“Heart-Pure Blessings”

“Heart-Pure Blessings”

Matthew 5:1-8 (5:8) – August 14, 2022

Our modern society today is noisy, that’s for sure! So many noisy people, so many competing advertisements, all kinds of sound and visual media vying for our attention. How can we manage if we want to step away from all of this clutter and clatter and cacophony filling our ears? And what about the overwhelming smorgasbord of visual media overloading our eyes?

I want to do as Jesus suggests in this Beatitude and strive to be pure of heart. You may want to do this, too! I know that seeing God is something that many Christians really desire. But, how can we be pure of heart when we have all of these competing audio and visual noises, sounds and media constantly in our faces?

When Jesus mentions those who are pure in heart, I think of those who have integrity. Can you think of someone you know who is truly a person of integrity? How do they live their lives? Do they watch eight, ten, twelve hours of television or other kinds of media each day? Do they have their ears and eyes filled with all kinds of extraneous noise and clutter and cacophony? Do they bicker and argue with family and friends, ignoring what God finds important?

Jesus spent time regularly being quiet, peaceful, allowing Himself to listen to God as well as to His inner thoughts and feelings. Do you take the time to listen to your own heart, as well as listen to others expressing their deep thoughts and feelings?   

If we look at Jesus and His message throughout the Gospels, it’s all about the heart, and the inner person. As preacher and theologian D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, says, the observant Jews of Jesus’s day were so concerned about external behavior. It was the Rabbi Jesus’s “great charge against them always that they were interested in the outside of the pots and platters and ignored the inside. Looked at externally, they were without spot…they were most concerned about the external injunctions of religion; but they forgot the weightier matters of the law.” [1]

Instead of the outside of a person, again and again throughout the Gospels our Lord Jesus reminds His disciples (and us!) that all along He is talking about the heart. Those weighty matters of God’s Law include love to God and the love of one’s neighbor. Again and again, the commands of Jesus to love God and to love neighbor trump any other command.

I am reminded about the prophet Samuel in the Hebrew Scriptures. When God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse and his sons, Samuel looked at the outward appearance of Jesse’s sons. “Surely the Lord wants to choose one of these fine, upstanding young men!”

How do people today judge leaders, or kings, politicians, or CEOs? Most people “tend to judge others on how they look, what they do, how they act, and what they say.” In other words, all of the external stuff, all the stuff on the outside. But, what about the Lord? “God goes much deeper in relationship than that; God goes right into our hearts. God knows the secrets that we don’t tell anyone, and knows our greatest fears and what embarrasses us the most…God knows us better than we know ourselves.” [2]

Think about it. Seven of Jesse’s sons were considered by the prophet Samuel, and none of them were chosen by God. I can’t help but remember 1 Samuel 16:7 – “Do not look on his appearance or the height of his stature. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” God encouraged Samuel to find David, Jesse’s youngest son, the one with the least amount of honor and standing in his family, who was indeed anointed king of Israel.

God wanted to find someone after God’s own heart!

“We have to remind ourselves again that the Christian faith is ultimately not only a matter of doctrine or understanding or of intellect, it is a condition of the heart.” [3] It does not matter whether we are considering the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament. Here in this Beatitude is the concentration on the heart. Your heart, and mine, too!

 If we take the time to read through these Topsy-Turvy Teachings from Matthew 5, and read them slowly, savoring each one, this collection of traits of followers of God honestly makes me take a step back. I am serious. This list is daunting. And, this week, the idea that if someone is pure in heart then they will see God? That makes me hold my breath and hesitate again.

I guess I am still tentative, agreeing with many people in the Hebrew Scriptures who are hesitant at actually seeing God. If God is making Godself available so that the run of the mill pew-sitting Christian can have a deep friendship and an intimate relationship with God, that is something very serious indeed! Am I really ready to see God? Are you?

“Jesus reminded us that when our actions align with our thoughts and feelings, we can see God around us and in our world. But it is difficult to see God around us if we do not quiet ourselves and listen to our hearts.” [4]

The thoughts and ideas we carry in our hearts have a big impact on the actions we take and the choices we make. Our insides – our hearts – guide and direct the words we speak and the actions we take. This is why the heart – the inside of us – is so important to Jesus.

One big way to be pure in heart is to show love for God, your neighbor, and yourself in how you act, speak, and think. God wants to find someone after God’s own heart!

What a way to be a blessing to others! Remember, this is how Jesus said the “pure in heart” will be blessed. Amen, alleluia!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Wm. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids MI, 1971), 108.

[2] https://ministry-to-children.com/beatitudes-lesson-7/

[3] https://ministry-to-children.com/beatitudes-lesson-7/

[4] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

Blessed Merciful People

“Blessed Merciful People”

Matthew 5:1-8 (5:7) – August 7, 2022

Have you ever snapped at a family member or a friend? Flown off the handle? Gotten really upset, and even yelled? That’s one thing about family and friends who are close to us – emotions can run deep, and arguments can flare up. Things can get tense, too. When these kinds of emotions and feelings happen to you, how do you handle these feelings? What about thinking of Jesus’ words “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” 

            Showing mercy must have been important to our Lord Jesus. It was so important that Jesus even included it in His Topsy-Turvy Teachings! Here in Matthew 5 in the Beatitudes, Jesus mentioned some extremely significant ways of thinking, acting and general behavior.

            In previous Beatitudes, Jesus’s thinking has a definite progression, a logical sequence. This idea of mercy follows the others, and especially the one in the previous verse: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Jesus follows this with “Blessed are the merciful.” What a description of the follower of God! But – what if we do not understand what Jesus means by mercy? What is mercy, anyhow?

