In case you missed it, we have walked through a series we called, 8 Simple Lines. 8 lines that Jesus said as he started to teach what has become known as the sermon on the mount – Jesus’ hillside chats.
These 8 simple lines are counter cultural, upside down, kind of reverse thinking when comparing them to conventional thought.
If there’s anything Jesus did and said that was upside down, it was his death. When does dying ever move anything forward? Death is a stoppage in play, permanently. But this week (Holy Week), as we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for the world, we’re reminded that it’s his death that launches us forward into new life.
Here’s where we’ve been so far in this series…
The 1st line? Blessed are those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty…
The 2nd line? Blessed are those who grieve what is wrong and unjust…
The 3rd line? Blessed are the meek & humble, who stoop down to serve others…
The 4th line? Blessed are those who hunger & thirst…after God and his values…
The 5th line? Blessed are those who show mercy…because that is the way of grace…
The 6th line? Blessed are the pure in heart…they will see God…
The 7th line? Blessed are the peacemakers…they’re identified as children of God…
(these are all recapped in Sunday Conversations)
This last line is more than a line. It’s more like a paragraph. Jesus ends with a bang – the most upside down Beatitude of them all…
Before we read it…let me ask you…
Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing something good? Penalized for doing the right thing?
– Tried to break up a fight and end up in the Principal’s office anyways…
– Tried to stop a disaster, but you ended up filthy and messy just the same…
– Defended an innocent person or party, you got hurt in the process…
Even though you won’t benefit immediately or may get roughed up along the way…we are called to do good, to plant goodness, to plant Jesus, etc.
Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” (niv)
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all…” (msg)
With that in mind…the 8th and final simple line…
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(it doesn’t end there)
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Two things we notice:
– Just like the other lines…this is some backwards thinking…the most backwards of all of them
– There’s more than one line…it’s more like a paragraph…so this it’s either important or Jesus was longwinded. I’ll go with important.
Like every other line in this text/series we’ve asked the same question: Jesus, what are you trying to say…to them and to us?
Here are a few take aways…
Holy Trouble Makers
This is very consistent with Jesus’ other teaching we find in the gospels. He his constantly challenging us to live differently, to make a difference, to swim upstream (if you will), and to be counter cultural.
It’s almost like Jesus is saying “I want you to be Holy Trouble Makers”
There’s bad trouble and there’s good trouble. Better put, you get in trouble for doing bad things, rightfully so, but you also get in trouble doing good things.
Jesus is calling us to do good, even if it means we may get in trouble for it, or if the reward is not imminent.
I find it very interesting and fitting that this Beatitude about Persecution comes after the Beatitude about Peacemaking.
People who make peace, who fight for peace, who creatively and strategically manufacture peace are often the same people who are persecuted for it afterwards.
Martin Luther King was a good kind of trouble maker.
Mother Theresa was a good kind of trouble maker.
Clarence Jordan, a farmer/preacher/NT scholar, led a mixed race community in the 1940s. Against much opposition, he was determined to live out the Beatitudes and the nonviolent ways of Jesus that loved your enemy. He was a good kind of trouble maker.
We have lots of them today too.
When Jesus says, blessed are the persecuted, he’s saying, blessed are those who are willing to do what’s right, no matter what the cost.
Walter Bruggeman says something about this in his Lent reading guide, “Blessed is the church that does not easily come to terms with the present…knowing that the present reality is not good enough…God wants better. If you take that list of poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted, it means that the church is to be odd in the world, noticed in the community for walking to a different drummer.”
So be Holy Trouble Makers who walk to the beat of a different drummer.
Plant seeds of hope, peace, goodness, and all things pertaining to God’s Kingdom
What happens when and if we are persecuted? When and if we actually do get into some kind of trouble for doing good? For Jesus?
We are spreading and planting seeds of hope; seeds of goodness; seeds of peace; seeds of anything and all pertaining to God’s kingdom.
My Nonno (grandfather) used to make wine. And we had this press in the garage. He would squish those grapes to death…literally…they were not recognizable any longer. But soon after comes the wine. Soon after comes the drink.
