seen that self-centeredness and greed and pride are wrong and want to give it all up and depend on God and care for God’s people.


 


     If you live the way of the world you have to abandon all the values of Jesus, and the values of the Kingdom of God.  If you live the way of God’s kingdom you have to abandon all the pleasures and values of the world in which we live.  Will you concentrate on the world’s pleasures and rewards or will you concentrate on what Jesus has to offer? The challenge of the beatitudes is this:  Do you want to be temporarily happy with what the world has to offer or do you want to be eternally happy in the kingdom of God?