Summary: You can be poor,hungry,hated, and still be blessed.

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Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Why do you come to church on Sunday? One answer could be that you come to exercise your faith or, in other words, your spiritual muscles. Well, today we’re going to exercise your physical muscles, as well.

I’ve read that it takes more facial muscles to smile that it does to frown. Therefore, when you smile you are exercising the muscles in your face much more than if you frown. So let’s exercise. Smile…and frown. Smile…and frown. Smile…and frown. Good. Feel the burn.

Now, you have a choice whether you go through life smiling or frowning. That is just one of the many, many choices we are offered every minute of every day. Of course, maybe you’re thinking, “I am extremely happy. In fact, I’m laughing on the inside. I don’t need to smile show it.” Well, maybe you are. I guess things aren’t always what they seem.

That’s the situation we have here in our readings for today. Three of our four lectionary readings contain a beatitude. For Jeremiah, we have “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord” (Jer. 17:7). The psalmist tells us, “Happy are those…whose delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:1-2). For Luke, “Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the grieving, the hated” (Luke 6:20-22).

Things aren’t always what they seem. It’s obvious the biblical definition of being blessed is different from what our culture views as blessings. We are blessed when we choose to follow and live for God and live within His grace.

And it’s not just our present day culture viewpoint and the biblical viewpoint that differ. It was same back when Jesus spoke these words to his disciples. Jesus, in these words from Luke, is saying that things are not always what they seem to be. What you see is not necessarily what you get.

You see, Jesus is talking about a place where everything is backwards and the rules are the opposite of what we expect. The kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God are very different.

The Jews in Jesus day believed in the “punishment theory”. They thought that if you were rich, successful, popular, you were blessed by God. But if you were poor, rejected, had a disease or disability, then you had done something to displease God and were being punished and therefore NOT blessed.

We still live under this same theory today. We hear a singer and think they have been “blessed” with a wonderful voice, or some athlete has been “blessed” with outstanding ability, or an inventor has been “blessed” with a great analytical mind.

We can’t sing, so we’re punished (or NOT blessed). We can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so we’re punished (or NOT blessed). We can’t program our VCR, so we’re NOT blessed.

But what kind of people does God bless? And what kind of blessings does God give? What are God’s criteria for being one of the “chosen ones” to receive a blessing from God? I often wonder about that last question, especially when I hear the phrase "God bless America." Why? Why should God bless America? Is America in a place spiritually and morally where God can bless it?

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