Sunday, February 23, 2014

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life, "Blessed are the meek...", by Rev Steven R Mitchell, for Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 2/23/2014

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life

“Blessed are the meek…”

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 2/23/2014

Based on Matthew 5:5


        As we take time to look deeper into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as presented in the Gospel of Matthew, it is my hope that we will continue to gain a better sense of just how counter-cultural Jesus and his teachings were not just to those listening to his message in the First Century, but also to us living in the Twenty-first century.  Those who were listening to Jesus were living in an occupied land by an empire that thrived on physical force and brutality.  They were living in a world where there was a common believe of multiple gods.  The world of Jesus saw the majority of people living in poverty while only a few enjoyed the wealth. 

        The Beatitudes, the “blessed are they” teachings are often understood by modern listeners as a guide of “how to get to heaven”, which really is limiting the depth of what Jesus was saying.   As the church matured over the centuries, it has somehow taken Jesus and his teachings as dealing with life in the future; a future that most refer to as Heaven which is outside of our physical grasp, the place where God lives.  But that is not the message that Jesus spoke, especially in this sermon. 

As we read Matthews account of this sermon it is easy to get a mental picture of gentle rolling hills, covered in grass and possibly patches of wildflowers adorning the landscape, with large shade trees for those listening to be shaded from the bright sun.  Jesus is at the very head of this gathering of people with his disciples sitting closest to him and then the crowed below them.  Possibly Peter has his steno pad out recording every word that Jesus is speaking.   Within this particular scene we can easily image Jesus’ demeanor as very mild, timid, dare I say even meek!  This image is a result of skilled story telling. 

When we read scripture, one of the things that we must keep in mind is that these words are also literature.  For Matthew, it is the telling a story about how God came down and lived among us in the person of Jesus.  One of the primary messages of Jesus, as Matthew presents it is the revelation that God is among us, making God’s kingdom present here on earth.  So, for Matthew the best way to present what is going to be told in his Gospel is to take the collective teachings of Jesus’ three year ministry and present them in one full sermon.  In this way Matthew can draw upon these basic tenets of what life in the kingdom of God is like throughout the rest of his story about Jesus’ ministry.  It is unfortunate that over time the church has moved Jesus’ message from a call for “engaged living” of the present to that of salvation in the future; we have lost Jesus’ call to be living in the present.

Because of the Beatitudes being so counter intuitive to how we experience life I can see why we want to take these teachings of how the Kingdom of God is and put them beyond our physical world.  Blessed are the poor.  I don’t know about you, but I never was taught by my parents that it should be a goal to be poor, even in spirit.  As a society, we work hard at protecting our egos and teach that self is the key to success.  Blessed are those who mourn.  The last thing that we like to do is acknowledge loss.  As a society we are afraid of death, we are afraid of being alone, we do not trust others with our feelings because it makes us vulnerable.  Interestingly enough, it is through our vulnerability that we are able to find that comfort that we so long for. 

Blessed are the meek.  It seems like with each new “blessed”, Jesus is cutting deeper and deeper into what our society values most.  Meekness is one word that is about the most un-American ideal that I can think of.  Our national symbol of strength is the American Bald Eagle – a bird of prey.     Again, most parents do not desire that their children be meek, but rather strong, exertive, the leader of the pack; maybe the team captain or head cheerleader, but never the person who stands back quietly unobserved in the corner of the room. 

Meekness in our culture is seen as mousy, withdrawn, and weak.   (Just as a side thought, this is the image that the church has assigned to Jesus, which possibly might be one reason why we see a lack of men in our faith communities.)  If ever there was a word or concept that has been most perverted by our culture it is the understanding of what “meek” is.  To think that the meek shall inherit the earth is a total absurdity as we understand meek, which should lead us to ask the question, “Have we possibly misunderstood what it means to be meek?”

It doesn’t help that the Greek word for meek “praus” means mild, gentle, unassuming; attributes that do not lend itself to becoming the president of a company or a CEO of a large corporation.  So what does Jesus mean when he says the meek shall inherit the earth?  We must remember that Jesus is talking about being in relationship with God, so if we think of meekness as being directable by God, or being leadable by God, then meekness becomes a strength, because it is an opening for God to use us.

