Matthew 5:1-12, Revelation 7:9-17
God sees things in an entirely different way from how we see things.
Well of course, you may be thinking, of course, God is God. We are not. We can’t see everything going on, everyone’s thoughts everyone’s secret desires, can’t see the future or beyond our own experience.
That’s true but that’s not what I mean.
God put this message on my heart the other day. Maybe I have been watching too much political coverage. But still I think this is from God, I really wanted a short sweet message because we have so much else in this service today but I took time to listen and that’s what I get.
I have to put it in a little context: I read one of those in- depth news articles this week that takes a longer view of what’s going on in our world or country. It was about how politicians weaponize masculinity. By that they mean, I think, taking some traits traditionally considered masculine and hyper exaggerating them to the extreme, almost worshiping them, exalting them and refusing to criticize anything in that vein. It means that a politician in this case, although you don’t have to be a politician to do it- never wants to be perceived as weak or vulnerable, but always strong, not just strong but super strong. Never needs to take other people’s viewpoints into account because he is always right. Will crush someone in the way rather than trying to talk things out or come to a consensus or even a compromise. And quote unquote feminine is the label for anything less than total domination, control and force. Listening to others is feminine, caring is feminine, anything that makes you vulnerable to hurt. and in this way of thinking and living, masculine is good and feminine is bad. And the way this is being carried out in our country, and not just by one person, and not just by men but by women too- not just one political party either (although yes more extreme in one) well it hurt my heart to think about it.
Because the witness of the Bible overall is that that is not the way God sees things. This way that so many lift up and seem to worship is so so far from what God wants for us. And yes I know there are passages in the Bible where God leads people into battle and all that. But that is not the only viewpoint in the Old Testament. I was again meditating as I do most weeks on that verse from Psalm 46. Be still and know that I am God, or let go and know that I am God. The context of that verse is when God tells the people to basically put down their weapons. God’s going to take care of it for them. Let go of all your fighting instincts- know I am God.
And then as Christians we claim that Jesus is the most clear, most complete revelation of God there is. And Jesus was what people who exalt weaponized masculinity would call feminine. No I’m not calling Jesus a girl. What they would call feminine: He was the loser, he got crucified by the hyper masculine Roman empire. Jesus cared about people. He gathered children in his arms. He would ask people who came to him, what they needed instead of making assumptions about them. He listened to women. He listened to people.
But before all of that, as he was first getting started with his ministry he had crowds around him one day and he said to them- you may be really down about how awful things are under the Roman empire- but God sees you happy- because you are on the side of life not death. This Kingdom I am bringing, it is yours because you already know these ways of looking out for one another and lifting up the lowly one. Jesus can say, God calls you happy, or- blessed are you, because Jesus is seeing this way that God sees. Jesus is God- God’s way is that way, never being the one crushing, always the one being crushed but still making a way.
Happy are you when you grieve- which totally makes no sense in our culture today when we want to put away the grief as soon as possible and carry on like nothing happened- and we have so much to grieve brothers and sisters. 230,000 of our fellow americans dead because of this virus and knowing it didn’t have to be that many?! The relentlessness of this virus. And others we have lost not to coronavirus but other causes but for most of this year we could not have the regular rites and ceremonies and gatherings like we would to help us even that much with our grief. And EVERYTHING else the coronavirus has taken from us. We have all this to grieve. Happy are we? These things Jesus is saying to the people just do not make sense when you worship a weaponized masculinity and a god that reflects that image. If you grieve, you must be weak.
But God sees things differently. You have lost so much, and you acknowledge that pain. You keep loving even though the person you loved has passed on and you can’t feel them love you back. That is the way that is God’s way, so you will be made glad.
Happy, or blessed, are those who are humble, who are meek- again direct contrast with weaponized masculinity. The whole earth will be your inheritance
Happy or blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for justice. Those people around Jesus were hungering for some justice. For the food that they brought forth from the earth to go into their children’s mouths instead of the roman soldiers’. To not live under a twisted justice system that would crucify you for proclaiming God wants a different way. Because Jesus was not the first nor the last crucified, and who really deserves such an awful tortuous death? And so I can imagine many were crucified for light offenses, killed for not being compliant enough with the way the Romans wanted things to be. To be a warning to others to fall in line.
There are people hungering and thirsting for justice these days- many of them protest in the streets for how their friends and loved ones are executed without due process that is meant to be theirs under the law. I know in some instances those protests get to the point of violence and I don’t endorse violence in any direction, that part gets complicated but my point is, I see a tight kinship between those protesting the taking of lives by the police that are supposed to serve and protect them, and those crowds gathered around Jesus. They are mourning, they are crying out for justice. Jesus calls them blessed. They know the way he has come to teach.
Those who show mercy, those with pure hurts- not selfish intentions; those who make peace- blessed and happy are they, Jesus says. These are the traits of the bringers of God’s kingdom.
And so they can come and persecute and insult and libel falsely -call names- but God is going to take that and turn it all around in this upside down kingdom. In All of these phrases Jesus shows, how God sees things, the upside down from this world values of God’s realm.
And then in Revelation, the revealing of how God sees to John of Patmos, John has a vision. A beautiful scene. I will confess I never liked this image of washing a robe in blood. I never got it, and I think it was God who helped me get it the other day. Jesus was as I said, according to the romans, according to those who want to line everything up according to just how much you crush others, the loser. The one they got, the one they crushed. They killed him, got rid of him. Of course he would come back, he would be resurrected. But for that great crowd of saints, followers, adapters of this way of Jesus, from every tribe and nation, washing their robe in the blood of the Lamb means that they have chosen to side with this feminine, quote unquote feminine, loser, vulnerable side. They chose that way, God’s way. And so they get to be a part of the great party where there is no more hardship of any kind. Just joy just peace, just the pure presence of God. And while I do agree this is a vision for the end times, like with so much, it’s not just that. It’s also showing us the other side of the reality we live in.
In other words, it’s worth it. It’s worth it to keep choosing the way of being humble, of trying for justice, to keep trying to live out a life of sharing and tending to life in every way you can, because it turns out that’s the way to truly be near God. It’s worth it -and not just in some far- off future, but here and now also. Jesus did not say, you will be blessed when this is all over- no, you Are Blessed. Here and now.
Be still and know that I am God- and God was saying to me, this way that is the opposite of what people think of as strong and of wining and good and right- this way that is my way, is not just for the next life, it is -since God is God and God is creator- it is the very undergirding of the entire universe.
Today is a day for remembering and honoring those who have passed. But it is not just that. It is a celebration of their lives, and how they are made holy because of Jesus in their hearts, and every way they ever chose a kind word instead of a harsh one, every time they chose to share instead of hoard, every time they cried with frustration and then got up to try again. All the ways they loved. All the ways they were holy, and lived this way that is God’s way, these values of God’s realm. No I am not saying they were perfect, we all fail and many of us pretty often.
But remembering them before God, we are encouraged to try to see again as gGd sees, to live the way that is God’s way, that Jesus was revealing and the prophets and psalmists before him and the one who shared this vision of revelation and so many others since. The way of giving yourself away, of listening before speaking, not seeking to crush but to lift up.
Jesus has told us it’s worth it, that this is the way that is blessed. May we continue in his way, Amen.