            One definition: “Mercy is feeling what someone else feels, acting on their behalf, and then dedicating yourself to continue to work for their well-being. Sometimes it is easier to show mercy to a stranger than to show mercy to a family member.” [1]

Let’s look at these Topsy-Turvy Teachings another way. As you and I start to hunger for God, Jesus gives blessings for those who hunger (and thirst) for a righteous life. What does God freely give when people desire to be right with God? You’ve got it. God’s mercy. “We can’t earn God’s mercy, though. It isn’t something we can buy by being good or going to church or saying the right things. Mercy is a gift from God.” [2]

            So often with family or friends, those old, ingrained ways of thinking and acting can kick in automatically. Do you recognize yourself when you snap and snarl at family, or fly off the handle with friends, and not even know where those deep emotions and reactions came from?

Those ingrained habits and reactions go back decades sometimes, often back to childhood. They might have helped you deal with situations and people once, in the past. But what about now? Would Jesus fly off the handle? What if you and I were to react in a different kind of a way? What if instead of getting mad or irritated, we were to speak with mercy and grace? How would our tense or awkward situations be transformed?

            But, wait a minute, Lord! I don’t want to be a doormat! I don’t want people to walk all over me!  I don’t want to get beaten up by all the bullies who come by and cross my path! I can just see a group of kids on a school playground, with several bullies picking on one particular kid. Teasing him or her mercilessly.

            And, what about when we get to be adults? Aren’t there bullies in many workplaces? At some senior centers? People can be hateful and bitter and angry. How are we to act towards them? Are we supposed to be mean and hateful, right back? Again, what would Jesus do?

            Jesus explained mercy another way, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10. “Let’s talk about a story most of you are familiar with: The Good Samaritan. Instead of just reading through it, let’s see if we can remember the story on our own. Someone who knew the law of God really well once asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what the law had to say. The lawyer correctly answered with the greatest commandment. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer wanted to make excuses for not following this commandment perfectly, so he asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan.

“How does it start? With a guy walking along the road getting robbed and beaten half to death. Who walked by first? A priest, who was like the pastor of the time. He ignored the poor guy. Who walked by next? A Levite, who was like a worship leader of the time. He totally ignored the injured man too. Who came by next? A Samaritan. Samaritans were the worst enemies to the Jews back then. [Jews and Samaritans] got along about as well as cats and water, fire and gasoline, peanut butter and pickles. A Samaritan was the last person you would expect to help a Jew. But this guy went above and beyond to do everything he could to help take care of the hurt Jew. After telling this story, Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought was neighbor to the man who was robbed. The law expert said, “The one who had mercy on him.” [3]

How do you respond when you are in arguments or tense situations? Pay close attention to how you respond this coming week. If you feel yourself starting to snarl, or beginning to argue, or have harsh words with a family member or friend, stop yourself right there.

            God can help us, you realize. If someone is particularly difficult to show mercy to, ask God. And, our God will assist us! Those situations can be transformed! Take a moment (or two, or three!), breathe, remember Jesus’s words about mercy, and start over again.

            “And when we try to feel how others might be feeling and show mercy by acting on their behalf and dedicating ourselves to their well-being, we are following God’s example. This is why Jesus said those who are merciful are blessed.” [4] A Beatitude, indeed!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent Summer 2022 family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

[2] https://ministry-to-children.com/beatitudes-lesson-six/

[3] https://ministry-to-children.com/beatitudes-lesson-six/

[4] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

Hungry and Thirsty Blessings

“Hungry and Thirsty Blessings”

Matthew 5:1-7 (5:6) – July 31, 2022

Have you ever been really hungry? I mean, have you ever gone without food for more than a day? Longer than that? Hunger can be an ache inside, an actual pain inside your abdomen. Being physically hungry and thirsty can be dangerous for people’s health. Yet, food is not all that people hunger for.

Our Lord Jesus wanted to specifically mention those who were hungry and thirsty. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Yes, we can think of people who are actually, physically hungry and thirsty. That is a real need, and it’s a need for individuals and families all over the world.

Let us take a step back, and consider actual, physical hunger. What is that like? I have had the blessing of steady employment at a decent rate of income for several decades now. I do not recently have the first-hand experience of going to bed hungry, with nothing to eat in my kitchen. Not a can of vegetables in the cupboard, not a package of food in the pantry.  

My friend Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks is the director of A Just Harvest, located right next to the Howard Street El station, in that congested and now gentrifying area on the far north side of Chicago. A Just Harvest is a nonprofit organization. Their summary statement is “Breaking bread, restoring community – every day. One meal at a time. One job at a time. One change towards wellness, peace, and justice at a time.”

After the Covid shut-down in March 2020, St. Luke’s Church was still receiving baked goods on Saturdays from Meier’s Bakery. Except, the men’s residence at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston – where I donated the baked goods – shut down, too. That meant NO more deliveries or donations, for many months. I had to quickly pivot, and so I gave a quick call to my friend’s organization, A Just Harvest. Part of their outreach is a food pantry; an industrial-service kitchen that provides a complete hot meal for free, between noon and 2 pm, 365 days a year. That is every day, even on bank holidays and major holidays, when other service centers are closed.

The Community Kitchen was overjoyed to hear about all the baked goods! So, for each weekend for over a year, I would take the baked goods from Meier’s on Waukegan to the Community Kitchen after church on Sundays. Until, Meier’s sadly closed for good in April 2021.

It is a marvelous thing to share our resources with others who do not have enough. That is part of what our Lord Jesus was getting at!

Yet, Jesus also mentioned “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” That adds a whole deeper layer to being hungry and thirsty. (as if regular “hunger and thirst” were not significant enough!) Yes, many people who followed Jesus were very hungry. They needed a secure food source. But, many people in Jesus’ day were also hungry for justice.

