Nonnegotiable: Matt. 5:1-12
#Nonnegotiable is the Podcast for January 29, 2017. The Beatitudes, a set of virtues to be achieved or the result of a certain way of being? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #WorkingtheGrind #WhatMyBossWants #SecondComing #PoorInSpirit #Mourning #Thirsty
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/29/2017 The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes.
To be a Christian is to be an authentic person whose values for life are found in a grounded disposition toward the virtues of the Kingdom of God, that was, and is, and is to come. That is the message of the passage from the Gospel of Matthew which we call “The Beatitudes.” I want to tell two short stories that give us the situation in thumbnail sketches of the situation in which we live.
A friend of mine who works at a very large, and very well known, company said to me recently, “My job isn’t [and they went through their written job description]. No, my job is to make my boss feel good about what he does, even if it isn’t good.” This is the value system of the world. The world is not about achieving the mission for the good of all concerned. The value of the world is to make ourselves look like we have accomplished and achieved. OK, here is the second story:
The other night, I was saying to my wife, after a long and exhausting day of truth and lies on television, (said with a big sigh) “I just cannot wait for Jesus to come again…” To which she said, “You sound like you don’t want to live anymore.” Then the words just jumped out of my mouth, “No, that’s not it. I want to live where there is no lying, killing, jealousy, pettiness, fighting, wars, violence, sin. I want to live where there is goodness, mercy, love, kindness, respect, and where the Lord is the Sun day and night, where we don’t have to worry about gain or pain, because the Lord is our provision.” When I think about it, I want the renewed Heaven and Earth because living with the people who lie, steal, cheat, fraudulently play like their ego is more important than the mission, like their status is more important than truth and honesty, where people are killing each other for some sort of false power, false fame, false profit, is just exhausting.
It makes perfect sense that all the people who were sick, diseased, crippled, outcast, and downtrodden flocked to Jesus. These are the people who know what is real. They know when someone is smilin’ and lyin’ and the same time. They know when people are acting in their own self-interests dressed up as virtue. They know when someone takes the Beatitudes and insists that others act by them so they can work the system for their own advantage. It galls them when they have to walk into a room full of people who are gleefully living the lie. They mourn that life has hardly any justice and integrity.
It is not just these people who know. In every business organization I have ever been in, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Optimist Club, Lion’s Club, whatever, there is always at least one person, if not more, who has enough poverty of spirit to know that they did not make it to the corner office on their own. I love these people. They quietly put up with the foolishness of the latest “business model” and get done as much good as they can because of their profound faith. They know.
There are those people who have crafted their lives so that they can make a living doing something that allows them to make that living without having to be involved in worldly power. I have pastored farmers, cabinet makers, and carpenters, who have created a life where they can love their families and anyone else who comes within their circle without the noise of empty suits. These folks have a quiet strength that knows they are people of God. Their aspiration has nothing to do with winning awards, getting the corner office, or anything because their meekness is grounded in a profound identity. It is a meekness that has no need. They know.
As I was writing this [podcast, homily, sermon] it hit me that “mercy is the sacrifice of the right to something you deserve for the sake of the good of the other.” So I tweeted it. You know people in the church like this, who sacrifice the right to justice, the right to pay back, the right to whatever it is that they are owed. Last week I made reference to the folks at Mother Emmanuel Church in South Carolina who are like this. I know of rape victims and incest victims who have a right for an excessive punitive judgment against those who have wounded them, but they instead walk away from the victory. They do so because they’ve found mercy in the Father in Heaven who scooped them up after others had treated them without mercy. It takes a strong person to refuse what they rightly deserve. Mercy comes from strength of identity in God. They know.
Then there are those we know whose being, their personality, is wrapped in seeking after righteousness, after a pure living of their love for Jesus Christ. These are real Jesus freaks. Their language, their actions, their everything are just dripping with a zeal and a fully imbibed existence of Jesus, but they want more. In their world, Jesus has already come, he just hasn’t shown up in his body yet. They interpret everything through this lense. They know.
The point of it all this is that these folks have an authentic relationship that understands the friction of being a person who loves Jesus Christ and one who wants to get ahead in this world. You would think that it would be a miserable existence. Yet, would we live any other way? Would we check our integrity at the door? Would we sell out God? There is a term for that: a Judas. No! We don’t sell out. We do the right thing, even if we have to take it on the chin, or other places. There is a profound joy at being fully integrated in our love for Jesus. His Sacrifice reveals that these virtues flow naturally out of his value for everyone’s life. The value of the other shapes how we respond to everything.
This list in the beatitudes is hardly “Nine Ways to Get Ahead in the World”, but they are integral to our world view. We live an open secret. There are no things in the Church that are hidden. The Gospel is a proclamation to all, for all, in the view of all.
Yet, when we go out into the world we find a different set of values. Even in churches we have attended that seem to want to emulate either the popular culture of the world or the power systems of the world, there is something that is so plain, yet people don’t see it. The thing before everyone’s face is said to be something else, and everyone seems to just happily follow, blanket and story book in hand.
Those who love Jesus with all their hearts, who make the Father their first priority, and live buoyed by the Holy Spirit, see the ridiculousness of having a job whose real purpose is to make the boss look good. It is right up there with the charade of Stock Market earnings that are based upon achievement of “expected earnings.” (Whose expectations? Based on what?) It is the ridiculousness of churches that say that all are welcome, but make people feel like they are unwanted. When we go against those trends, there is bound to be rejection of who we are, a mischaracterization of who we are for the purposes of someone getting “ahead” in the thirst for power. We are bound to be grist for the popular mill.
There is only one response to this: “Dude! That’s awesome!”
To be a Christian is to be an authentic person whose values for life are found in a grounded disposition toward the virtues of the Kingdom of God, that was, and is, and is to come. The world can take away all kinds of stuff or deny us all kinds of status, but they cannot take away our citizenship in Heaven. That is nonnegotiable. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian