2nd November 2014 Family service HT. Matthew 5.1-12
Count your blessings
Have you counted your blessings today? How about this week or Month? Do you say God bless you when someone sneezes? Or said God bless as you wave someone off?
Today in the church calendar we mark as All saints day when we remember those who have been close to us and whose lives have been a blessing to us.
But it’s a strange word, blessing. We use the word for good things or for something good to happen. To be blessed is to have something good occur or want something good for someone else. We say things like he was blest with 6 children or her daughter have been a real blessing during this difficult time. In church the priest blesses marriage, baptisms and the bread and wine used in Holy Communion to show they have been sanctified and dedicated to God’s service. So when we say God bless you we are really praying for God’s love to be with them.
However, in the gospel reading, we hear that Jesus blesses things that sound strange to us. He says that blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn. Surely these are all bad things? Well, in the eyes of the world, perhaps they are because world values are different to Jesus’s values. The world values success, strength and happiness at any cost.
But Jesus’s blessings show that God will bless those who turn to him and accept the new thing Jesus is doing which is to counter to the world’s ways. Jesus’s blessing turn the world’s ideas of success on their head by saying you are blest if you struggle with your faith, you are blest if you have a hunger for right to be done and you are blest if you are merciful or a peacemaker to others.
But Jesus is not just some teacher giving out a list of rules to follow in order for us to receive His blessing. Neither is Jesus giving out a list on how to behave properly. This is not Jesus saying ‘try harder to live like this’. Jesus’s blessings are not some sort of test or exam to memorise. We tend to think like this partly down to our culture of doing things in order to get something or proving we are good enough by behaving in a certain way. It’s very easy to feel that God will treat us in the same way and think that if only we did this or that more God will love us better or our faith will be stronger.
This is not true. The blessings Jesus gives is saying people who already are like that are in good shape. They should be happy and celebrate! They are living as true Kingdom people who know God in both their hearts and minds. They are living in the Kingdom of God now. And when we live as the people of God we become a blessing to the world. Like poppies in a field, we grow and transform by our blessings the present ‘earth’ into the place and beauty and delight that God always intended.
We do this because God has blessed us and so our natural response is to live lives according to the Gospel. You see, we live lives worthy of the gospel because we have received God’s grace upon grace. We don’t live lives worthy of the gospel in order to receive God’s grace.
This is pretty difficult to accept. I mean what we have actually done to deserve such grace? The answer of course is nothing because it wouldn’t be God’s grace otherwise! However, for some of us it can be easier to try and meet the conditions of receiving a blessing that to simply receive a blessing.
But, thankfully, God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t wait until we make ourselves ready to deserve his blessings, His grace.
God’s blessings are a bit like bubbles. (blow bubbles)
They are effortless.
They float where ever the wind blows them. Like the Holy Spirit at work within us.
And sometimes, when you least expect it, they touch you and stay. (catch a bubble)
We have a God who blesses us, so that by being His blessed people, we too might go out and be a blessing to others.