“One understanding of “righteousness” is justice. God’s justice means we make sure everyone has what they need. When we partner with God to bring justice to the earth, we are working toward a world where living things live in right and healthy relationships.” [1]

I know that sometimes, people get really caught up in their own lives, their family challenges, their health problems, and yes, financial difficulties. It’s really hard to focus on other people and their deep needs when you or I have some very deep needs of our own.

The same was very true in Jesus’s day, as well as all the times in between the first century and the 21st. We have talked about this before, how a huge crowd gathered around the Rabbi Jesus, and He saw their hurts and pains and cared for them in all kinds of ways. Yes, Jesus physically healed many! And yes, Jesus also saw each and every individual as worthwhile, as blessed, and as created by God.  That is a big reason why He preached about God’s kingdom, where there is abundance for all. More than enough honor, food, money, love, power and resources for everyone to thrive.

“A lot of things were not right for the people listening to Jesus. In that time, some people had a lot of money and power. They used what they had to dominate other people. Some people were poor and felt powerless. Jesus speaks here to the people who feel that ache for a better world—God’s kind of world. Jesus knows their hearts are hungering more and more for relationships and systems to be fair and right. Just like we need food to live, we need love, hope, and healthy connections with others. Jesus understands and cares about all these needs.” [2]

Bringing in God’s kingdom is not just a task for our Lord Jesus. No! He has given that task to each of us, to each of His followers. That is what the Beatitudes are all about. It’s a commission, a charge for all of us, to go out into our own communities and put these tasks to work. Each idea from our Lord Jesus, each and every day.

We can even call the Beatitudes directives from God. Yes, each Beatitude holds a personal blessing, and each Beatitude holds a direct charge or task for each of us to complete. When we look at this list of blessings from God in this way, it can be incredibly daunting! Yet, with God’s help, all things are possible.

We all have the opportunity to fight for justice in many different ways. Are there particular issues that you and your family engage in? Do you hunger for environmental righteousness? Racial and gender equality righteousness? Food security righteousness? Senior care righteousness? Employment righteousness?

If every person in this world knew what it was to truly “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” there would be no danger of fighting or war, no need to fear bombs or muggings or name-calling or any other destructive behavior. Herein lies the way to true peace and justice on a horizontal plane, with our fellow humans, and true fellowship with God, on a vertical plane.  

I ask again: what would Jesus do? How would Jesus bring about justice in a tangible way? Go. Do that. And, be blessed, for yours is indeed the kingdom of heaven.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent Summer 2022 family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

[2] Ibid.

Blessings to the Meek?

“Blessings to the Meek?”

Matthew 5:1-7 (5:5) – July 23, 2022

I love puppies and kittens. Don’t you? Who doesn’t love small animals, so adorable and so tiny? One thing about small puppies and kittens – and other baby animals, like little rabbits, and baby chicks and ducklings and piglets – you need to be gentle with them! If anyone caring for small animals is not gentle and caring, the baby animals will probably be mistreated.

Along comes the Rabbi Jesus, and what is the next Beatitude that He proposes? “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Now, wait a minute, Jesus! This is completely the opposite of everything that earthly society and worldly people say to us all the time. If we want to dominate the world, we need to show everyone who is boss! We need to show off our strength and power and domination! Don’t we?

Or, what does Jesus say? “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Those words don’t sound very dominating or power-hungry to me! Here again, Jesus tells us explicitly that followers of Christ are not like the world. We are following the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus, here! Not going along with the world, at all!

The large crowd listening to the Rabbi Jesus was probably puzzled, too. What was this unknown Rabbi talking about?

Meekness is a synonym of gentleness. In Jesus’ day, land was meaningful and important and many people had their land taken away by people who used force and violence. Jesus promises the gentle, kind, and humble people (“the meek”) will receive not just land, but the whole earth.” [1] People of that day were used to hearing about the land grabs that the people in charge did, almost always without any consequences. Land was a source of wealth, and to be stripped of your family’s land was to have a great deal of wealth stolen right from under your noses. This was the situation with the oppressing, conquering nation of the Romans. They took a great deal of land and wealth from the Jewish people as an occupying nation.

When Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth, how do you think that sounded to the crowds listening to Jesus? What would that do to the occupying forces of Rome if meek, gentle people from Israel inherited the earth, right from under their occupying noses?

The worldly point of view – both in the 1st century and in modern-day popular society – is that fighting, conquest, and gaining material power is the key to getting to the top of the heap. Dominating other strong people, bulldozing your way to the front of the line is the way that worldly people get ahead. That’s the way people inherit the earth – isn’t it? Think about it another way. How are we to act as followers of Christ? Cut-throat, or Christ-following?

When you think of being meek and gentle, what do you think of? I mentioned caring for small animals a few minutes ago. Can you think of someone who cares for tiny puppies or kittens, and imagine them steamrolling over smaller, weaker people? These two pictures are not compatible. Which do you think Jesus would do? Which would Jesus want us to do?

I realize being meek and gentle gets a bad rap today. Someone who is meek and gentle is not the kind of person I’d imagine as a poster child for military organizations. Someone who is meek and gentle often comes across as a Casper Milquetoast, a person who is shy, retiring, and inoffensive. But, have you ever thought of someone who is meek and gentle as being a strong individual? Someone who is so strong and confident themselves that they do not care what other people think? I think that is exactly the kind of person our Lord Jesus was lifting up.

This promise – this Beatitude – this blessing towards gentle, kind and meek people is the wonderful blessing that these unlikely people will be the ones who become inheritors of the earth. The ones who will receive land, and therefore will receive riches and wealth, as perceived by the world. Not the worldly people who use power, force and control. Yes, these are indeed the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!

