After a brief hiatus from posting sermons on this page, we bring you Pastor Leanne's most recent sermon.
Remember: You are Blessed!
February 2, 2014
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
You are blessed.
That, in a nutshell, is the message that Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to all of us.
You are blessed.
It is easy for us to see those blessings around us and in us whenever things are going good in our lives and in the world. We recognize those blessings and, hopefully, we thank God for all the gifts and blessings that we know and experience in our lives.
It is harder, however, to see ourselves as blessed when times are hard. When we struggle, when we suffer, and when we are in pain.
The problem is that we tend to think of God’s blessing as some sort of blissful state where everything is right and good in the world. Where we have all that we need if not all that we want...a state that is our reward from God for being, doing, saying, the right (or the righteous) thing.
Throughout history, this has been referred to in a number of different ways...from “works righteousness” (where God rewards us for our labors with the blessings of salvation) to “The Prosperity Gospel” (where God rewards us for our faithfulness with all the beautiful trappings of this world).
Because we view blessings in this way, when things aren’t all happy and shiny and beautiful, we not only think that we aren’t blessed, but that we are somehow being punished for some known or unknown transgressions.
This is nothing new. Throughout history, even before the time of Christ, we have viewed God’s blessings in this way...reward and punishment,
Think about it: The entire storyline of the book of Job is based off of this understanding: Job was a righteous man who had many good things in his life. A debate arose between God and ha satan (The Accuser) as to whether he was righteous because he had good things or if he would remain faithful and righteous if he lost all of them...and so God took them away. His crops and his livestock, and with it his livelihood, was destroyed. His family was killed. His own health was taken away, and he was covered in festering boils and sores. And, one by one, his friends all came by and, seeing his state, were all convinced that his blessings were taken away and he was being punished by God.
Jesus, too, dealt with these questions frequently, as people would come and ask him things like, in reference to a man who was born blind from birth, who was being punished for sinfulness, him or his parents.
In modern times, too, as we live in a culture that is permeated with the notion of The Prosperity Gospel, we think of things like poverty and disease as God’s punishment, the taking away of God’s blessings and the replacing of them with pain and struggles, for a lack of faithfulness. We tell people, “if you just believe more, pray harder” then God will take these things away and you, too, will experience all of the blessings of God.
And so, throughout Christian history, The Beatitudes have been a great source of comfort for all of us. In these simple words and sentences, Jesus turns these attitudes and perceptions on their head and reminds us that, indeed, we are blessed.
You. You are blessed.
Even in the hardest of times...you are blessed.
Even in the darkest of hours...you are blessed.
Even when you struggle. Even when you are in pain. Even when you are lost and confused and questioning God.
You. Are. Blessed.
You may not think it right now, especially if you look around you and see others with their shiny, happy lives and wonder why you don’t have what they have.
You may not feel it right now, especially when you contemplate what, who, you have lost, and wonder how you can ever feel normal again.
But, the truth is that you are blessed.
You are blessed, because, in the midst of all of that stuff that is going on in your life: depression, addiction, anxiety, friction and fights with loved ones, loss, illness, financial woes...whatever it is...in the midst of all of that, (emphasize: not because of it, in the midst of it), God is there.
You are blessed because God is there, providing you with comfort.
You are blessed because God is there, giving you strength.
You are blessed because God is there, guiding you, and showing you the way.
You are blessed because God is building a kingdom where we will see and experience God’s righteousness and justice.
You are blessed by God because God loves you and you can be assured of that love, from this world into the next.
Know this, simply this: You are blessed.
And you are blessed, in all of your life...good and bad, joyful and painful...you are blessed in that you are called by God to be an instrument of God’s blessing to others.
For, as we live as God calls us to (Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, and Walking Humbly with Our God) in response to all of those blessings that we have experienced and known in God, we become vessels of those blessings; providing comfort, mercy, and care so that others may know and experience what we have, even in the darkest and most painful moments of their lives.
And in this way, your blessing from God becomes God’s blessing for others.
Sisters and brothers, may you know, no matter what is going on in your life, that you are blessed. May you see God’s blessings. May you know God’s blessings. And may you be comforted and strengthened by this knowledge as you live surrounded by those blessings, each and every day.