There’s a mexican proverb goes like this, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
Pope Francis recently tweeted, “Jesus made Himself like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies to give life. Our hope springs from that love-filled life.”
This is of course inspired by Jesus’ words in John 12:24 where he says, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
These seeds grow into fruit that reflects the values of God’s Kingdom and the character of Jesus.
Jesus bookends the Beatitudes with the same promise “…for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”
Poor, Hungry, Grieving, Persecuted…they all receive what is the most valuable – a place in God’s Kingdom.
In Good Company
This last thing from the Beatitudes might be my most favourite part of all 8 of them.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it well… You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
I love, love, love, love this.
You know the saying, “You are who you hang around with”. Jesus takes this a step further. If you live in this way, being a Holy Trouble maker, you will be in good company. You enter into a the ‘good’ crowd when you live out these 8 simple (not so simple) lines.
Who are they? All the people we read about in the scripture who risked reputation and safety to do good. All the people who have made a difference in history in the name of Jesus: the peacemakers, the pure in heart, the holy trouble makers.
And…Jesus…he himself the good company we are a part of when we live with no fear of pain, poverty, struggles, persecution, but with passion for peace, good, righteousness, and living out the values of God’s Kingdom.
People who live out these 8 simple lines are associated with the person who first said them – Jesus.
Jesus, more than any person, went around as a HOLY TROUBLE MAKER, knowing full well that he would die for his cause, but he did it anyway, because he knew what the seed of his death and persecution would turn into – the church – the kingdom of heaven living in us and around us.
Mother Therese (a previously mentioned holy trouble maker) pinned these words to a wall in her children’s home in Kolkata:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. LOVE THEM ANYWAY.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives, DO GOOD ANYWAY.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies, SUCCEED ANYWAY.
The good you do might be forgotten tomorrow, DO GOOD ANYWAY.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. BE HONEST ANYWAY.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight, BUILD ANYWAY.
People really need help but may attack you when you help them, HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY.
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth, GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.
Back to Jesus, who’s mission eventually killed him. He came anyway!
(We might say)
Jesus, they’re going to hurt you, spit on you, misunderstand you, and kill you…
I’M GOING TO LOVE THEM AND SERVE THEM ANYWAY!
– – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group discussion:
Have you ever gotten into trouble for doing good? What did that look like? Was it worth it?
What different ways can you use to describe persecution? Knowing that others are persecuted far worse for the cause of Jesus elsewhere, what does this word mean to you?
Why is it interesting that Peacemaking is followed by Persecution is Jesus’ Beatitudes?
If there was a good chance you’d get into some kind of trouble, are you passionate enough about doing what God has called you to do anyways? What kinds of things are worth pursuing with persecution on the horizon?
Can you think of any Holy Trouble makers in history? Recent or not so recent?
When Jesus says we’re in good company? How does that make you feel? How much are you willing to identify with Jesus and his mission?
Read and pray through Galatians 6:9 as you close out your conversation.
– – – – – – – – – – –
For some extra challenge and inspiration, watch this video on the final Beatitude.
This past Sunday we took in Bruxy’s second video teaching on prayer (originally posted in January 2018). Last week we focused on The Lord’s Prayer as a model for prayer today. This week we learned that we can pray with and through scripture. As we read and pray, it’s like God talks a little and then we talk a little, and back and forth. Quite amazing really.
For a short video recap, go here.
For the full video, go here.
Here are some brief notes…
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. ~ Yahweh to Joshua (Joshua 1:8)
(“meditate” = to mumble, mutter, or moan; to ruminate verbally.)
Two types of meditation…
KATAPHATIC (assertion; filling; focusing)
APOPHATIC (negation; emptying; releasing)
Today we are focusing on kataphatic meditation.
