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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources 

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany Year A, Colour = White


beatitudesIntroduction


The word blessed is sometimes translated ‘happy.’ It means much more than that, it is about God’s attitude towards us and our deeper fulfilment because we know he is on our side. It could be translated ‘approved by God’. Since this is God's world there can be no higher thing than to be approved by God. Whose blessing do we seek? that of our friends, colleagues. So who are the blessed ones? Who is it that God favours? And who is that God looks askance at? Who is it that God warns - that God threatens - with troubles and woes? If you listen to the preachers on cable TV the answer seems clear. Those who succeed in life are the ones that God favours: - Those who have money in their pockets, smiles on their faces, well behaved children and who do not get sick without a miraculous healing next week in church. These are the blessed - while those who struggle with depression and despair, - those who live in poverty who perform menial tasks each day - those who serve others rather than living as their equals - and whose children are an embarrassment - these are the cursed and the afflicted. But is it true? Is this what Jesus taught?


God reverses our expectations. God understands our pain, poverty, despair, fear. The promise of Christ in the beatitudes is that there is joy on the other side of grief, laughter on the other side of tears, fulfilment on the other side of hunger, and joyful reward on the other side of the abuse and the ridicule we receive because we cling to him and live in a way that is strange to the world - a way that is opposed to the world's way.

Opening Verse of Scripture

Psalm 118:19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

God of heaven and earth, whose power is made fully known in your pardoning mercy: ever fill us with your grace, that, entering more fully into your promises, we may come to share in the good things of heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are worth nothing. Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship

Collects follow from Common Worship which uses different readings in the lectionary-

God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness: we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

God of heaven, you send the gospel to the ends of the earth and your messengers to every nation: send your Holy Spirit to transform us by the good news of everlasting life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end: bring us with the whole creation to your glory, hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

First Bible Reading Micah 6:1-8

Listen to what the LORD says: “Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. “Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.  I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.” With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Second Reading  1 Cor 1:18-31

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; 
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Gospel Reading Matthew 5:1-12

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.   He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Post Communion Prayer

Generous Lord, in word and eucharist we have proclaimed the mystery of your love: help us so to live out our days that we may be signs of your wonders in the world; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Commentary

In the Beatitudes we have the principles of the Kingdom set out in three parts

* The need for salvation (the poor)

* The fruit of salvation meekness, mercy, peacemaking,

* The results salt, light etc.

The word blessed means approved by God. since this is God's world there can be no higher thing than to be approved by God. Whose blessing do we seek? that of our friends, colleagues.

The need for salvation (the poor)

Blessed are the poor in spirit Luke's Gospel says blessed are the poor to show that they have a special place. Yet the spiritual poor are more serious for this determines human destiny. Poverty is a confession of our need of God, Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners. Utter need is the only basis for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. A sense of need is the prerequisite to entering the Kingdom. We do not have any of the resources to carry out the requirements of the Sermon on the Mount. We must come to Him and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy. Tonight we ask God to help us to realise our own poverty and our own helplessness. We ask God to make us rich in the things which really matter.

The fruit of salvation meekness, mercy, peacemaking,

Blessed are those who mourn

Perhaps there are spiritual and natural mourning intended. There is comfort for those who lose loved ones and yet sorrow for sin is vital, the prime cause of all human death and suffering. One who recognises the blackness of their own sin. If we go after purity in our own strength we will not achieve it. It is to be angry with the world, the injustice etc.. We could say blessed are the sorrowful, not those who are having such a splendid time of things now.

Blessed are the meek

This is meekness and not weakness True meekness comes from the end of craving. It seeks nothing for itself because God owns and governs all. Lacking in aggressive self motivation. Those who do not seek for themselves Those who hunger and thirst See God as the source of all life and seeks diligently after Him, conformity to God's will Desire for God's will and God's standards. Tonight we ask God to give to us desire for goodness as much as someone who is starving and longs for food. And as much as someone who is thirsty longs for water. Such a state of mind will count nothing as lost which leads us closer to God.

Blessed are the merciful

Those who show mercy will know mercy. If we feel we have no need for forgiveness then we will not respond with forgiveness for others. The self righteous are not blessed, they have never been sorry for what they are and found forgiveness. It is thus with the alcoholic who refuses to acknowledge their alcoholism and is critical of others who are alcoholic. We need to get to the stage where we can say 'I am a sinner' then we can begin the process of healing. God Our Father help us to be kind and never to thoughtlessly or deliberately hurt anybody. Grant that nobody will ever turn to us for help and not receive it.

Blessed are the pure in heart

In such a world as this it is important that we keep our hearts and minds pure, so that even our secret and inner thoughts are fit enough even for God to see.

Blessed are the peacemakers

This is between men and God.. The word used is peacemakers not peaceful. It is not primarily the United Nations. It is those who restore relationships with God. We need to ask God that we will never be the cause of others turning away from God, and that we would never be the cause of quarrelling and strife.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

The result of those who seek to restore the broken relationship will always be the persecutions of those who object. There will always be those whose self-interest is threatened. It is good when our Christian faith costs us something. There is a saying that the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the church. When a church is persecuted it grows and it thrives. It is when the church has it easy that the church fails to take seriously its role to challenge and face up to evil.