J.R.R. Tolkien puts meekness into physical form through his creation of the Hobbits.  The hobbits live, not in a towering fortress, but in small earthen huts.  Hobbits are “shy of the Big People.”  They are not consumers; they give presents to others on their own birthdays; they are unfailingly supportive in friendship – as they must be, precisely because they are small!  Lacking in acquisitiveness and lust for power, they are the ideal protagonists to destroy the ring of power (in the story of Lord of the Rings), for they alone don’t want power, which corrupts those big people who pant for it in their desire to be even bigger. The Beatitudes for Today, by James Howell  In essence they understand “who they are” – they are unassuming - meek.

The Beatitudes can be thought as a progression of behaviors where you cannot move forward in each “blessing” without possessing the previous “blessing”.  You can not possess meekness without first emptying yourself so that God can live within your heart, mind, and soul.  You cannot mourn over the injustice and lack of mercy until you are poor in spirit.  You cannot live in the power of meekness until you mourned the lack of God’s presence being fully expressed here on earth.

Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr is a prime example of meekness, as he was a man who held little statue in a white society, yet spoke out God’s truth of justice that forced a government to recognize the inequality of racism and to take steps to provide equal protection under law of its citizens.  Gandhi is another example of meekness as he topped British Imperialism in his country of India.  Both of these men used non-violence as the vehicle for challenge and change.  Mother Teresa is another person who demonstrated the power of meekness by challenging societies views on poverty and the human treatment of each human life. 

Yesterday at the Hot Cakes and Hot Topics those who were in attendance had the opportunity to meet and listen to a young man and a young woman who also embodies the power of meekness.  They are two Israelis who are working toward peace within the Israeli and Palestinian community in Israel, by sharing with the world stories of the inhumane behavior of Zionism against the Palestinian people.  They are a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr., or a Gandhi, or a Mother Teresa.  In listening to Eran’s story, you realize that through his meekness he is wheeling more power than he ever did as an Israeli soldier carrying a gun.

As we strive to deepen our relationship with God, to help promote the reality that God is here with us in the present, we need to discover how meekness is an essential quality in building up God’s kin-dom.  We live in a world where many do not wish to become poor in spirit, yet it is in this poverty of spirit that we are able to gain the proper prospective of who we are in God’s kin-dom.  This is where meekness finds its strength.  The world ultimately responds to the meek in a positive way because it shows the injustices that are present and challenges humanity to become better than it is.  As a child of God it is imperative that we become meek, to allow ourselves to be usable to God, in God’s kin-dom here on earth.  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.  Amen

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Discovering A Beatitude Filled Life, "Blessed are those who mourn", By Rev Steven R Mitchell, for Mountain View United, CO 2/16/2014

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life

“Blessed are those who mourn…”

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Aurora, CO 2/16/2014

Bases on Matthew 5:4


        When I was just about 4 yrs old, my grandfather became very ill.  I recall our visits to see him at the hospital and then one day he was able to come home.   There seemed to be no joy around his being dismissed from the hospital.  In fact, there was a hospital bed set up in the dining room waiting for his return.  I recall what a long summer it was, and how my relationship with Grandpa had dramatically changed.   He was no longer able to walk with me along the streets, in fact, when I came to visit, I had to keep extra quiet, for even the sounds of my walking across the dining room floor seemed to upset my grandfather.  This went on for what seemed to be months, but I think it was only a few weeks, and then one day, the hospital bed was empty.  Grandma was very sad as were all the grownups around me.  My grandfather had died.

        At four years old, I of course didn’t understand what it meant to die, other than I realized that grandpa was no longer around.  He wasn’t there to take me on walks, nor to talk with when I would come over for my daily visit.  I knew that I missed him and that there seemed to be a big black hole at their house.  Then one day after weeks of my moping around, as my grandmother and I were swinging on the swing on her front porch, she asked me what was troubling me so much.  I looked up at her and with tears in my eyes, I blurted out that I didn’t want her to die and leave me alone.  In her wisdom, grandma held me close and replied, “Is that what I have been so worried about?  Why Steven, I’m going to live a long time.  I’m going to live long enough to see you have children.”   At 4 yrs old, I didn’t know how long that was going to be, but to me it was going to be an eternity.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.  This was my first cogitative memory of death but it hasn’t been my last.  My grandmother kept that promise to me, for she didn’t pass away until my youngest child was about two years old.  I share this story with you this morning as an example in the power that comes through comfort.  For me, I never ever thought again about the possibility of my grandmother leaving me.  I was truly freed from that fear of separation. 