DINE IN: Where Scripture & Imagination Meet Psalm 77; Mark 4:35-41
GOSPEL SUGGESTIONS FOR MEDITATION & PRAYER…
1. Jesus calms the storm: Mark 4:35-41
2. Jesus’ love for sinners: Luke 7:36-50
3. Jesus’ and the woman at the well: John 4:1-42
4. Jesus welcoming Zacchaeus: Luke 19:1-10
5. Jesus’ Transfiguration: Matthew 17:1-13
6. Jesus washing feet: John 13:1-17
OTHER WAYS TO PRAY THROUGH SCRIPTURE…
Praying In The Gospels This Week I will endeavour to pray every day this week…
WHAT: Praying through one of the listed gospel passages
FOR: _________________ min.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Small(er) Group Discussion
HANGOUT [Warming Up to the Topic]
1. What stood out to you the most from Sunday’s prayer workshop?
2. How have you been doing with daily prayer this week? Talk about your experiences.
HEAR [Listening to God through Scripture]
3. Read Psalm 77.
a. What verse or idea stands out to you the most? Why?
b. Asaph, the writer of this Psalm, comforted himself by thinking about God’s amazing deeds, not in his own lifetime, but in history centuries before. What stories about God do you draw comfort from?
c. The early Christian Church had no New Testament in print yet. Their only Bible to learn about Jesus was the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. For them, every passage was a pointer to Christ. Talk about the various ways Psalm 77 points to Jesus.
HUDDLE [Making It Personal and Praying Together]
4. PRAY! Take 10 minutes to pray through one of the gospel passages. (suggestion: Mark 4:35-41) Remember to pray quietly, but still out loud, or just in your mind. After a few minutes, come back together and talk about the strengths and weaknesses for you regarding this kind of praying.
Run/Walk 5k or 10k for
homes and families in our community
Running4Home is an annual run/walk in the Durham Region.
This race was created to raise awareness & funds for organizations in Durham who are helping people where it matters most, in their homes.
We have annually designated all proceeds to Habitat Durham. This year is no different, however, we are excited to also be partnering with Possibilities House, an orphanage in Mexico providing a home for at-risk and abandoned children. Just like some of the larger runs in the GTA, you can choose to run for either charity.
Below is a recap from the (meeting house) video teaching we’re walking through these middle weeks in March.
APPETIZER: Teach Us To Pray Luke 11:1-13
A few tips to start us off…
1. PLACE – Find a comfortable, quiet, private place. (A “prayer closet”)
2. POSTURE – Sit or stand or kneel or walk.
3. TIME – Aim for 10 minutes to an hour per day.
4. VOICE – Pray out loud, even if only mumbling.
5. SHARE – Talk to your Home Church and Huddle members about your experiences.
DINE IN: Jesus intended this prayer to be our Model and not our Mantra (Matthew 6:9-13)
Here is a breakdown and a model to help us pray through Jesus’ prayer…
You have invited me into a family! Thank you for this love life, this community! Thank you for all my brothers and sisters, including Jesus!
I thank you specifically for… [think of people in our Church family and other Christians who God uses to encourage and challenge you. Let gratitude flood your thinking.]
The creative energy of all things… is my Dad!
I am surrounded by your love life.
Help me see your instinctive, unconditional love for me this day.
WHICH ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME.
Hallelujah! Your name is holy. You are above and beyond all the insecurity, hatred, fear, and confusion that is so much a part of this world. You are pure and perfect.
I praise you for… [think of attributes of God that you’ve seen demonstrated over the last 24 hours and celebrate them].
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
Come Jesus and lead me. May your will be done, starting in my life.
Please help me to experience and extend your kingdom this day.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.
Father I pray for today’s basics. For me, and those around me. [Take time to pray for whatever needs you are aware of.]
Please fill me with the Spirit of Christ to guide me and make my spirit strong.
AND FORGIVE US OUR SINS,
Thank you for your complete forgiveness and cleansing.
Please bring to mind any way I have sinned over the last 24 hours, since last we talked in prayer.
[Wait, review your day, listen for the conviction of the Spirit. As failures come to mind, acknowledge them, and thank God for his mercy and grace.]
And Father, I now pray this all for my family, my friends, and my church, and OUR sins.
AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US.