Jesus is not just talking about the physical land of Israel, but the whole earth. “This also holds a powerful message for us about caring for the earth. Meek, or humble, people live with an awareness of others’ needs—the planet, animals, and other people. They remember that the whole earth—everything they have and receive, including land—belongs to God. And they care for it with that in mind, using what they have with respect and love.” [2]

Are you uncaring, oblivious to the needs of others? Have you been conscious of others’ needs today? Or, do you walk along, without a care in the world? I know there are people who are preoccupied with their own challenging problems and difficulties. The Rabbi Jesus is calling us to be outwardly focused, to come alongside of those who are struggling, becoming aware of others’ difficult journeys. There is much suffering and sadness in the world. We need to be strong – in meekness and gentleness.

Which would you rather be? Would you rather think and act on the side of the world, and steamroll and punch down any little pipsqueak who asks you for a hand or a cup of cold water? Again, what would Jesus do?

Or, would Jesus continue to be courageous and strong – strong enough to be gentle, meek and kind? It’s a clear decision that is open to us all. We are to follow Jesus. Be meek. Be gentle. Be kind, like our Lord. And especially, we are commanded to show love. Not picking and choosing, but instead being meek and gentle to all. No matter what, no matter who. Blessings from God to the meek, indeed!  Alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

[2] Ibid.

Mourning Blessings

“Mourning Blessings”

Matthew 5:1-5 (5:4) – July 10, 2022

Is it safe to cry? Are you comfortable being sad? What about mourning? Showing grief? For many, many people in this society here in North America, mourning and grief is something to be hidden away, even to be embarrassed about. Do you feel free to mourn? Or, is this raw emotion one to be hidden, not allowed out in public except at funerals?

Our nation was horrified to hear that instead of a Fourth of July parade enjoyed by families and participants alike, someone shot over 60 bullets from a rooftop with a high-powered rifle on Monday. In nearby Highland Park, scene after scene of horror and tragedy played out. So many mourning and grieving! This is yet another tragedy local to the Chicago area, and yet another in a series of mass shootings nationwide in recent weeks.

Let us look again at our Scripture reading for today. For these past weeks, in fact. Our Lord Jesus gives us the Beatitudes from a mountain in the north of Galilee to the largest of His crowds to date, near the beginning of His public ministry.

We have discussed how our Lord Jesus already had a budding reputation as a miracle worker, healing dozens and dozens of individuals from their physical diseases and afflictions. Jesus not only displayed power in casting out demons, but was gaining a reputation as a brilliant teacher. He was also quite able at dialoging with the Jewish legal scholars and other rabbis.

It’s all very nice to think about this historical person, the Rabbi Jesus, and about a historical event that happened 2000 years ago, the Sermon on the Mount. But, what does this have to do with the shooting that happened so near to us just a week ago? How do you and I wrap our heads around such evil and horror and go forward without trauma and pain and continuing sadness? Can you remember a time you cried? Did you cry on Monday, hearing about this extreme tragedy that happened only a few suburbs to the north? Yet, our Lord Jesus states “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

What a time of tragedy! And, what a time of mourning! Lord Jesus, do you hear countless people crying? Grieving? Mourning? Not only for those shot, wounded or murdered in Highland Park, but for the dozens shot, wounded or murdered across the Chicago area over the past week. And, those in Uvalde, Texas. And those in Buffalo, New York, before that.  

Similar to the first Beatitude about the poor in spirit that we examined last week, this serious statement of our Lord stands out and marks someone as different, as quite unlike worldly people. Yet, how, Lord?? What we do know is that the world system today tries its hardest to avoid mourning and grieving. The whole world system with its concentration on pleasure, on entertainment and money – tawdry “bling” and frivolity – are constantly diverting attention from mourning. Grieving is the last thing that the world system, today’s society wants us to focus on.

In the first century just as today, many people were taught that crying was shameful, that grown-ups didn’t cry, that mourning and grieving showed weakness and made people too vulnerable. Do you know people who try their darnedest not to show emotion, and not to cry or mourn? Oftentimes, these are rich and powerful people who gather money and control. That way, they do their best to feel strong, unshakeable, in control of people and events [1]

And, what does our Lord Jesus do right at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount? He speaks to people who mourn and cry and grieve, and praises them! Jesus highlights them in all their grief. One large reason Jesus does this is because God gave all humans emotions. Mourning, grief and crying show we all are alive and aware. Instead of being ashamed of crying, crying shows we are brave. “Crying shows we are willing to feel pain—our own and someone else’s pain. You [and I] are not trying to block the pain around us or keep our distance from it. Tears and crying are important.” [2]

Instead of being superficial and seeking only pleasure and surface entertainment, Jesus lets us know that God honors us when we mourn. God embraces us wholeheartedly when any of us grieve. You and I do not need to block pain or pretend nothing has happened, show a stiff upper lip or keep our distance from crying, because supposedly “grown-ups don’t cry.” No, tears and crying are important. When a loved one cries or grieves, it is a privilege to come alongside and to mourn with them. To sit with them as they cry, especially in times of pain or difficulty. Especially when it is so hard to hold that grief, so difficult that it almost makes a person fall to pieces.

This blessing of Jesus, blessing those who mourn for they shall be comforted, shows that we connect with God. This Beatitude shows that God actively comes alongside those who are actively mourning and comforts them.

I follow a Mister Rogers Twitter account. Yesterday morning, there was such an apropos tweet posted, a quote from Fred Rogers! “People have said, “Don’t cry” to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is “I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings: Don’t cry.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.”