There is a variety of ways in which comfort comes to those who mourn.  In my last year of my serving in Rock Springs, WY, Hospice came and asked if they could use the church for a candle-light ceremony for those people that they had worked with during the past year.  It wasn’t a worship in a traditional sense as many of those attending would not classify themselves as Christians or affiliated with any particular church or denomination, yet it was a worship.  This was a worship designed to help those people who had lost a loved one during the year come once again and find support and comfort in their grieving process.  We do this as well with the worship we call “Blue Christmas”, where we take time to honor our feelings of loneliness, grief, and anger in the loss of someone who is very dear to us during the Advent Season.

        There is a philosophy within the prosperity teaching churches that says, “all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and all your troubles will disappear; you just have to believe hard enough and you will live in comfort, joy, and prosperity.”  I am here today to tell you, that it doesn’t matter how much you believe in Jesus, or how much trust you have in God, we still live in a Good Friday world.  A world where there is evil, pain, death, and injustices. 

I would like to share two stories where Jesus was confronted with death.  One was with the daughter of Jairus, who had come looking for Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Jesus agrees to go with Jairus to heal her, but before they get to their house, they receive word that she has died.  Along with Peter, James, and John, Jesus continues to Jairus’ house and only the parents and the three companions enter into the young girls room, where Jesus takes time and mourns with the parents before he commands that she rise up out of bed.

        The second more famous story is that of Jesus being called to the bedside of his friend Lazarus who was also quite ill.  Upon Jesus’ arrival to Bethany where Lazarus home was Jesus was greeted by one of Lazarus’ sisters Martha sharing the news of Lazarus’ death and burial.  Again Jesus weeps for the loss of his friend Lazarus, and then brings him back to life.  The common thread in these two stories is community.  Jesus doesn’t do his weeping alone in silence, but with friends.  Jesus doesn’t bring these two people back to life in secrecy but in public, in community.

        We have grown into a society that doesn’t wish to deal with pain or loss.  When the World Trade Towers were attacked on Sept 11, 2001, a stunned and grieving nation went to our churches, synagogues, and temples to grieve and find comfort.  But within a few days after the attack our government officials through their wisdom urged us to go shopping to take our minds off of what had just happened.  We do not give the time to grieving that should be given.  We have work policies that give just “X” number of days to deal with it, then we are somehow suppose to magically get back into the saddle and resume life as if that loss had never happened.  Friends may tolerate our grieving for a month or so, but after that time frame society considers it inappropriate behavior and we somehow are supposed to go back to the way life was prior to that major loss.

        The loses that I have been speaking about are about people that are dear to us, but there are other losses life other than those we love.  We can lose our jobs, our homes, a leg or an eye.  All of these can give great cause for grieving and the act of mourning.  Yet as a society we fear lose and thereby do not wish to give loss its due respect.   We are urged to be stoic, told “to buck up cowboy” and get back into the saddle.  Become disengaged.  How many times were you told as a child, “no use crying over spilt milk?”  It’s true, crying over something that has happened will not change the event, but why not cry over the loss of whatever it is that needs to be cried over?

        There is a very tender scene in the play Torch Song Trilogy where Arnold the son and his mother had been having a huge argument where Arnold was once again justifying his life.  Mom then turns to Arnold and inquires about his deceased partner who had been murdered some months earlier, “Do you still love him?”  Arnold with tears in his eyes says, “I miss him Ma.”  His mother replies, “good” because it is through the pain that keeps him alive in your heart.  You don’t want to ever forget him do you Arnold?”  It was in this moment that Arnold was able to let his mother into his life at a level that he for the first time was able to be comforted by his mother.