Thank you God for teaching me how to love like you love, to forgive like you forgive.
Please, Holy Spirit, bring to mind anyone that I might be holding on to unforgiveness toward, no matter how small.
[Wait, review your day, listen for the conviction of the Spirit. As small (or large) instances of being slighted come to mind, acknowledge them, let them go, and thank God that his Spirit is partnering with your spirit to move you toward “keeping no record of wrongs”.]
And Father, I also pray this all for my family, my friends, and my church.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
Father, I acknowledge that I struggle to resist the temptation toward the sin of _______. Please lead me away from this temptation, and give me the strength to enthusiastically partner with your Spirit as you lead me.
[Take time to think about those instances when you tend to give in to temptation, and picture yourself listening instead to God’s Spirit and making different choices. Invite the Holy Spirit to be your guide, and let yourself sense his pleasure in this partnership.]
And now Father I pray for _______, and their struggle with temptation. Please convict and strengthen them. And please alert me to ways I too can partner with them in their struggle.
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL:
Father, I acknowledge that by myself I can be very weak and often make unloving choices. Please knit me closer and closer with my brothers and sisters in Christ, so that TOGETHER you will deliver US from evil.
Please give me, and all of us, the courage to talk openly and honestly with one another about our struggles, and to ask the loving questions that lead to accountability and restoration.
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER.
Father, before I finish, I want to praise you more. I sense how much you care for me. I want nothing and no one else to be king in my life, to be Lord of my loyalties.
[Return to reviewing God’s greatness. Get lost in the vastness of the glory of God’s power, God’s creativity, and God’s love for you.] AMEN.
TAKE OUT: When, Where, How Long?
I will endeavour to pray every day this week…
FOR: _________________ min.
– – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group discussion:
1. What stood out to you the most from Sunday’s prayer workshop?
2. In the area of having a consistent daily prayer time, what rating out of ten would you give yourself? (Take note of those who are more consistent in daily prayer and ask them follow up questions about what helps, what motivates, and what sustains them.)
3. Read Luke 11:1-13.
a. What verse or idea stands out to you the most? Why?
b. How much do you pray with “shameless audacity” (NIV)? What does/might that look like in your prayer life?
c. What is Jesus saying we really “need” every day? What does that look like in your daily experience?
d. What is the biggest hurdle for you to overcome in order to enjoy a thriving daily prayer life? HUDDLE [Making It Personal and Praying Together – in Huddles]
4. PRAY! After taking a few minutes to catch up, pray through the Lord’s Prayer together. Have one person read each line and allow a couple minutes for everyone to pray out loud, yet quietly.
All we are saying…is give peace a chance. No no no no no. Cut. Stop the song. Shut it down. That doesn’t seem to be enough. We can’t just give peace a chance, we have to work hard to make it a priority, to make it happen, to create it.
We are into the 7th simple line Jesus shared on a hillside. Matthew 5. The sermon on the mount.
Line #7 is ground breaking stuff:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
We could say that this beatitude is most important today – in 2018. But…I’m pretty sure every generation could say this about their time on earth.
We like to compare moments in time with former parts of history, and the truth is, no matter what day or age you’ve been graced or cursed to live in, Peace was and is in high demand.
Peace is like the light, you don’t miss it until it’s gone, and when it’s gone you are desperate to find it again.
Like we’ve asked every week, let’s do so again – Jesus, what are you trying to say to us?
Let’s say this first, “Jesus views power and greatness, not as dominance, but as peace.” (B.McLaren)
How do we know this? For one thing, looking at the context of the 1st century, Caesar commanded people to kill their enemies, Jesus commands us to love them. (Matthew 5:43)
Alright, let’s dig in…there are 2 parts to this profound beatitude we need to understand: Peace Maker, Children of God.
Notice from the start that Jesus isn’t saying that we are blessed when we’re at peace…or…blessed are the peaceful?
Nothing wrong with being at peace; and the scripture does talk about a peace that is beyond understanding. So yes, Jesus is our peace. He is the prince of peace. He gives us peace. Such an amazing peace that we don’t even understand how amazing the peace is.
