January 31, 2021: In Search of the Kingdom of God – The Blessing of Mourning
In Search of the Kingdom of God – Being Healed
- Prelude – “You Have Searched Me,” by Benjamin Harlan; Pauline Olsen, organ; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 384 – “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” by Charles Wesley; Ken Burres and Sue Ninemier, hymn leaders; Pauline Olsen, organ; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Prayer Time – Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Special Music – “I Just Want to Thank You Lord,” by Judy Marshall; Patty Davis, vocalist
- Scripture -: Matthew 8:5-10; Margot Hewitt
- Sermon – In Search of the Kingdom of God – Being Healed; Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 375 – “There is a Balm in Gilead,” African American spiritual; Benediction
- Postlude – “Meditation on ‘Showalter,'” arr. by Ben Logan; Pauline Olsen, organ
Classes on etiquette, walking with books on the head, holding a cup of tea, training on posture…remember the day where it was expected for certain parts of the population. It was all about physical positioning, posture, decorum, and more. I would have failed, miserably. For years I’ve slouched. I take after my mom who, after slouching her whole life now cannot stand up straight. Her body got so used to the posture that it finally kind of took over. I fear having the same thing happened to me. Dorothy is constantly asking me to put my shoulders back, stand up straight, and to think about my posture. She does it because she loves me. She really isn’t trying to be anything but that partner in life who wants the best for her spouse. I appreciate it a lot. Many of us grew up talking about posture; particularly about what posture says about us. Well, it can and often does the same when it comes to our faith. Posture, like language, like attitude, matters and says a lot about us in our faith.
Last week I talked about a posture that comes out of the whole idea of being blessed. It is based on an image, one that is described by the word in ancient Aramaic for blessed. It is the image of a person kneeling; taking on the posture of humility before God; honoring, being humble, contrite, yet with expectation. It is to humbly seek. But it doesn’t stop there. The expanded meaning is one of God coming and kneeling before us; to help us, hold us, connect with us, offer us grace, all with a desire to love us. It’s the word that comes before each of the Beatitudes. The first expression of what helps us become blessed is understanding our own spiritual poverty. Today we move to the second.
But remember, the overall purpose of the combination of the Beatitudes is the bringing of a new reality to this place; to our lives, our relationships, even to the world that surrounds us. The goal is to basically bring the order of heaven, God’s order, the order seen in the first story of creation…to earth. Also, remember, that the Beatitudes build on each other. There is an order that brings order. There is a sequence that offers us a roadmap toward what God expects of us and hopes for us and for the world.
The placement in Matthew is so appropriate, as everything that follows builds on what we find here at the beginning of Chapter Five, this first overview of the teachings of Jesus. It is the foundation for everything that follows. So, after being open with God about our own spiritual poverty, we now move to the whole idea of being blessed by the action of mourning.
Mourning isn’t simply sadness. It is multi-faceted. It is a deeper emotion. It is often caused by the loss of a significant relationship shared between two or more people, or, as we see here, between a person and God. Mourning creates a physical response; things like weeping, a deep feeling of longing, of missing a loved one, or even is an expression of love potentially lost. But here, to add the word blessed to it, means we have to come to terms with the posture again. We need to have that image of kneeling as we experience this deeply felt emotion. It begins with that posture before God. Initially, it is to mourn those things we’ve done that cause separation between us and God; our actions that miss the mark; actions that cause the separation. As that separation occurs we mourn that loss and seek to intentionally regain the relationship. So we confess as we seek to reestablish what was lost, and become blessed because of that desire and the actions that follow. But that’s not all when dealing with mourning and being blessed by it.