Perhaps God comforts those dear grieving ones through others. Perhaps God sends relatives, or friends, or strangers to come alongside of those who are deeply mourning, and sits with them in silence, or gets them a cup of water or coffee, or brings over a casserole or does a load of laundry. Whatever we do, whatever it takes to show God’s presence and our caring, Most important, this is a way to show we share in God’s heart, in God’s caring and love.

“Jesus promised God would bring comfort and make things right for all the people listening who faced injustice, shame, trauma and poverty which caused them to cry and grieve. One way God brings comfort is through us. (Hold your hands out with palms up.) When we offer our hand or loving words—especially to someone who is sad—we are God’s comfort to that person.” [3]

What a blessing to others! And, what a blessing when each of us mourn. And to that, we can all say alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

[2] Illustrated Ministries, ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Blessed Poor People?

“Blessed Poor People?”

Matthew 5:1-5 (5:3) – July 3, 2022

What do you do when a friend or loved one has big feelings? I mean, when someone you love is super sad, or super upset, or super angry?

So many of us feel overwhelmed sometimes. Feelings can be oversized, huge, bigger than big! Overwhelming emotions and feelings can make a person feel like a ton of bricks has just fallen on them. What is a person to do? Does your family have a special remedy for this kind of huge, overwhelming emotional impact? What do you do if your child – or grandchild – is feeling really down and has huge feelings they don’t know what to do with?

Our Lord Jesus talks about just this kind of feeling when He gives us His first Beatitude. You remember the Beatitudes, the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, early in the Gospel of Matthew. The Rabbi Jesus has just been getting a lot of press about being a miracle worker and a marvelous teacher, and people have been flocking to hear Him and see Him from miles around.

When the Lord Jesus has the big opportunity to teach a large crowd, what does He lead off with but “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now, wait a minute, Jesus! I kind of know what blessed means, and I understand that there are poor people in the world, but what kind of a topic sentence is that? What do you mean, leading off Your big sermon with a confusing idea like this? What gives, Jesus?

Our summer sermon series is called “Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus.” That title certainly applies to this first Beatitude! How on earth are poor people blessed? But, wait. Jesus didn’t say “poor people.” He said people who were (are) “poor in spirit.”

Have you ever had a time when you were down and just wanted things to feel better, for just a little while? I suspect we all feel poor in spirit sometimes.

Our Lord Jesus was well aware of the hurts and pains of the people listening to Him. Not only their physical hurts and pains, because Jesus was a marvelous, miraculous healer! But, also their mental, emotional and psychological hurts and pains, too.

Our Lord Jesus did not place these Beatitudes in a random, haphazard manner. He was very deliberate in the order, in His placement of the different blessings God bestows. We may say there is a logical order in these Beatitudes. Jesus tells us about the kingdom of heaven, and this first blessing is a key to all that follows.

We can think of a “kingdom” as the way the world (or the country) works or is set up. In God’s kingdom, there is abundance! Everyone has more than enough honor, and food, love, power and resources for everyone – that means every single person – to live and thrive.[1] What’s more, according to our Lord, all who enter into the kingdom of heaven are poor in spirit. That means an emptying of sorts.

As the wonderful theologian and preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells us, being poor in spirit “is a fundamental characteristic of the Christian and of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven.” [2] In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows His listeners how to be filled with the manifestation of heaven – of God. But, how are we to be filled with heavenly things if we are not first emptied of worldly things? The worldly, self-centered, all-for-myself attitude?

Jesus and the other citizens of Palestine of the first century were definitely oppressed. The Roman empire was ruling over them, and the people in charge of the local and regional government demanded a lot of taxes. This was not only the money the common folk earned, but also the crops the Jewish people grew and a share of the animals they raised. People were already struggling to provide for themselves and their family. Plus, when they could not pay the taxes the Roman government expected, the Jewish people lost most of what they owned. [3] They were an oppressed nation under an oppressive regime.

Have you ever felt trapped, sad, worried things might never get better? Worried that tomorrow would be just like today, or maybe even worse? That sounds so much like what the people in first-century Palestine were dealing with, every day! Little wonder so many people flocked to hear the message of hope, healing and blessing from the Rabbi Jesus!

This Topsy Turvy Teaching of Jesus is just the beginning of the Beatitudes. Sure, Jesus tells us that the poor in spirit are truly happy, the ones who are truly blessed by God. Not the people who in this world seem to have it all, know it all, or have all the power. Those worldly, puffed up, self-centered, power-hungry people are going to be skipped over by God.

Try clenching your hands to make fists. A fist is a sign of power and strength, isn’t it? But, when our fists are closed tight, we cannot receive anything new, anything of positive value, anything to nurture and to help grow. However, let us open our hands on our lap with palms facing up. This is a physical way to remind us all that we are open to God. [4] We depend on God, and need to be open to learning, growing and changing. We need to empty ourselves of worldly, puffed up, self-centered and power-hungry attitudes that are so common in the world today.

What would Jesus do? Would Jesus be selfish, self-centered and grasping for power and attention? How would Jesus treat the people on the edges of society, the single moms, the elderly without children, the outcast ones, and the friendless? How does Jesus treat you and me? Jesus welcomes the poor in spirit. Jesus welcomes you, and He welcomes me, too.

For ours is the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.

[2] Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Wm. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids MI, 1971), 42-43.

[3] Illustrated Ministries.

[4] Ibid.

Healing and Hope

“Healing and Hope”

Matthew 5:1-12 (5:1-2) – June 19, 2022

Have you ever been particularly in need of hope? I know that hope is usually an internal thing. Hope is often quiet and even smooths challenging emotions and buoys people up when they are going through difficult times. Healing is something that many folks are in need of! The healing that many people immediately think of is physical healing. Have you ever thought about the other ways we can need to be healed? Emotionally, psychologically. Spiritually, as well. The need for healing of any kind is truly great in this world!