        Although Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people who was very poor and knew the reality of hardship that daily living gave, Jesus was also speaking beyond their immediate environment.  Jesus was implying a more spiritual level of mourning as well.  Jesus was recalling prophets of the past who cried out to Jerusalem to turn back to the God of their father Abraham. “O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,…” Matt 23:37 He is speaking about the ability to mourn for a world that turns its back on God’s basic law of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

        As time has progressed, and with the death of Jesus we have been assured by Jesus that he would send a comforter to us.  We call this comforter, the Holy Spirit.  And how does the Holy Spirit bring comfort?  I believe in a practical sense, the Holy Spirit can be experienced most fully in community.  When we go about the work of sitting with people and listening to their pains of life, when we sit at the hospitals and read magazines to those who are ill, when we pray in unity for a broken world, we are in a sense mourning with those who are grieving loss, and it is through that community where comfort is found. 

Like the comfort that I found in my grandmothers promise to live until she saw all of my children which freed me from the fear of losing her at that point of my life, so Jesus tells us that it is through our mourning that we are open enough to receive the comfort of God through the Holy Spirit, which may come in the form of human angels.  A comfort that will allow us to heal, a comfort that allows us to connect more deeply to one another and with humanity and with our world.  It is through the comforting that we are able to look forward with hope.  Amen

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life,"Blessed are the poor in spirit" (series) by Rev Steven R Mitchell,

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life

Blessed are the poor in Spirit

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 2/9/2014

Based on Matthew 5:3 and I Corinthians 2:13-16


        Last week the lectionary reading dealt with Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ first sermon, Sermon on the Mount or The Beatitudes.  As I reflected over those particular verses, I came to the realization that we need to slow down and ponder a bit longer upon this Sermon of Jesus.  So over the next few weeks I am going to take each “blessed are…” and reflect upon their original meanings to the First Century Church and how they may be heard and understood in today’s world.

The very first “blessed are…” makes it very easy to think of these nine blessings as relating to a world in the future and not of this physical world but of life after this world.   Yet these words of instruction, or guidance, or even disciplines are not the how to get to God’s kingdom, but indicates what life is like in God’s kingdom.   I truly believe that these nine “blessed are” to be the hardest of Jesus’ sayings for those of us who live in this country.  I believe this because most of us live at a standard that we identify as “middle class.”  Scripture warns us about the indifference that comes with being “lukewarm”, of not being either hot or cold.  As middle class, we are neither poor nor wealthy, we are middle, we are lukewarm, putting us in a perilous place to exist in.  It is perilous because it dulls our perspectives and more dangerously it dulls our passions.  Middle class is our world of The Matrixs – that sensation of living life without truly living life!

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”   So what does poor in Spirit mean and how long do we have to wait before we are rewarded with living in the Kingdom of heaven?  We first must understand what Matthew meant when he used the word “heaven.”   When we hear the word “heaven”, we are conditioned to think about the place where God lives, and we all know that God lives somewhere “up there”, up there in heaven, just as we understand the devil to live “down there” in hell, which is someplace in the center of earth.  But Matthew was writing for a predominantly Jewish audience, meaning that you as a devote Hebrew would never use the word “God”, because it was religiously forbidden to say God’s name.   We struggle today in mainline denominations with how to refer to God by not using gender pronouns.   So one way to deal with this issue is to assign a different word for God and Matthew chose to use the word “heaven” as a way to refer to God.  So when substituting the word “God” into this first beatitude it would read, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  This is consistent with Jesus’ pronouncement that the Kingdom of God is at hand, or is present.  So the Beatitudes are concerned with the present not some distant future.

This is not a hard concept for us to understand, but what about the first half of the sentence, “Blessed are the poor in spirit?  What does it mean to be poor in spirit?  A few weeks ago, I was challenged with a question by a person who wished to know how I would describe what it means to be “living in poverty.”  To be very truthful, my first reaction to the question was one of repulsion.  I was repulsed because I had spent the early part of my life working my way out of a world that we call poverty and into middle class.  Yes that’s right into “lukewarmness.”  But that question started a very long conversation that is still ringing in my brain and has much to do with what does Jesus mean when he said “blessed are the poor.

