Beloved in the Lord, I must confess to you my sin this day.
I have failed.
I have failed in 32 years of preaching to convey the essence of the Gospel.
I have failed to equip the saints.
I have failed to fully comprehend what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
I have been too often turned aside and led astray, addressing the “adiaphora,” (a fancy theological term for the “things that really don’t matter”) of church.
The leaky roof occupied my thoughts.
The right wording in the constitution became my obsession, or the space for the food pantry, or the mailing for the Stewardship program, the color of the new carpet, or making sure the right liturgical color was on the altar for the right season of the church year.
These are the things that I must have called important.
I met in meetings to discuss these matters, and I planned how to execute them best, and argued for and about these things.
All the while, somehow I neglected to proclaim what we would most need in these days.
Evidently, I failed to mention or appropriate into my own understanding that Jesus calls us all to lay down our life, even for the stranger, and not to protect our life at the expense of others.
Evidently, I forgot to take to heart the words of Micah, who told us what is most important and what God truly requires of us.
I neglected to push you, and myself, to understand what it is to do justice in this world.
I must have missed opportunities to develop a quality of mercy that would allow us all to love our neighbor, and not to fear them.
I guess I was too busy trying to find a sense of pride in the building, or a program, or in an accomplishment to learn how, or to help you learn how to walk humbly in the way God leads.
So, forgive me.
Confession is good for the soul, so they say.
So, today I am confessing that the Beatitudes bug the heck out of me, and I don’t believe a single one of them.
I certainly don’t believe in them enough to emulate them, or to put myself in the position of being who God pronounces “Blessed” upon.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” yeah fat chance, who in here believes that? Who in here is willing to change places with anyone who is depressed, or down on their luck, or who struggles in actual poverty, or detained in an airport just so they can find God’s blessing?
We’re just thankful we’re not like them, or in their place.
So it is really with all the Beatitudes, one by one, as you go down the list.
No one chooses to mourn, or to hunger, or to thirst. It’s great to know that if you ever find yourself in those places, that God will be there and will blesses you where you are, but I don’t sense God calling me to experience any of those things just for the sake of finding blessing.
And you know which beatitude we really don’t choose, and don’t want anything to do with?
It’s this one about “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
We particularly don’t like this one, because you see, of all the ones we might be inclined to find ourselves in sometime, this is the one we have to choose.
Few choose to be poor, they end up there.
Fewer still choose to mourn, or walk the path of meekness, or to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
You end up having things happening to you that bereave you, make you powerless, or make you hungry for some justice, and when you find yourself there, you hope someone comes along to lift you out of it, and you long for God to pronounce blessing, but you don’t choose to go there.
No, the only place you have an option for “choosing” in the beatitudes is whether or not you will do something for the sake of God and God’s call upon your life.
This is where the rubber meets the road.
We don’t like conflict.
We don’t like putting ourselves in the place where we’ll be subject to scrutiny, subjected to an opposing viewpoint, or called out because of our convictions or beliefs.
We know we hate being put in this position from something as trivial as a well-intended casual Facebook post! When you put your thoughts, your convictions out there, there is always someone ready to argue back at you and point out how they beg to differ with your “opinion.”
So, as I confess to you my sin, I guess it’s a pretty natural one. If I could make it look like I was following God without having to do the really hard stuff, well that was the best thing to do, the comfortable thing to do.
And, for a long time, I could do that and get by.
But not anymore.
There are brothers and sisters in our midst who are rightly scared of what is coming in the days ahead from this administration.
Will my marriage be revoked?
Will my friends or co-workers be deported?
Will families be separated, and rights revoked, and citizenship be questioned?
Will the work of my lifetime in the sciences be suppressed, dismissed or ignored because it does not fit with the “new alternative facts” desired?
These are the fears voiced in our midst, and in the midst of this nation.
Honestly, I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care if your guy won, or if you think Satan himself now sits in the White House.
This is what I care about.
How are you going to treat one another in the midst of all of this?
I ask that because our track record has not always been great here on that front, mine included.
Are we going to love one another enough to deeply listen to one another’s fears, and not dismiss them or belittle them, or feel compelled to argue or name call?
Are we going to set aside our differences to speak on behalf and defend the one who is afraid, and to calm their fears, and if necessary, work tirelessly to assure and reassure?
Will we, in other words, be a blessing to others, or be blessed by God because we are willing to take a stand somewhere, with someone. Even if it’s not the stand that I would personally agree with, but know that because we love and care for each other, and that it is a stand that YOU have to take, I will stand with you because you are my brother, my sister in Christ?
Will we be willing to be reviled, and persecuted, and have all manner of evil spoken against us – rightly or falsely — because we are willing to do something on account of what the Gospel calls us to say, or to do, or to be?
We get to choose that, you see.
I have failed to do so in the past.
I will likely fail to do so again.
But confession is good for the soul, and today I confess my failure of you, and with you, in the fervent belief that the power of forgiveness empowers us to start again, and this time to choose to do what we must do as a matter of conscience on God’s account, and in God’s name.