The Beatitudes from Matthew 5 are a wonderful description of hope and healing, from our Lord Jesus Christ. The Rabbi Jesus preached this sermon of hope and healing very early in His ministry. People flocked to hear Him, and to see the miracles He did.

Who was He preaching to, we might ask? Answer: lots of people! People not only local from Nazareth and the rest of Galilee, but from further south in Palestine, from the area north of the sea of Galilee, and from the area east of the Jordan River, too.

Except – how did the people who heard these Beatitudes feel? Did they have hope? Did they need healing? Our Lord Jesus had been spending a lot of time healing people. Remember, He was getting quite the reputation already as a miracle-worker. So, yes. He was ministering to many, many people’s physical needs.

Jesus had been spending a lot of time healing people. I don’t know about you, but when I reflect on the Rabbi Jesus’ public ministry, I can’t help but see His first disciples as not only His students in the way of God’s kingdom, but they needed to be good at crowd control. Seriously, any person who had the reputation that Jesus did would have been mobbed wherever He went! It would only make sense in today’s world that such an important, high-profile person – healer – an in-demand preacher and teacher – would have staff, and assistants, and handlers, and be really difficult for common folks to reach and talk to.

Have you ever tried to talk to someone really important and high-profile? Or, get a few minutes of their time? Imagine going through a secretary or administrative assistant. I’ve met with administrators and presidents on college or seminary campuses, and that was difficult enough! I cannot imagine how difficult it probably is to meet with someone really big, like the CEO of a multi-national corporation or the owner of a major league sports team or a high-profile media personality.

Except, Jesus wasn’t like that. Our Lord Jesus when He was here on the earth was accessible to anyone. He recognized that the people surrounding Him had broken hearts and unsteady hope. They needed healing in so many ways. One important way for these dear people to receive care from Jesus was to hear His teaching about healing and hope. That is why the Rabbi Jesus led them to a mountain in order to preach and teach. (And, I suspect the mountain had an area similar to a natural amphitheater, where Jesus’s voice was naturally amplified.) Plus, mountains are traditionally places that remind people of God’s presence ith them.

We know that sermons are talks meant to teach and to help people grow in their love for and relationship with God. People were so committed to Jesus and His ministry and message that they followed right along to listen to Him and as the expression goes, to sit at His feet.

The Beatitudes are the opening segment in this Sermon on the Mount that Jesus delivers. I’d like to point out that Jesus meant the Beatitudes for different groups of people from this wide crowd He was preaching to! Unexpected individuals, not typical, on the borders or off to one side in the typical congregation. And, Jesus was deliberate in His teaching and preaching. He knew He was being reactionary and unconventional, and that was okay. Our Lord Jesus never shied away from doing and saying reactionary and unconventional things!    

Jesus knew very well that many people in His day had an unclear or incorrect understanding of how to live their lives. Jesus knew they were living with the wrong goal in mind. So, the Rabbi Jesus purposely said unconventional things to shake up the establishment and to show them God’s way of living. Lo and behold, it was the opposite of the way many people understood it to be! [1]

The highlights of the Beatitudes were (and are) granting blessing, hope and healing for those who did not normally receive hope and healing. Jesus purposely turned the spotlight on groups that were dismissed, or glossed over, or ignored, or slighted. We have groups like “the poor in spirit,” “the mourners,” “the meek,” “the merciful,” and “the pure in heart.”  

In raising these disparate, separated people to prominence and granting each one His blessing, our Lord Jesus shows He cares for each and every one listening. No matter what, no matter who. What an inclusive sermon! Leaving no one out! Including many different groups and individuals from all over, from all segments of society, and beyond!

What is more, that wasn’t only just two thousand years ago. Our Lord Jesus is still raising disparate, separated people to prominence. He still proclaims His care and grants His blessing to all, in an inclusive embrace that leaves no one out. Sure, Jesus welcomes faithful, church-going folk! And Christmas-and-Easter church attenders, too! And people who would never darken the door of a house of worship, as well!

Don’t you think Jesus can heal people from the inside out? Don’t you think Jesus can give hope to the hopeless, sight to the spiritually-blind and unstop the ears of those who are stubbornly hearing just their own opinions?

            May our Lord open all of our eyes and ears to the all-inclusive message of the Beatitudes today. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/2-kingdom-life-matthew-5

Prologue to the Beatitudes

“Prologue to the Beatitudes”

Matthew 4:23-25 (4:23) – June 12, 2022

We are starting a new summer sermon series this week. We will be looking at the Beatitudes from Matthew chapter 5, all summer long. The Beatitudes, blessings of God, and blessings from our Lord Jesus. Plus, blessings to a number of unlikely groups of people, too!  

We toss around the word “blessed” here, but we ought to define this word. What is “blessed,” anyhow? Is “blessed” a secret code word for Christians or churches? Or a word that only people on the inside “in-crowd” know about? Well, of course not! I just got done telling you that Jesus blesses a lot of unlikely people and groups! “Blessed” in the first century meant “happy” or “content.” A deep down happiness, and not just on the surface!

Can you remember a time when you were really deep down happy? That’s what our Lord Jesus is talking about, Jesus can bless individuals, and He can bless groups of people.

When I say less-than, downtrodden, overlooked, or excluded, what do you think of? Poor people? People who don’t have enough? People on the sidelines or borders of society? How about people who are definitely not in the inner circle, not having preferred places or special treatment? Our Lord Jesus went around Palestine and Galilee preaching and teaching to just these kinds of people. The unimportant. Excluded. What some might call “the little people.” The Rabbi Jesus was always hanging out with people the “in-crowd” wouldn’t possibly recognize!