But this is not what Jesus is saying here. He of course, takes it a step further…or a leap further. Jesus says…Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS.
Blessed are the…creators of peace, those who work towards peace, the strategists of peace, the designers, illustrators, builders of PEACE.
That’s a job title if I ever heard one. Imagine that was on your business card? How would you define that? How would you describe that? I make peace. I manufacture peace. We produce peace. What kind of $ value would be put on that?
But what is Peace? In its simplest of forms? What does the scripture say peace is?
We read this in Ephesians 2:14-17…
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
– Bringing people together.
– Taking 2 divided parts and making them 1.
– Destroying a barrier, a dividing wall.
That’s it? That’s all?
So easy to say. So hard to do.
What does it require from us?
- To do something
- To be creative
- To love
- To build bridges
- To stay in one place long enough to make a difference
- To sit with people, eat with people, cry with people, listen to people, understand each side
Peace, requires all of the Beatitudes up to this point: a poor spirit, a grieving heart, a meek character, a merciful attitude, a hungry & pure heart…
All of these prepare us to be what? Peace Makers.
Bonhoeffer said, “You must not only have peace, you must make it”
What a gift this is to the world – Engineers, Builders, Architects, Developers…of PEACE.
Now…listen to what Jesus says next?
2) Children of God
…and you will be called children of God…
This is where things get cool.
What do children of God look like? Peacemakers.
Who are peacemakers the children of? God.
Doesn’t this sound very much like what Jesus said in John 13:35?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So…the world will know that we follow Jesus by? How loud we sing at church? How well we pray in public? How many verses we’ve memorized?
Nope. It’s how you love one another.
And how will the world know that we are children of God? What reflects our family ties? How do they know who my Dad is?
The evidence is this: God’s children are in the business of making peace. You could say…that is our family business.
I was showing off my family to some people I recently met in a trip to Nicaragua…a few things they said were:
One, your wife looks a lot younger than you! (yes she does) and two, your kids look a lot like you!
YES!!! They do!!! And they act like me too. They got my whit and my sarcasm, and my quick comebacks baby…and they got their mom’s heart and her mind. The point? You know they are our kids!!!
Jesus says, you’re not only blessed if you make peace, you also look a lot like him in the process.
“There is no more godly work in the world then peacemaking.” (godly = like God)
If we are part of God’s family, then you likely reflect your Father’s character. God is PEACE. Jesus is PEACE. Shalom (Hebrew for peace) runs in the family. What is Shalom? It is a kind of wholeness, nothing missing, nothing broken, everything in its place between us and God, us and each other, us and the world.
Understand, it’s hard work to make peace. Peace making will cost us something. Why? Because it’s not simply enough to keep peace, but to make peace. Notice that the next and final Beatitude is referring to persecution. They normally go hand in hand. Ask any one who’s given their life to peace, they have scars to prove it. Not because of any violence they’ve done, but because of violence that has been done to them.
But remember, peace is the opposite of violence, the opposite of hate, the opposite of death, the opposite of brokenness.
MLK said these very powerful words…
“Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murderer…you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth…you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. Darkness can’t put out hate, only light can.”
We all have one common enemy? Darkness: that darkness drives a wedge between us.
Jesus is saying that our mission, if you choose to except it, is to fight against darkness, not each other. Then we’ll be blessed. Then we’ll know who we really are.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (the message)
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) groups discussion:
What’s the first thing that coms to mind when you hear the word peace?
Jesus makes a distinction between being a person of peace and being a maker of peace? How are both important when it comes to being a person of faith in Jesus? Why the distinction?
What kind of struggles, difficulties or obstacles come with making peace?
What is needed to make peace?
Notice that the next Beatitude is about persecution? Any connection?
Looks like if we want to be called children of God, making peace is not optional? What do you think about Jesus’ connection to peace & belonging to God’s family? What excites you about this? Any questions surrounding this?
Take some time to be creative about peace making…and then pray for peace in our homes, our schools, our churches, our relationships, and in our world.