On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Contemplative's Journey - Pr. Kruse

People are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.  - Teresa of Calcutta

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for God will give them the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for God will comfort them.
"Blessed are the meek, for God has made them inheritors of the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for God will 
  show it to them.
"Blessed are the merciful, for God will show them mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for God will call them HIS children.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for God builds the kingdom of heaven through the work of the likes of them as was done in times past through the prophets.

Yes, I left one out - I conflated it into the last one - and, yes, I resolved the passive voice into an active voice and I identify the actor: God who through Jesus is mending creation. 

The Beatitudes are merely an introduction to the sermon on the mount. What is that sermon for? Based on where it is preached, right after the call of the disciples, it would seem that the point of it is to introduce to the newly formed group around Jesus how they will work and “be the light” that will accomplish Jesus’ and the Father’s purpose so they will cause glory to be given to the Father by their work. ( Matt 5:16)
Maybe calling them “merely” an introduction is not fair, but they are a summary of the Jesus way of doing the church’s work, and, yes, in Matthew, Jesus did come to establish a church to carry on for him. (Mark Powell) As such, along with the sermon they introduce, they are glimpse into doing church, or at least they ought to be. 
So what is the church to be? “Poor in Spirit” meaning not of high rank in clout or as one who has lost honorable status. She must not have clout of her own. Why? Because she must be dependent on the one who is her benefactor. She never argues her own case. She always argues Heaven’s case with God standing by her as guarantor of her words. His honor carries the argument and day, not the church’s. Prophets do the same thing It is not their words but the Lord’s that they speak for which they are persecuted. Of and for these two, the kingdom of Heaven is forged. 
In her work, which will bring her sufficient hardship to “mourn” her existence,the church is to have only one consolation or comfort: God. She shall, as the sermon later says, seek the kingdom of God and in doing that she shall have all. (Matt 6:33)
Mother Church must be obedient, pliable, and unresisting to the will of her master. She has no power or influence inherent in herself. She cannot conquer the earth. She has no standing todo that. Unless the Lord works this in here. The spread of the Faith is not the church’s source of pride. It is the Father’s glory, not hers. (Matt 5:16) She will see the conquest of the world by the Faith when she does the will of her master.
The church has seen the sin of the world and longs for the day that something be done about it. She hungers for a resolution. That resolution can only be found in one place and can only have one source: God and Heaven. Only there will it be seen and only from there will come the display of it: Jesus.
She will also be changed, this church. Powerless, beset by peril, surrendered to the Father’s will, and longing for better, she will see change, but first in herself. The result of her discipleship to Jesus, God with us, is that she will become merciful. God is showing her mercy and she will learn it from the life of Jesus, echoed in her own travels. She knows the sins of the world and her own. (Matt 7:3-5) She knows that God’s will is mercy because she has seen Jesus who came not to condemn or destroy but to show mercy and save.
She will also find that her heart will, in daily living, be purified. How will she see God? Maybe in a number of ways: First, she will come to see God in Jesus. She becomes church in seeing him for what he is: Surely, this is the Son of God. (Matt 27:54) But she will also come to see that very Jesus in the world after he ascends. She will expect him in the poor, the sick, and the persecuted or she will prove herself un-leadable by her own master. (Matt 25:33ff)  Having learned mercy, by showing mercy without reservation, she will find her Lord in unexpected places, without knowing that she has seen. Yet her longing will keep her going and she will, finally, see Heaven. 
She will find herself standing in apocalyptic circumstances holding nothing but a cross, her feet planted on a pavement strewn with stones thrown in anger, Molotov Cocktails at the ready in front of her, riot guns pointed at her back holding warring parties apart in hope of fostering peace. She will and can do that because she is on no side but God’s, expects no mercy or consolation but from God should things go badly, and she will be recognized as God’s true representative, God’s children. 
She also expects no reward but from God and neither is her peacemaking limited to worldly matter. She will contend for peace on earth but her call is to baptize and teach and ear the world to peace with God by showing it Jesus and by giving glory to God. (Matt 28:18)

They are prayed at Lent, these Beatitudes, as part of Morning prayer. How fitting, for it is in being drawn into the heart of God that we find ourselves. It is in this journey that we realize our place in the universe, that we gather what actually has value, over what we actually have sway. Lent is to be that journey into the Heart of God. Regrettable, many would take that trip and stay. But that is not  choice for a disciple, like the ones who sit at Jesus’ feet as he speaks the sermon on the mound. Contemplatives and Mystics know the danger of longing for union. Luther knew it. The happy exchange Luther speaks of in Freedom of a Christian is not a goal in itself. The last part of “Freedom” is what the result of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost should be. Luther concludes that once the Holy Spirt has brought the exchange of sin for righteousness, Christians will naturally be drawn to serve the neighbor. God has been their salvation and God will be their cause. He already is their Lord. They do not labour to become his subjects. Now, meek as they are, they labour. 

This is the point of the flow of the Beatitudes as well. We are drawn in so we might be sent. In that way maybe they deserve to be prayed and contemplated. They are a Christian’s journey. 

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