A man by the name of Clarence Jordan asked this question: Does Jesus mean “blessed are the poor” or is it merely an image?  Clarence was a man who believed he should live out what he read in the bible, so he started a farming commune, where blacks and whites lived together, sharing their property in common – and he did this in the 1940’s in rural Georgia, subjecting himself to the hatred of the KKK and affluent Georgians.  Preaching on this question of whether Jesus meant spiritual poverty or monetary poverty, he said: If you have a lot of money, you’ll probably say spiritual poverty.  If you have little or no money, you’ll probably say physical poverty.  The rich will thank God for Matthew; the poor will thank God for Luke (who said, “blessed are the poor” and left it at that).  Who’s right”  Chances are, neither one.  For it is exactly this attitude of self-praise and self-justification and self-satisfaction that robs people of a sense of great need for the kingdom and its blessings.  When one says, “I don’t need to be poor in things; I’m poor in spirit,” and another says, “I don’t need to be poor in spirit; I’m poor in things,” both are justifying themselves as they are saying in unison, “I don’t need.”  With that cry on one’s lips, no person can repent.” The Beatitudes for Today by James C Howell

I think what we have to come to understand in what Clarence was saying is when we are filled with ourselves, whether rich or poor, with our own justifications of self, there is no room for God in us.  We are unable to receive the blessings that God has for us until we are able to change the “I don’t need” to the “I don’t have anything”.  In AA it is called “admitting you are powerless.”  It is in our spiritual poverty that we are able to recognize the need for relationship – with God, with one another, and with our environment. 

It is in our middle-class environment that gives us a false security of living the “I don’t need” mentality.  In affluent American communities, it is often the case that our material abundance creates a kind of spiritual poverty in which the sufferings of life cannot be acknowledged and God’s blessings cannot be celebrated or cherished.  Instead of our abundance giving us freedom to act, it actually fosters a deep seeded insecurity, a life that is filled with anxiety, a fear that what we have today will be gone tomorrow.  It is a mentality of living life in scarcity not truly receiving the blessings of abundant living as given by God. Claiming the Beatitudes by Anne Sutherland Howard pg 14    Why?  Because we don’t recognize that we are living in the “I don’t need” instead of living in the “I am powerless” mode.  This is the peril with us living in the middle – we do not fully open ourselves up to the true blessings that God has for us.  Living in the middle holds us back from moving beyond charity to advocacy, from moving beyond seeing the poor as “other” to seeing ourselves in solidarity with these brothers and sisters in Christ.   

The very first reality of living in God’s kingdom, whether in heaven or here on earth is to recognize that we have to trust in God solely for our existence; that the blessing comes with God being in charge not ourselves.   Another way of looking at this would be: As followers of Christ, we have an unbreakable relationship with those who are persecuted, suffering, or destitute. Their material poverty reveals our own spiritual poverty.  They are poor so we are poor.  Often we choose not to recognize the relationship between the immensity of poverty in the world and our spiritual incompleteness.  But in the beatitudes, Jesus challenges that kind of denial of involvement or self-removal from a world of suffering. Claiming the Beatitudes, pg 17   

Paul told the church in Corinth: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.   

Our culture tells us that “more” is satisfying, that you look after number one, that those who are poor deserve to be poor, but God tells us that God’s ways are not understood by the world.  Jesus tells us that being a part of God’s kingdom is empting ourselves of the fear of scarcity and trusting in God and that this can only happen when we are “poor in spirit”, for it is in our poverty that we recognize God in our lives.   Amen

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blessed is Mountain View when..., by Rev Steven R Mitchell 2/2/2014 based on Matt 5:1-12

Blessed is Mountain View When…

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 2/2/2014

Based on Matthew 5:1-12


        Each week we sing a thank you, an exhortation to God as we bring up our financial offerings and the very first line of that song is “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.   It is easy to think of “blessings” as those things we perceive to be the “special and good” in our lives, like sugar on our cereal or the frosting on the cake, and conversely think of those negative things in our lives as “trials and tribulations.”  Yet what if the word “blessed” doesn’t mean just the “good things?”  What would you think if receiving a blessing meant living a life that is not necessarily filled with the “good” that popular culture has assigned to the word “blessing”, or “Blessed”?

        The Gospel written by Matthew tells us that Jesus starts off his ministry by delivering nine “Blessed are you…” declaratives to his disciples and a crowd that had gathered.  These nine statements are then expanded throughout the story of Jesus’ ministry with stories of giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, treasures in heaven, do not worry, judging others, ask – seek – knock, narrow and wide gates, wise and foolish builders, cost of following Jesus, healing, and restoration of possessed men, all of these are the subject labels given in my bible in chapters 6-8. 

