Sermon 21~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 1

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: And  when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: For they shall be comforted.”

Matt. 5:1–4

poor in spirit

This is the first of thirteen discourses on the Sermon on the Mount, I am sure Wesley preached on it more than that because this is the crux of the social justice & holiness threads of Methodism.

This is the Methodism I experienced as a child, the love of God expressed not only in church but in the way the Northern women in two-up, two-downs lived and loved with each other. Eileen was sick, her fifth child was under two, her eldest causing chaos around the village at seventeen, her world was falling apart, her travelling salesman husband was beginning to see the lodger’s eyes in the fourth and fifth children. The lodger seemed more at home there than the husband. There were bruises and much walking into doors. The women of the street took over. The children were sheltered in neighbouring houses, the lodger moved in down the road and Eileen and her husband were given time to themselves and with the local Minister. The result some months later was an amicable separation and two years later Eileen married the lodger who adopted all the children and began helping the oldest rehabilitate after borstal and prison. The women met Eileen and her family not full of false piety, they met them in love, and there was accountability and consequences but most of all was LOVE.

Wesley talks of the poor in spirit not in earthly terms of poverty but as humble people who know they have sinned, know they have fallen short and cannot do anything in themselves to gain righteousness. The humble who fall at the foot of Cross knowing there is nothing they can DO to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and lay themselves naked before the Lord confessing their sin, repenting of their sin and receiving forgiveness (which they did not deserve) and stand with a slate wiped clean.

Still sound hoity toity! Let’s make it personal. I is a good word to start with. I fell at the foot of the Cross, I lay all my sins before Him, I confessed over many days my sins, I repented of them and I received forgiveness and I accepted that I had been forgiven and I can stand with a slate wiped clean. Christ in dying on the Cross atoned for MY sin, for my sin that was, is and still to come. He atoned for all our sin. Because it was needed, there was nothing we could do to get back the relationship that Abraham and Moses and the prophets had with God. There was a gaping hole, and there was nothing anyone could DO to bridge it – except… God himself came down to earth, where he lived as a man, he was fully a man whilst being fully divine, he taught and preached, he healed, he met people in dire circumstances – he touched a leper, he came to fulfil the Law, and we – humanity tortured, battered and bruised him, we laughed and scoffed at him and we drove nails through his body and hung him on a tree. But in dying on that Cross, making it look like the world and the devil had won. He snatched victory, the veil was torn and he died to atone for our sin. When he rose again and stayed in resurrected form for some time he continued to walk with his disciples a small while before ascending to heaven. Mission accomplished. Relationship restored, there was now a way for us into the Kingdom of Heaven, the door stays open for us – all we have to do is turn to him, turn to Christ and begin that process of life ever after which starts with a humble heart and one word SORRY.

Sermon Seventeen Humble, righteous and merciful

john                                          audio clip

Wesley’s second sermon based on Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount encompassed humility, righteousness and mercy.

He outlines who are the humble, the ones for whom pride and arrogance have no place in their heart. Humility is about relationship. The relationship we have with God and with fellow humans. Wesley says that we should have an attitude of mildness with fellow believers and of gentleness with non-believers.

We are able to be mild and gentle because we are given the ability by the Lord through his love. Once we have experienced his grace and mercy we hunger to share that grace and mercy and love throughout the world.

Humility begins in the heart and it equips us to avoid anger, avoid name calling even to the very mild Aramaic word “Raca.” Turn the other cheek, do not argue with someone else, settle disputes no matter what the personal cost to ourselves.

We must settle disputes, in families, in communities and in churches. Too often people are ready to be offended and offend. The death of a family member can cause a rift between people that lasts for generations and all it takes to stop it, is a handshake, a hug, the giving of a piece of land. God loves us so much, he sent his only Son that whoever cleaved to him would not perish and yet we get hung up over a piece of jewellery or a dresser or a sod of turf. We eagerly, as a society, love to be offended because then we can ride roughshod over the offender. How often is someone hailed as a celebrity one minute and then shot down in a hail of bullets the next?

The barrier of pride and arrogance, that sets us up as better than someone else have to come down. We don’t know their story, we don’t walk in their shoes. We cannot say that this person is righteous and this person isn’t because we can’t see in the hearts of those people. Likewise we cannot present ourselves to the world as humble or righteous or merciful. Our actions must go before us.

One by one people are coming to know Christ because of the lives we lead, not our rhetoric from the pulpit, or our bible knowledge but the way we live authentic lives in Christ. And the lives we lead are a gift from God, we are invisible stepping stones pointing to Christ.

Righteousness is doing what God requires of us. It begins and ends with the love of God, his love for us and our response, our love for him and the love he has for all humans and the love we have for everyone too because first he loved.

We desire to do what is pleasing to the Lord, it doesn’t matter if we sing off key or we stutter over our words as long as the heart is singing and speaking. We hunger and thirst the Lord like a newborn baby thirst and hungers for milk. We long for our spiritual appetites to be filled. We yearn to spend time with the Lord and read his word and communicate with the Living God. And we pray that we never lose this urge and desire that we are always hungering and thirsting after more of Him.

The mercy that God gifts us makes us acutely aware of how many people do not know the Lord. We are tender-hearted and compassionate of those who are not yet believers and we grieve for them because we love them so.

Wesley in his third section uses the great “love” passage from 1 Corinthians again, which has been written about in previous posts.

He ends with a blistering attack on church, all churches not only the RC church but the reformed too. How churches love for another one to be in trouble and rush to mock the afflicted.

But his last few words – May your soul continually overflow with love, swallowing up every evil thought until the day when he calls you to heaven, to the kingdom of love, there to reign with him forever.