Prayers

Dialogued Prayer on the Beatitudes Based on Matthew’s version, Mt. 5:1-12


Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 
Keep us from being preoccupied with money and worldly goods, and with trying to increase them at the expense of justice. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth." 
Help us not to be ruthless with one another, and to eliminate the discord and violence that exists in the world around us. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." 
Let us not be impatient under our own burdens and unconcerned about the burdens of others. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled." 
Make us thirst for you, the fountain of all holiness, and actively spread your influence in our private lives and in society. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." 
Grant that we may be quick to forgive and slow to condemn. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." 
Free us from our senses and our evil desires, and help us to fix our eyes on you. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." 
Aid us to make peace in our families, in our country, and in the world. 

Lord Jesus, you said, 
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, 
for the kingdom of heaven in theirs." 
Make us willing to suffer for the sake of right rather than to practice injustice; and do not let us discriminate against our neighbours and oppress and persecute them. AMEN

 

Meditation

And these words,

'You will not be overcome, ' were said very insistently and strongly, for certainty and strength against every tribulation which may come. He did not say, 'You will not be laboured, you will not be disquieted; but he said: 'You will not be overcome'. God wants us to pay attention to these words, and always to be strong in faith and trust, in well-being and and in woe, for he loves and delights in us, and so he wishes us to love him and delight in him and trust greatly in him, and all will be well and all manner of things will be well. (Julian of Norwich).

 

Hymns

  1. From the eastern mountains (Evelyns)
  2. Amazing Grace
  3. Songs of thankfulness and praise (St George's Windsor)
  4. Beauty for Brokenness
  5. Bethlehem of noblest cities (Stuttgart)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

Our God, forgive us for failing to understand and accept the great demands placed upon us by your love. We enlist in your causes, but find ourselves losing interest. We promise to be courageous, but find ourselves afraid. We want to be sensitive, but find ourselves hard and callous. Forgive us; take our limitations and turn them into possibilities for service. Have mercy on us and grant us your peace. Amen.

God our heavenly Father, when the thought of you wakes in our hearts, let its awakening not be like a startled bird that flies about in fear. Instead, let it be like a child waking from sleep with a heavenly smile. S鴕en Kierkegaard

The Grail Prayer Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do.I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me your Father and all mankind. I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.

 

 


Additional Resources

In the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" Jesus goes up on the mountain side to teach the people. There is a huge crowd gathered around him - so huge that some of the people who are on the outer edge of the crowd cannot hear his words and must ask others what the master has said. As Jesus pronounces what have become known as the beatitudes - one of the characters in the movie - desperate to know what Jesus is saying asks a man who is ahead of him the crowd ?"what is he saying - what is he saying?" The man checks with a person in front of him, who in turn checks with someone else and then the message is relayed back the Master says - "Blessed Are The Cheese Makers."

This is perhaps just a reminder to us of how often we get wrong what Jesus has said. and as a way of making us think about who is blessed and who is not. Who are the blessed ones anyway? Who is it that God favours? And who is that God looks askance at? Who is it that God warns - that God threatens - with troubles and woes?

If you listen to the preachers on cable TV and in some churches the answer seems clear. Those who succeed in life are the ones that God favours: - Those who have money in their pockets, smiles on their faces, well behaved children and who do not get sick without a miraculous healing next week in church. These are the blessed - while those who struggle with depression and despair, - those who live in poverty who perform menial tasks each day - those who serve others rather than living as their equals - and whose children are an embarrassment - these are the cursed and the afflicted. But is it true? Is this what Jesus taught?

The author of the third gospel - the Physician we know as Luke - clearly thought a great deal about whom God blesses and whom God does not. I say that because Luke's account of what we call the Sermon on The Mount is different than Matthew's version. Luke gives us a different view of Jesus' sermon, and in some ways a clearer view. First - in Luke - the sermon is not set on a hillside - where Jesus can look over the top of the crowd and hand down the word from on high to those who are beneath him. Rather it is set on a plain - on a level place - where a large crowd has gathered and pressed in upon him - and where Jesus has been walking among them - healing their diseases and curing their afflictions. And secondly in Luke Jesus announces a series of matching curses or woes: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God - woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled - woe to you are full now, for you will be hungry. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh - woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on the account of the Son of Man, - woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." Think about it. What does this list say about our aspirations? About our dreams? About our rushing out to buy lottery tickets so that we might win the big one?

God reverses all our expectations and we need to know it. God understands our pain, poverty, despair, fear. The promise of Christ in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel according to Luke, is that there is joy on the other side of grief, laughter on the other side of tears, fulfilment on the other side of hunger, and joyful reward on the other side of the abuse and the ridicule we receive because we cling to him and live in a way that is strange to the world - a way that is opposed to the world's way. Charles Royden