I do not have much of a problem considering myself an outsider, on the sidelines, or overlooked. That’s the attitude and the outlook we all are going to take this summer, as we take a closer look at the Beatitudes. Another title for this series is the Topsy Turvy Teachings of Jesus! Where Jesus blesses unexpected and unlikely groups of people!

First, we need to set the scene, and take a look at the backdrop where the Rabbi Jesus is teaching and preaching. Matthew chapter 4 is right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. He is just starting to travel around the northern region of Galilee. Right off the bat, Jesus preaches and teaches to everyone. He heals all who come to Him. He does not discriminate.

Jesus had only just started His ministry, and I am sure that many, many people were moved and touched by His words. Imagine – “News about Jesus spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.”

Pay close attention: Jesus was not just another traveling dog and pony show. A number of these itinerant preachers traveled in Palestine, at any one time.  Jesus did more. Much more! He healed anyone who came to Him, and healed really serious diseases. Do you have any serious disease in your life or body that you would like to have totally gone? That’s what Jesus did. And, the word spread! How could it not? Word about amazing miracles, especially!

Plus, Jesus taught these crowds, wherever Jesus set up shop. People flocked to hear Jesus, from the next country of Syria, from north of Palestine, and from way south around Jerusalem and beyond the Red Sea. Wouldn’t you, if you had the opportunity to travel to see a proven miracle worker? But, wait! There is so much more! The Rabbi Jesus also taught about hope! God’s kingdom. God coming close to each person.

 At its most basic, God’s kingdom is a reality in the nuts-and-bolts living of life. Our Lord Jesus told everyone about the kingdom of God coming near to each one. This is the good news that comes near to all, that forgiveness of God’s love, that seeking of healing from all. Not only looking for actual physical healing, but also spiritual and mental healing. Who wouldn’t want to know about the healing forgiveness of God’s love? Available to everyone!

Just imagine that good news preached here and now, today! In the kingdom of God, there is enough for everyone – not only in terms of spiritual things, but in physical resources, too. Not so in the imperfect, worldly world. Imperfect, fallible people hoard money and resources, prestige and honor. This keeps them from the weaker, poorer, less fortunate parts of society. Let’s not forget that the few, the favored, the people on top of the world exclude anyone they think is unworthy. That almost always means the weaker, poorer, less fortunate parts of society.    

Can you even imagine our Lord Jesus discriminating or excluding people?

No, I can’t, either. Never, ever. Simply impossible. Jesus would never do such a thing, especially in uncertain, topsy-turvy times. The Rabbi Jesus brought healing to their physical selves, and also to their hearts, souls and minds. He wanted everyone to know that they are blessed and favored by God, no matter who, no matter what. Everything Jesus taught and did was about breaking down hurtful expectations and separations in society and among individuals.

Even though we all live in this very imperfect world, we are all blessed by God. Even though our modern times are uncertain, Jesus wants everyone to know that followers of Jesus will have what they need. Even though times are hard and questionable, there is always more than enough love to go around! Jesus makes sure we all know that. When God provides abundance and love, no one needs to bicker or fight or exclude or oppress any more.

Jesus and His topsy-turvy teaching shows us all that we are loved. Each of us is special to God, and we are never alone. That is a marvelous truth, available to each and every one.

That is good news for all of us! Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)

Promises Kept

 “Promises Kept”

John 14:8-17 (14:17) – June 5, 2022

When you think of our Lord Jesus when He was here on earth, what kinds of things come to your mind? Was the Rabbi Jesus an extraordinary preacher and teacher? I believe He was. How about a miracle worker? Certainly, by countless accounts! Did He always tell the truth? I think so. And, how about keeping the promises He made? Absolutely.  

Very often in the Bible, people predict what is going to happen in the future. The prophets of God were very good at this. Sometimes these predictions are warnings and negative things; sometimes the predictions are good things and events to be eagerly awaited!

After the Ascension, the group of disciples were all in Jerusalem, awaiting some really big predictions to come to pass. Predictions by angels, and by the Hebrew Scriptures, and some plain-spoken words by the risen Lord Jesus Himself. It was on Pentecost morning that a large number of predictions came to pass – in a huge way!

You remember the scene? A little over one hundred followers of the risen Lord Jesus had gathered together in Jerusalem, in that very same second story of a building. The place that was the same Upper Room where the disciples had their Last Supper with their Rabbi, the night before His crucifixion.

You remember the train of events? A big holiday and Jewish festival was celebrated: the festival of Shavuot, or First Fruits. Lo and behold, the group of disciples was having a prayer meeting, when suddenly “there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”

The disciples were as surprised as anyone! Yet, Peter realized what was going on and as one of the spokesmen for the disciples, he stood up and proclaimed that this was indeed an earthshaking sign from God! He even quoted from the prophet Joel, about the descending of the Spirit of God.

You remember what happened? Peter said, ““People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed.”

I am certain that as Peter spoke he remembered that last night in the Upper Room; their leader and Rabbi Jesus gave the disciples a firm promise, saying “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.”

This cataclysmic happening on Pentecost morning was that exact thing! The pouring out of the Spirit of truth, God’s Holy Spirit! It was not a gentle, even passive pouring out, but instead a mighty rush of wind! Flames appearing over each believer’s head! And, the gift of tongues or speaking in languages that the disciples had never learned! God displayed awesome power and might on that Pentecost morning!

