Week of October 30: Living as God's people brings the contentment we seek
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
Teach me to yield my attitude and allow perspective to be mine. Amen.
The Sermon on the Mount contains much wisdom and direction on how we are to live, and the Beatitudes, a traditional and not scriptural term, are at the sacred core of New Testament teaching. Some scholars translate “blessed” as “happy.” The concept of happiness is difficult to understand. Some would say that happiness is getting what you want. Others would say it is what you make of situations when you don’t get what you want. Here Jesus offers the perspective of a life built on the foundation of wholeness with God and one’s community.
However, in our society, contentment is elusive because others are constantly telling us what will make us content or happy. Perhaps we should consult an expert. “Well," said Winnie the Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” It is this relational living we will explore.
To be blessed is to be set apart
The raised hillside by the lake where Jesus gives these life lessons is itself a symbolic location of the attitudes he is teaching. Disciples live above the expectation of the world. They live at the edge of the water and the countryside, and work as a bridge between the two perspectives. Throughout collective mental, physical and spiritual actions, we live out what God first invites us to become. God’s blessing continues to call us to be different from the world. Daily we choose to accept or to ignore the sacred life. When we aim our living in God’s direction we understand our identity through God. We become named, selected and appointed to trust the Spirit, to share community with the lost, to be bold in letting God shine through us, to eagerly seek relationship renewal, to seek God’s heart, and to trust the wisdom of peace. These are attitudes that set us apart. These are the blessings we find and share.
As Christians, we look at life differently than the world sees it. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, “You already have everything you need.” There is no need to fill our lives with things and have ambition for more things. Rick Warren, famous for his book Purpose Driven Life, found himself very wealthy after publishing the most popular Christian book ever written. He quit receiving a salary as pastor of his church. He repaid the church all of the salary he had received prior to the book, and he and his wife now live on 10 percent of their income and give 90 percent to foundations they have established working with poverty, disease, education and missions. Christians do not allow things or the desire for things to control their lives. Christians allow God to control their lives.
To be blessed is its own reward.
“What do I get if I behave?” asks the child. Jesus’ wisdom teaches that when we live as God’s people, the life, community and fellowship we share is the reward. It is not that we will get stars in our crowns in heaven; it is that we live as citizens of heaven before we even move in. The Beatitudes proclaim that Christians experience joy and self-fulfillment as they contemplate what God is now doing and what God will do in the future.
One morning R.C. Chapman, a devout Christian, was asked how he was feeling. "I'm burdened this morning!" was his reply. But his happy countenance contradicted his words. So the questioner exclaimed in surprise, "Are you really burdened, Mr. Chapman?" "Yes, but it's a wonderful burden--it's an overabundance of blessings for which I cannot find enough time or words to express my gratitude!" Seeing the puzzled look on the face of his friend, Chapman added with a smile, "I am referring to Psalm 68:19, which fully describes my condition. In that verse the Father in heaven reminds us that He 'daily loads us with benefits.'"
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians--and I am one of them."
Celebrate and be glad. When requests for prayer are shared in your church community, it is rare that we bring our celebrations and praises. Usually there is a who’s-who litany of woes and fears for those ill and grieving. When have your shared worship prayers for the poor in your context? Christian living is not a remedy for the trouble-free life, but it is the powerful and peaceful confidence that even when life is at its worst, God will be our best hope. Now that is an attitude to cheer and shout about.
Take Action: Try sitting on the other side of the sanctuary this Sunday. Look at worship from a different perspective and recognize God just might have something fresh for you to see or hear.
“Now rest, my long divided heart, fixed on this blissful center, rest. Here have I found a nobler part; here heavenly pleasure fill my breast.” Hymn #391 United Methodist Hymnal