Monday, January 30, 2017

Be Attitudes

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 4th Sunday after Epiphany, 29 Jan. 2017
RCL Year A: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

Where do you see Jesus' focus in today's Gospel?
On behavior or on belief?1
Notice how behavior & belief intersect throughout our scriptures [including our Psalm], challenging human perspective, human wisdom in 3 distinct settings:
  • Jesus takes the disciples away from the crowd for mountain-top teaching early in their ministry together, building on God's perspective we hear in Micah.
  • Micah gives us a picture of a courtroom where God challenges us to “listen up”2, as one preacher says of today's reading. The 3 simple statements in Micah specify behaviors elaborated in 613 precepts given earlier in Hebrew scripture, as one rabbi notes.3
  • Like Micah, Paul discusses in his letter to the church in Corinth the differences between our perspectives & God's.
At issue among humans throughout the ages are our inconsistent stick-to-it-ness & less-than-clear perspectives.
Notice: Jesus says “Blessed are the people who are X, Y, Z” as he enumerates positive gifts they receive.
Another way to say “Blessed are” is “Happy are” [as I read at sermons4kids, & then researched where the Bible uses “happy”. Among these “happy” scriptures are Proverbs 16:20 & many Psalms: 1:1, 2:12, 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 41:1-2; 84: 4-5, 12; & 89:15].

Happiness may seem illusive, especially when we seek it. We are like a puppy seeking happiness by chasing its tail,4 as I read at sermons4kids, which tells about a particular puppy:

The puppy wags its tail when it's happy & thinks the secret to happiness is in chasing his tail, thinking that surely when he catches it, he will have happiness! He shares his discovery with an older dog, & the experienced dog agrees happiness is wonderful & it's in his tail. He says:
I notice when I chase it, my tail keeps running away
from me.
When I go about my business, it follows me wherever I go."

Happiness, the blessedness Jesus tells us about today, can be part of us. It comes from our attitude.

In school what was your attitude toward grades? Would you rather earn Cs & Ds or Bs & As? [At both worship services the congregation agreed they prefer/preferred Bs & As.]

Jesus teaches us the value of Bs & As: Our Be Attitudes. Be Attitudes challenge us to Be disciples with Attitudes reflecting God's Love & our trust in God's Love, which we know through Jesus' dying for us & rising again.
Through the power & guidance of the Holy Spirit we can reflect God's Love in our actions & attitudes.

How well do we know the Beatitudes? WITHOUT looking at the scriptures on our bulletin inserts, please match up the phrase you hold with its correct other phrase. [We have 16 pieces of paper to match the 1st 8 Beatitudes.]
Parishioners met this challenge working
together with joy & perseverance.
Yes, I have to have a written reference to be sure since I don't know them by heart! I plan to memorize them this week!
Readers: I invite you to match the phrases!
  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit,___
  2. Blessed are those who mourn,__
  3. Blessed are the meek, ________
  4. Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness,______
  5. Blessed are the merciful, _____
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, __
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, __
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, ______
1. for they will receive mercy.
2. for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3. for they will be called children of God.
4. for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5. for they will see God.
6. for they will be filled.
7. for they will inherit the earth.
8. for they will be comforted.

Jesus concludes the Beatitudes saying:
Blessed are you when people revile you & persecute you & utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice & be glad, for your reward is great in heaven..."

Our embodying the Beatitudes makes a positive impact on this side of life.

Notice what sounds contrary to rational thinking: “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” As Susan Buttterworth says in her sermon on today's Gospel:5
Wouldn’t it be better to be rich in spirit?
To be poor in spirit is to be open & empty before God...
with...hands, hearts & minds open, free of clutter,...anxieties,
...receptive, available for God to do a new thing.6
Blessed are those who mourn & the meek, who experience letting control be in God's hands. Emptying opens our grow in grace as God's servants,7 peacemakers...”8 We must be single-minded.9
We must put our money where our mouth is & work for reconciliation & building life in community.

Building life in community differs from building St. Francis into a mega church. Simple actions build life in community.
Think of E.C's preparing coffee each Sunday morning before worship; our bakers' preparing bread for Holy Eucharist; Flower Guild beautifying the sanctuary; our Hospitality Teams' offering tasty treats to share as we fellowship after worship.

Great love & happiness follow simple actions.
We see this in the life of St. Francis.

Whatever Jesus calls us to do, he calls us to do with great love.
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, Jesus doesn't call us to chase our tails.
Jesus calls us to follow him.
Happiness will follow us.

Bible Gateway. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
Butterworth, Susan. Becoming Peacemakers, Epiphany 4(A) – January 29, 2017”. Accessed: 24 Jan. 2017.
The Catholic Answer Bible. Fireside Catholic Publishing. Wichita: DeVore and Sons, Inc. 2002.
deClaissé-Walford, Nancy. “Commentary on Psalm 15”. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
The Happy Puppy”. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Jewish Virtual Library. A Project of AICE [The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise]. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
Lewis, Karoline. “Commentary on Matthew 5:1-12. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
Mayfield, Tyler. “Commentary on Micah 6:1-8”. Accessed: 24 Jan. 2017.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
The Path: A Journey through the Bible. Ed: Melody Wilson Shobe. Cincinnati: Forward Movement. 2016.
Shore, Mary Hinkle. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31”. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.

1 The Path: A Journey through the Bible. Ed: Melody Wilson Shobe. P. 230.
3 Jewish Study Bib le. P. 1215.
4 “The Happy Puppy”. Accessed: 25 Jan. 2017.
5 Butterworth, Susan. Becoming Peacemakers, Epiphany 4(A) – January 29, 2017”. Accessed: 24 Jan. 2017.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.

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