Let’s go back a few weeks, to that Upper Room, to that Passover dinner just before Jesus was betrayed. All during the past few weeks Jesus had been predicting His death. Fulfillment of prophecy often seems distant and impersonal…like it is not warm or intimate. By some standards, Jesus gave a prophecy, it’s true. But more than that, Jesus gave a firm promise. He promised that His Heavenly Father would send the Spirit of truth upon the disciples.

 “For he lives with you and will be in you.” Such a positive way of seeing this marvelous event! Jesus recognized that His promise would become a lifeline for the disciples, a promise made, and a promise He certainly kept! Isn’t keeping a promise warm, positive and genuine? That describes our Lord Jesus to a “T”

Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus supplied deep needs. Wants and desires, too. He supplied a whole description on new life to Nicodemus. Jesus supplied living water, spiritual hydration to the woman at the well. He supplied healing to the man by the pool of Bethesda. Jesus supplied guidance into an unknown and frightening future to Thomas, and for knowledge that God’s promises are definitely true, in Philip’s case.

And here, in the Upper Room, to all of us here today and throughout the centuries, Jesus elaborated on the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our Gospel reading today points to “an intimate Pentecost, to the Holy Spirit at work in our inner lives and in our world drawing us into intimate relationship with God who delivers on all God’s promises.” [1]

The Pentecost event two thousand years ago was indeed a huge cataclysm of sound and wind and flame and excitement! Yes, and our individual Pentecosts today can also be quiet, introspective and just as full of the Holy Spirit. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting Lord, the God of all creation is sending the Holy Spirit into each of our lives.

This is not a mere prophecy, an impersonal declaration of the might and power of some distant Higher Power. Our risen and ascended Lord Jesus has given us a personal promise, a warm, genuine affirmation of God-With-Us, Emmanuel. A genuine promise given, and a promise bountifully kept – in your life and mine. Amen, alleluia!    

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/intimate-pentecost-alyce-mckenzie-05-10-2013

Ascended into Heaven

“Ascended into Heaven”

Acts 1:1-11 (1:11) – May 29, 2022

            When I was young, I attended a Lutheran church on the northwest side of Chicago. That church had many traditions, including everyone in the church reciting the Apostles Creed after the sermon each Sunday. This church does not have this tradition, at least, it hasn’t for a long time. Many words from the Apostles Creed are familiar, of course, but it is not quite like the Lord’s Prayer. We do not recite it here as often as every single Sunday.  

            What about the section of the Apostles Creed that highlights our Lord Jesus Christ? I invite you to say it along with me: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

            Today we are celebrating “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,” How amazing this must have been for Jesus’ followers! I know we have been over the same ground during this Easter season, as we consider Jesus and the time line after His resurrection. This whole string of events must have been absolutely out of the disciples’ experience.

            Imagine, your Rabbi and leader gets arrested, tried, and killed in a most horrible way. You are devastated. Then, on the third day, some of your women companions come back with a wild story – absolutely amazing! And, it’s true. You see the risen Jesus, too!

            Fast forward several weeks, The risen Lord Jesus appears to you and your companions a number of times, and continues to teach and prepare you – for what? If we go back to the Apostles Creed, this creed is a quick synopsis and theological summary of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Except, we are going to stay on the ascension part. The resurrected Jesus was around for some weeks, long enough for the disciples to kind of accustom themselves to His presence.

What do you know? The disciples (at least most of them!) were more interested in what was going to happen politically! Look at what Dr. Luke highlights for us here in Acts 1: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

“The disciples were still interested in the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. [Except,] the days and seasons of coming events were not something the disciples needed to worry about. Matters of churchmanship, denominational doctrines, church growth, church/state relations…… and the like, all pale before a far greater purpose” [1] that the risen Lord Jesus tried to communicate just before He ascended into heaven.

We can see this clearly from our Lord’s response: “Jesus said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus used stories to communicate great truths all during the three years He was an itinerant Rabbi, journeying all around Palestine. Is it any wonder that one of the most effective ways of “witnessing” to our Lord Jesus is by telling our personal stories?

            The Apostles Creed states that Jesus “ascended to heaven” and “he sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” We can see God sitting on a heavenly throne (perhaps in the temple from Isaiah 6!), and Jesus sits right beside God on God’s right hand. This was a very important place in historic accounts about kings. “The most important person other than the king always sat on the kings’ right hand.  What we are saying about Jesus is that he is right with God and that he is more important than any angel or any person who has ever lived.” [2]

            Yes, this account from Acts 1 is one of our most treasured stories about Jesus, along with the story of the Passion, the trials, and the Crucifixion. And then, we have the greatest story ever told in the account of the Resurrection and its aftermath! Can’t these stories about Jesus be paired with our own personal stories?

            In track and field, when the runners run a relay race, they pass a baton from one to another as each begins to run their leg of the race. Another way to think about the risen Lord Jesus ascending into heaven is Jesus passing the baton to His disciples. They have been in training for these past three years, and now our Lord Jesus is about to leave. “Jesus did tell them very clearly that they were to take up his ministry on earth.  His earthly part of the race was complete, but theirs was just starting.” [3] 

            We are witnesses to Jesus and His power and transformation in our lives today. Jesus “comes to you and me, he comes to his Church, lifts us up, loves us without limit, and invites us to tell the story of love over and over again. Remember His words: ”You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.” [4]  How has Jesus been active in our lives, today? How is He telling the story of love to each of us? Jesus invites us to go and tell – tell others, today! Alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] http://www.lectionarystudies.com/studyot/ascensionot.html

[2] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2016/04/year-c-ascension-of-lord-thursday-may-5.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] “‘Why do you stand looking up into heaven?’ (Acts 1:11),” William Loader, Being the Church Then and Now: Issues from the Acts of the Apostles.