Onaway & Millersburg UMC
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
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January 24th, 2021

Welcome & Invitation to Worship

Call to Worship                          
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers.
But their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
We rejoice and praise Your holy name today, O Lord,
Because you have kept us from a destructive path.
We give thanks because Your word gives us hope,
And we reflect on Your word at all times.
You are the Source of deep seated faith,
And our spirits are refreshed in your presence! Amen!

Worship in Song                        Seek Ye First                            405

Old Testament Reading                                                                                    Psalm 62:5-12

Worship with Tithes & Offerings


Prayer of the People

The Lord's Prayer

New Testament Reading                                                    Romans 8:31-39

Message                        A Blessed New Year 3                     Matthew 5:1-12

Today is the last in the series of sermons, "A Blessed New Year" with the passage of the Beatitudes with Jesus' sermon on Mount. We've discussed how to be blessed (and happy) and how to have a blessed life in Christ. Let us read today's passage, which is Jesus' invitation for us to be blessed and happy. [Matthew 5:1-12]

Among the eight statements of the Beatitudes, we have discussed six of them. On the first Sunday of the series, we discussed "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those that mourn, and blessed are the meek." And, last Sunday we discussed "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart"

Jesus said blessed are those who know where they stand in relationship to God and live as God calls us to live. Jesus said that being blessed is having the right attitude in regard to who we are in relation to God, who we are in relation to the world, and who we are in relation to each other, and they occur when we build a right relationship with God and in God.

Jesus went on in verse 9 by saying "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

God calls us to be peacemakers. This is very clear message for us. "Peace" is a word we have thought a lot about these days and its meaning can be very broad. So, let us think with a Christian and spiritual perspective. God is a God of peace and love, so God sent Jesus to make peace with us. And one of the missions that God has given God's people, the church, is the ministry of reconciliation. The apostle Paul puts it like this, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)" Jesus was sent to reconcile our broken relationship with God due to our sins; also Jesus was sent to reconcile our relationship with others due to our lack of love.

Considering what Jesus has done for us, I think to be a peacemaker means threefold tasks: 1) reconciling with God, 2) reconciling with one another, 3) helping others to be reconciled with God. So, to be peacemakers in the world as Christians means more than just to be nice to others or avoid conflict. It involves our active attitude and faithful hearts.

God has called us to be peacemakers. We are to do all we can do to facilitate peace between people and God, to share our faith with them so that they may come to have the peace with God that we have, but we are also called to make peace with people.

Have you ever known someone who really loved stirring the pot? Someone who just loves getting others to fight? Or have you ever thought and reflected on your attitude and actions while in a conflict or argument?  Jesus said that we would be blessed if we were agents of peace. Take a look around, our world needs people that are trying to bring peace and reconciliation to others. I hope we can be the ones who make wherever we are peaceful and loving.

I have talked little abstractly so far but I would like to give some practical info. Sometimes when we talk about "being a peacemaker" we tend to think of it as a special task that increases the peace and justice in the world or an effort to end violence across the world. Actually, yes, that is right! That is great. But, I also want to say that this effort should begin from home. When I was a youth pastor, one student shared how hurt he was due to the things his mother said to him. I was shocked because she seemed like a real peacemaker when I saw her in the church and out in the community. We must begin with peace at home and allow that to flow outward.

We may find ourselves struggling to be peacemakers in a variety of circumstances - in our family, our workplace, or our churches, or amongst our friends and acquaintances, to say nothing of the world at large! It may seem at times that peacemaking is a lost cause. But we have hope through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. We can make a difference in the world around us when we open ourselves to the Spirit of Christ, and answer his call. We become peacemakers in a troubled world and channels for God's mercy, purity, and peace. So, I hope we can be the ones who make wherever we are peaceful and loving. I hope we can be the ones who help people know the God of peace through us.

The last of the beatitudes seems to be the toughest for me to grasp.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

I think this part is the most difficult and challenging for us to understand in the beatitudes. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." I think there are two main reasons this might be hard to understand; 1) it does not seem to make sense at first glance. How can you be happy and blessed when you are persecuted? How can you be happy when you are insulted and slandered? Think about that, when we say we wish for blessings, these things are not involved at all! 2) thankfully, we have freedom of religion in our nation, so it is not often that we face real, physical persecution due to our faith unlike in Jesus' time or other countries.

However, to experience blessing, to be blessed, we need to know that for us is means: do not be fearful or shameful to do right thing in front of God. You may remember we discussed last Sunday verse 6, where Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." "Righteousness" indicates, 1) thinking and acting out the right things, 2) seeking God's righteousness, which means letting God's Word set the standard for our lives and pleasing God.

I think this statement emboldens us to live doing the right things. To be honest, it is possible that even though you are doing right things other people might dislike or disagree with you, even judging you or discouraging you. For those times, Jesus says not to hesitate or stop doing the right things due to the other's judgments or discouragement. But, what is right is determined not only by your own opinion but by praying and reflecting on the word of God.

Also, it tells us our mission. We should share the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is a right thing to do for God and others; however, as you know it is not easy and it is not always welcomed by others. So, though this passage, Jesus emboldens us to live our faith out loud. Jesus reminds us that our rewards are in heaven and gives us comfort and encouragement. When we are faced with push back to our faith, let us remember from whom our strength comes.

Wow... we have discussed all eight of the Beatitude. The reason I started this series was as we start a new year, I wanted to talk with you about the blessed life that we live in Christ through having the right relationship with him.

Through the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us a very clear pathway towards happiness and blessedness. Blessedness happens as a result of our attitudes that please God and actions lining up with God’s plan.

If you think you aren’t experiencing the blessing of being blessed, maybe you need to hunger and thirst after righteousness; do what is right no matter the cost. Maybe you need to be merciful and let someone off the hook or give them a second chance. Maybe you need to humble and meek by considering others better and being more respectful. Maybe you need to see how close to God you can be instead of how close you can get to sin. Maybe you need to set a pure, clear, and sincere heart toward God. Maybe you need to go out of your way to make peace and embrace the ministry of reconciliation to which God calls you and share the Good news. Or maybe you need to be ok with the consequences of doing the right thing, because others have suffered through them, too.

The truth is, God wants us to be blessed. God wants us to be happy, and Jesus has shown us exactly how to do it. The question is, are we willing to have our actions line up with God's calling?

To wrap up this series of sermons on the Beatitude and to review what we have discussed, I would like to read a passage again, but from the Message Bible version, which uses more contemporary expressions.

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

So, I would like to ask you the same question one more time, are you happy this morning? Are you blessed? Are you ready to be blessed? Or would you say that you are someone characterized by happiness?

Hear Jesus' invitation, encouragement, and commands. Jesus invites you to be blessed and to be happy today, this year, and throughout your life. As we seek God and God's kingdom first,
be merciful and forgiving of others, and purify your hearts in front of God, let us live as a blessed people.

Remembering that Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, I would like to close today's message with the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis, which you already know well. Let us pray in one voice.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen


Worship in Song                 Trust and Obey                             467


Prayer of Dismissal & Blessing