a different Kingdom: a sermon for remembrance

Remembrance Sunday 2014 : The Beatitudes

It’s not often we hear someone in public life stand up and give a speech that radically surprises us.

We don’t expect our politicians to say anything radical or earth shattering any more , we’ve heard it all before, several  times.

Somehow we think know how the world runs, and  our somewhat cynical  expectation is that everyone is as bad as the next person, and it doesn’t  much matter which colour tie they wear who what their badge is.

There can also be sadly that same expectation in church. What  do we  think we’ll hear preached, or taught? maybe we come and we don’t expect to hear a different message or the status quo challenged?

I wonder if it was similar in first century Palestine? I wonder if the listeners to any speaker, whether political, or perhaps more so religious, thought that they  knew what was coming.

If human nature hasn’t changed much, and I don’t suspect that it has very much .I expect that was  indeed the case;  and so when Jesus stood up to speak, what he said and how he said it would have been all the more radical and challenging.

The Sermon on the Mount, from which today’s reading is taken was nothing short of an extraordinarily radical sermon, the things Jesus said and the approach to life that he was advocating would have shaken his listeners completely.

Over the course of the years, familiarity has lost the sense of the radical that the original would have had,

We often approach the Beatitudes, the “ blessed are…” statements  with a rather cozy comforting feeling,  the idea that they’re there to make us feel better,  nice Christian mottoes with vague positive meanings.

They’re absolutely not!

These are challenges that are designed to really make people think about their lives and how they lived them,

Blessed are those who show mercy and forgiveness, without looking for a return,  who open themselves to the stranger and the foreigner without differentiation;

and  those who are poor in spirit,  who know they’re broken  and messed up and in need of  forgiveness, change and help…

blessed are the peacemakers, not just those who want peace but those who stand in between warring factions and risk themselves, their lives their reputations & their lives for reconciliation …

blessed are  those who ache with every fibre of their being for  what God wants in the world…

 

It’s these people, Jesus says, who understand what the Kingdom of God is all about,

For the Kingdom of God is not like any earthly rule or dominion.

It’s not based on power, and might, empire or influence, its not based on beating your neighbour,  or being stronger or more important, or amassing more than they have.

It’s not based on keeping up a front and pretending you’re better than you are.

The Kingdom of God is about turning the values of the world on their heads –perhaps turning the world the right way up again , it’s radical , different and costly

It’s not what we’re used to,  nothing like we’ve known before.

The kingdom of God is not about “me”

Its not about  them & us

It is about the other,  about welcome,  forgiveness, radical peace, and living God’s way.

This way of living is not natural to us,  it’s not how  humanity lives given the choice – and today is a day when we recall that sombre fact; we recall and remember  the legacy of kingdoms built on power and might and aggression, rather than the values of the Kingdom of God.

But living the way of the Kingdom of God is only possible with Jesus.

Today at the memorial, we listen to the Last Post,  that poignant symbol of night, and death.

We stand in silence, as we remember all those who have died in war,

and we resume with the Reveille, the Rouse –the call to wake, to Live

Death. Sleep and Resurrection

That ceremony reminds us not just of those who have died for this country and so many others,

It reminds us too of what is at the very core of our Christian faith, it reminds of of what Jesus did, to enable us  to be forgiven, and to live a different way,

His death,

the silence of the grave

and then his glorious resurrection are what give us the chance  of a new and radical way of living,   a change in ourselves and in our communities, a challenge to the world around us as we learn in his power to  live not for ourselves and the old ways,  but for the Kingdom of God , for mercy, peace, forgiveness, justice and life.

 

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