Today Jesus climbs up onto the mountain and teaches us all. Today we have some of the core lessons of the Christian life brought to us “pow, pow, pow” in three of the most powerful, most central readings in the entire Bible. Micah, Paul, Jesus. It’s almost too much to handle.
Micah’s famous passage: What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk [shrewdly] with your God.
The theme of shrewdness/wisdom ultimately being about doing justice and loving kindness is carried over in Paul. Paul talks about the wisdom of the world, the shrewdness of the world vs. the wisdom and shrewdness of God. This text of Paul’s becomes one of Martin Luther’s main focal points as he discusses, what he calls, “the theology of the cross.” Luther contrasts the “theology of the cross” to the “theology of glory”. [Lutheran Handbook, and center page on “How to become a Theologian of the Cross” – read points 1 & 3]
This leads us right up the mountain, to find Jesus preaching, the Sermon on the Mount…where Jesus takes his listeners “to the next level.” You want to follow me? You want to be elevated with me up here on this mountain? Well then, get ready for some surprises, Jesus says to us today. Because Jesus continues on the themes that the prophet Micah and Paul set forth – that faithful discipleship has nothing to do with showy offerings, or popularity, or success, or the world’s wisdom. In other words, the mountain top, is the last place you’ll find Jesus and his blessings. Blessedness is down in the valley, on the plain, in the everyday. Blessedness is shed upon the suffering, in the sermon on the mount – the lowly, the poor in spirit, the meek. Jesus is not the King of the Mountain; he’s the Shepherd of the Valley. And his followers act in a similar way. This is a radical idea.
It’s a topsy-turvy message again today. The world would expect Christ, or any deity, to reign supreme – like a super-hero with giant muscles and awesome weapons, and servants, and enemies underfoot. Conquering hero, like Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe, these characters that once were underdogs, but then overcame all the odds and now are just awesome and all the girls are screaming for them and they know how to fly helicopters and shoot guns with precision and sword fight and do back-flips. Jesus is anything but cool. Say what you will about our president, but you’ve got to admit, he’s got that cool factor, that Jesus doesn’t have. Obama’s got that swagger and smile. Confidence…and why not? He’s arguably the “most powerful man in the world”. Jesus is anything but cool, powerful, and smooth.
Seriously, if you want to step into these lessons of Scripture, think of a looser—a modern-day looser. No muscles, probably clumsy. “Despised and rejected.” (how quickly we forget that à DJ Hall’s quote) It’s a topsy-turvy message. Going to the next level means flipping everything on its head. For to suggest that Jesus is a looser is a winning statement. [back to Lutheran Handbook, read point 4]
This is radical stuff! And Jesus is just giving us a preview of what is to come, as he inaugurates his ministry with this Sermon on the Mount, lifting up all those who seem insignificant and silly to everyone else. This is Jesus’ State of the Union address: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, whether we find ourselves in these categories or not, this is Good News. Because it means that we and the rest of this world will never be abandoned by God, will never stop being blessed by God. There’s no way that God can ever disappear. If Jesus is casting blessings on the least of these in our midst—sometimes that’s you, sometimes it’s not—but if Jesus is casting blessings-upon-blessings all the way down the least of these, then we know we’re always covered by God’s love.
For in the moment when we too feel despised and rejected, clumsy, with no swagger, no muscles, no voice – Christ is right there. In the moment when we feel lost and forsaken, alone or confused, Christ is right there too. At the moment we feel so unforgivable, so broken or poor in spirit, Christ is there. We meet Jesus, not on the red carpet, but at the cross – foolishness to the power-hungry and awesome, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
May these words of Scripture this morning—not frighten us or dis-engage us. May the words of Scripture this morning give us hope and new life. May they shape us and mold us for forgiveness, for blessedness, and for faithfulness – for going to the next level – doing justice, loving kindness, and walking with God…this day and always. AMEN.