In God’s kingdom, in the heavenly realm, there is no sin or separation. None. There is peace, balance, and wholeness. And isn’t that what we’re seeking here? So, to get to that point in our relationship with God, we now first have to admit to our role in the separation, of those things we’ve done to miss the mark. We kneel, we identify, we turn in a new direction, and realize that we’ve been forgiven. And in so doing, God kneels before us, listens intently, and offers us reconciliation, love, and grace, or as it says, we are comforted and become whole in our relationship with our Creator. There is the belief that it ends there. I don’t believe it does. There are other levels of mourning that have the opportunity to create blessings; mourning that has the potential of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. Three come to mind.
Second, it is what we seek to do with each other, and is focused here, in the church. We seek to serve; to serve God and to serve one another. We mourn when we are not able to do that, kind of like doing church within a pandemic. We mourn the loss of being together. We feel it, identify it, name it, and feel the depth of that loss. It speaks to the depth of our relationships here. If the feelings were not deeply felt, then we wouldn’t mourn the loss of them.
For those who came from Sequim Community, the mourning of church takes on a whole new level. It is the loss of what you believed was Christian community, the trust you hoped to find in a pastor, and then the feelings of rejection that led to you leaving your beloved congregation. We all mourn when another causes us harm, and within that wound, it remains open until there is resolution. With Sequim Community Church, it does not appear that there will be any resolution, so we kneel and ask God to heal that wound for us; to allow this church, Trinity, to become a healing place, a place where wholeness can happen, where we can deal openly with the feelings of loss felt over an event like that. The departure of Bill and Jenny, if not dealt with openly, kneeling before God, and allowing God to hold us, heal us, fill us – will remain an open wound until we allow God’s spirit to heal us. Moving from a different place, to this community, leaving behind a church or friends or family also can create a feeling of loss.
So, we take the posture in order to be blessed knowing that God will and can bring us comfort in the midst of it.
Third, we mourn the actions we’ve taken to bring about harm to another person. We mourn that we still feel it, and haven’t dealt with it. We mourn that it has created a hole in our lives, and it is in the mourning that we are able to begin to look at what comes next. To be blessed, we kneel before that person and, like our actions with God, we seek to be forgiven by those on the receiving end of our harm. The posture is kneeling. The emotion is real. The action is necessary if we are to experience fully the kingdom of God. And finally, this may be the toughest of all of them; it is the mourning that we must feel when we see those who are not in balance, do not have what they need, who are oppressed, or who are held captive by things over which they feel they have no control. Just a reminder, that when Jesus came to his own synagogue in Nazareth, he opened the scriptures to the Book of Isaiah. He read the passage that said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This becomes our evaluation. When have we brought good news to the poor, released the oppressed or those held captive by anything that binds them, push them down, or pushes them aside? How have we helped people see that love that can only come from God? We mourn for them, but we also have to feel the depth of feeling that moves us toward action. If we’ve not done any of those, we mourn.
We mourn because it’s those things that bring heaven to earth; that create peace and balance and hope and freedom. It’s those things that allow others to experience heaven; God’s intentions for creation, and the balance sought by God at the very opening of creation. As hard as that may sound, we need to hear it as we come to terms with what this Beatitude means for us. And what’s our posture with all of those if we are to become blessed? We come with the attitude to serve, with humility, to be the hands or feet of Christ.
How that plays out for you is between you and God. But please know, after admitting our own spiritual poverty we then have to take this next step in order to continue in our kingdom work. And by the way, we can’t do it alone. We need each other to help us move through it together. My role is to practice it and coach it at the same time. And like every single one of us, I fail and go back to the beginning. But God’s grace is sufficient, and Christ’s pledge to help us is unending. The hope and prayer are that the same can be said of each of us with each other. So, there you have it.
Next week we begin to move in a more positive direction as we examine what it means to be meek. And just a bit of a teaser, meek in no way means weak. Not at all, and we’ll see that next week. For today, I’ve given you a lot to think about. So let’s take on this next piece, and practice. Let’s stand up straight, no slouching, and feel that love that God is so ready to offer us, if we take on the right posture. It is in that we can find what it means to be blessed…and to begin, let’s pray…