Sermons
Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Kingdom Workers - July 2, 2017

Mathew 5:9-12

This is such a nice beatitude. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. It doesn't seem upside down and backward like the others. Blessed are the peacemakers—-the ones who do the work of God and bring peace....lovely, sweet, peace for they shall be called children of God. Isn't that a nice confirmation that people who do nice things will get their just reward and be claimed by God. Finally, we have a little something that makes sense if A = B and B=C then A=C. If you do good things you get good things. That's what we all hope for. Isn't it? We may be Christians but we aren't above hoping for karma. Good people get good

things and bad people get bad things. That's how the world should work, right? And it seems this beatitude allows for that.
But instead of giving us some sort of karmic peace about things....it should give us pause. Not because it doesn't make sense in our minds, but because the beatitudes tend to flip our thinking on its head and this one only stands to confirm it...so what are we missing?
I know, leave it to a preacher to complicate the straightforward. =)
Blessed are the peacemakers. It seems simple enough, right? So what are we missing? Well, I'm not perfectly sure I know exactly what Jesus meant...but here's what came in my prayers and preparation...we think of peacemakers as ones who live in peace....we associate them with the things they work for....calm, peace, kindness....when in reality....they choose to work for those things because they don't exist, or they exist in short supply. We wouldn't need peacemakers if the world was at peace. But the world is a hot mess—-daily we face news of gunmen and shootings, sex scandals, rape, hate crimes, racial profiling and discrimination, terrorism, misogyny and much more. Our world is desperately broken and we could use more peace in just about every nook and cranny. We need peacemakers to help overhaul the chaos. And one would think that we would all be elated when a peacemaker comes to town...finally someone to help us get to the peace, calm and kindness. Hallelujah! Thank the Lord!
Except, it rarely works like that. After all, peacemakers are ultimately change-makers. They won't let us stay racist, narrow-minded, hateful, fearful, bigoted, homophobic, arrogant or greedy. They force us to see the world differently. And their work forces us to change. Even though that change would give rise to more peace, calm and kindness, what do most of us do? We resist. We resist change. You can hardly tell me I'm wrong. I've been working in churches for over 10 years and there is one thing I can guarantee you, people resist change. Maybe it's self-preservation, maybe it's pride, maybe it's much more complex. Whatever the reason....we resist change. It doesn't matter how good the promised future may be, change forces us to accept that we might have been wrong....or that even if we were right it's time for a new perspective to move in and we don't want to be wrong. We like being right. So we resist.
So though we might be tempted to look at the peacemakers and take a deep breath and feel relieved, the truth of the matter is peacemakers start by causing tension. They challenge our perceptions, our opinions, and our beliefs and invite us to see and live in a new way. And that requires them to step into the tumult and risk all that they are and all that they have for the dream of something better. It sounds lovely....but it's hard, courageous, humbling (sometimes even humiliating) work. Peacemakers show up at the riots, after the bombings, in the hospital rooms, court rooms, and execution rooms. Peacemakers work in the trenches. And they need reminders and encouragement that it will be worth it. I think, in a way, this beatitude is Jesus' reassurance—-it's a way for him to say "For those of you work in the trenches trying to make the world a better place, I know it gets messy, but don't give up hope...you've been claimed by God...keep up the good work." Remember, each of the beatitudes finds the people in a place of trial or trouble and shines a light that says..."God is in this, don't give up." That's true for the grieving, the afflicted, the meek, the righteous who are living counter-culturally, and the peacemakers...the ones willing to risk it all on the hope that the chaos might be transformed.
The final beatitude seems similar to this last one, but if you dig in they're actually pretty different. Let's take a listen.
11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Now, let's be very clear from the start, Jesus is not promoting or condoning persecution. He could certainly be misheard and misquoted as saying "Blessed are the persecuted" but that's not it...he says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted FALSELY on my account—-when you live and act for me." Do you hear the difference? So it's not just, "hey, good for those who are persecuted—just let them suffer. It's "if you live according to my ways and people get grumpy about it, take heart. Remember you live for me and not for them. And besides, you're in good company."
Now, unfortunately, this beatitude gets twisted and contorted in all kinds of directions that are not godly. Let's be honest, there are a lot of people who claim to act in Jesus' name. A lot of them. Which is great. Except...that not all of them are acting according to Jesus' teaching and instruction. But they take this teaching and say, "Hey, it's ok that you're not happy. I'm following Jesus and that's all that matters."
That's really dangerous. We have to take this one with a lot of humility, especially before we apply it to ourselves. If we want to claim that we are acting in Jesus' ways, we need to be sure that's what we're actually doing. Let's be honest, just because I love and follow Jesus doesn't mean everything I do is perfectly congruent with his teachings. Right? Does that make me a false Christian? No. It makes me human. It means I'm "going onto Christian perfection" but I need to be honest and admit I still have some areas to work on. So, potentially, I could be a Christian who is reviled or persecuted...except not for my Christian ways, but instead for my unchristian ways. Are you with me?
So then, what's the litmus test? How do we know if our actions are "Christ-like"? Well, that might feel like one of the most basic things you could judge as a Christian, but we get it wrong a lot of the time. Ok, so we don't, but they certainly do. ;) For a simple standard let's look at Galatians 5, which deals with the fruits of the Spirit. It says, "22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives [the Spirit] will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control;" So, if you want to know if your actions fall in line with Christ...look to see if they are rooted in and produce—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
And then when we look back at this beatitude, we need to ask, are we trying to be reviled or persecuted? Obviously not. But, are we trying to act in accordance with the Spirit? Certainly. And if our actions are truly grounded in Christ, they will be tied to the fruits of the Spirit....love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And if we are rooted in the Spirit in that way, and people get grumpy about it....Jesus tells us to remember we serve him and not them.
But, if we look and our actions, despite our Christian title, are not obviously linked to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...then we need to check ourselves and not our critic. The truth is, we will come up short sometimes. Even though we come to church and pray and read our Bibles, we'll still sin. We'll still do selfish things. We'll likely do even worse than that. That's normal. But we can't stop with accepting that we will fail and fall short. Instead, we have to examine ourselves—our intentions and our actions and ask—-am I being led by the Spirit? Am I producing the fruit of the Spirit? Are my actions motivated by and characterized by the fruit of the Spirit? If and when they are not, then we need to pray for God to change us—to make us more like Christ.
TRANSITION TO COMMUNION
One of the times and ways we do that is during holy communion....this is a time in our walk with Christ that we are invited to examine our hearts and ask—am I being led by the Spirit? And even more importantly, am I choosing to follow the Spirit's leading? (you know just because the Spirit leads doesn't mean we're following). We are invited to repent for the places where we aren't being faithful or Spirit-filled and ask God to transform our hearts.
As United Methodists, we believe that God uses holy Communion as a "means of grace"—a way of blessing us, convicting us, forgiving us, and transforming us. It's not just bread and juice—when we pray, we invite God's Spirit to do something unique with this bread and juice so that we might be made whole. The truth is we will all fail. Despite our best intentions, some days we will get it wrong. And we aren't supposed to stop at accepting that failure. Living in Christ means wanting things to be different, to have more fruit of the Spirit apparent in us. So, today, we ask God to send God's Spirit to bless this bread and this juice—to transform it into the body of Christ and then use it to transform us.

Current Church News

  • Family Promise of the Palouse

    Moscow First United Methodist Church is honored to be an active participant of the Family Promise of the Palouse providing temporary, safe housing for families in our community who are facing homelessness. Our next opportunity to host is December 3-10, 2017.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...