Sunday is Baptism Day, as well as Pentecost - also known as Whitsunday, since on that day traditional candidates for Baptism wear white robes.
We'll be at Stillwater Retreat Center, a beautiful wooded campus on the south end of Allen County. The Stopenhagens are part of a great ministry in that sacred outdoor space. We are glad to support them, and enjoy the land God has given them to use for his kingdomwork.
The Beatitudes are our text for this Sunday, our third lesson in our series of the Anchor Mission. We want to answer the question: who is Anchor for?
Our first text: Hebrews 6:19a, our theme verse, "...we have this anchor for the soul..."
Our second text: James 1:27, a key verse, "...religion God our father finds faultless is this: too look after widows and orphans in their distress..."
Our third text is a series of verses that serve as a summary of Jesus' major sermon. If one were to simplify this sermon, one could say: God blesses messes.
If you are a mess, you can still get blessed.
If you've made a mess of your life, if some one has messed you up, if you're in a mess, if you are messy - God can still bless you...with Himself. If you want Him.
The Beatitudes aren't so much a description of charater traits, so much as descriptions of the kinds of places people find themselves in...often very messy places. The Beatitudes battle against the belief that material blessings are a sign that God is pleased with you; against the belief that only people who have it all together are most pleasing to God.
Jesus preached in a land where only 2% of the people held power over the other 98%. Almost everybody was in a mess, destitute for enough material blessings, and quite unable to keep the Torah perfectly. And the 2% kep promoting the lie that they were the most blessed by God, that they deserved their power and prestige and wealth, for they had worked hard to be perfect in God's eyes.
But Jesus counters their assertions: blessed are the poor in spirit, not the rich in possessions; blessed are those who mourn, not the ones who feast; blessed are the humbled ones, not the powerful ones; blessed are the justice-stared, not the rulers and judges.
It's not that there is anything inherently wrong with abundance of possessions, feasting, power and ruling/judging; it's just that when one uses them as measurement tools for one's standing with God, one distorts and undermines God's work. God's kingdom has come to set people free from exile, to restore the land and its people to be full of His glory, shalom, and love. And all people are invited to come into this new kingdom, not just the ones who have it all together.
Have you made a mess of your life? God can bless your mess and bring good out of you and it, if you will go His Way.
God has come to bless us, to make us a blessing, and to bless all nations through us...if we go His Way, if we listen to his instructions, if we assent to his directions, if we trust his commands. The Beatitudes remind us that no matter how much we have not listened, not assented, not trusted...we can always start doing so today...today is the day of blessing. Today you could let God begin undoing your mess, if you will Go His Way.
Anchor is for messy people. Anchor can be a messy place. Because we believe that messed up people have a special place in God's heart and kingdom. We believe that God wants to bless messy people, and make them into a blessing, and through them bless the nations. At Anchor, you're blessed when you're messed, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.