        We read stories found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures of fathers passing on his blessing to the eldest son.  It is in receiving that blessing that one receives the inheritance.  We still pass on blessings today.  When someone is baptized we include a blessing, when a building becomes occupied with a faith community, we bless that building, when we commission our Sunday School teachers and other church leaders, or in the ordination or installation of a new pastor we give a blessing.  In that blessing we are passing on the inheritance of God’s will, of God’s desires.

        These past few months have been especially tough months for us as a congregation as we entered into some very tough discussions centered on financial realities and how this will affect the ministry of Mountain View.   These discussions culminated in last Sunday’s Annual meeting with a vote to make some very dramatic adjustments in staffing and the call for a stronger lay involvement.  To some it may feel as if we are moving backwards instead of forward, to others it may seem that the health of the congregation isn’t what we have envisioned, all these giving a lot of emotional pain to many. 

        What better opportunity for us then to hear the words that Jesus delivered in what we call The Sermon on the Mount!   The other evening the Design Team met to discuss “where does Mt View laugh and play” or another way of asking this question is “where do we find our energy” or “Where do we see the Spirit of God at work in our congregational life?”  For clarification, the Design Team has been doing a study of the church using the Appreciative Inquiry model, which looks at where our strengths lay and how we can use those strengths in developing short-term and long-term goals and strategies for growth.

        As we began our meeting, it was evident that last Sunday’s vote was still looming over us, clouding our ability to recognize the question at hand.  Yet it was specifically that question of what gives us our energy, where do we laugh and play, and where do we see the Spirit within our congregational life that allowed us to realize the blessings that we have.  By the end of that meeting, everyone present was making the observation that in asking this question helped bring us back into reality of just how Blessed we are at Mountain View, even if we don’t have any money.  “Blessed are the poor” is the way the Gospel of Luke states it.

        Honestly, if we look to the Beatitudes as a list of things that we have to do to get into Heaven, we are truly missing the point of what Jesus was saying and what Jesus’ message to the world was about.  Remember the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer?    Jesus was asking that the life in God’s kingdom be reflected here on earth as well.  A Beatitude, then is a description as to the way we live out God’s kingdom here on earth.  A summation of the Sermon on the Mount can be found in Micah 6:8 that touch three areas of life, “and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

        The Design Team was able to identified 15 specific areas that we see the Spirit of God moving in our congregational life, 15 ways in which we find energy at Mountain View, 15 ways where we laugh and play.  So fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, as Betty Davis once said in the movie, All about Eve.  This list is not in order of importance:

The Spirit, the energy, the laughter and play is found when we are making breakfast burritos, in post worship communion, through our Harambee circle, our music “the specials” as well as congregational singing, in the children’s time of worship, our congregational time of prayer, the closing circle, our fellowship through special gatherings such as the auction dinners, the pumpkin patch, the combined garden diners, those gatherings that are not focused on spiritual growth per say, special projects like the women’s group making scarves for those who are marginalized, there is energy and joy in the community garden, in the Friday group and in choir practice with Ruth Leadership and Mary’s dedication at the piano, hot cakes and hot topics has expanded it’s reach beyond our original goals, underground youth as it works through S.A.L (our own youth program), in our children and the joy they give us during worship, and in the way we as a congregation support our members in their social activities, such as attending school programs of our youth or in the going to community concerts that our young adults perform in.

        So you see my brothers and sisters, we at Mountain View are truly blessed.  We are blessed with ministries that too often we forget in how they reflect Jesus’ teachings.  I am sure that there are many more areas that are not mentioned and I invite you at this time to speak aloud ministries that give you energy, space to laugh and play, and feel the Spirit move within Mountain View.

        Jesus says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers , blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, blessed are you when people revile you on my account.  Beloved, Mountain View is Blessed because we as a congregation are living out the Sermon on the Mount.  Just like our walking in the Marade last week was an act of Repentance, so are we living the message of Jesus.  We have so much to rejoice about and to continue to grow into the Blessings that Jesus speaks about because over all, we are moving forward and helping bring about the kingdom of God here and now. 

Blessed is Mountain View as we continue to lift God up first in our lives, when we do justice, and when we love kindness.  This is the year my friends to Celebrate who we are – a people of God.  To celebrate our living into the Beatitudes that help build the kingdom of God.  Amen