Sunday, February 2, 2014


Sermon preached February 2, 2014

Texts: Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12, 14

            So one of the things that tell you you are closer to 55 than 25 is when you watch the Grammy Awards you know more about the musicians who died in the past year than about the nominees.  The music world lost some significant musicians in 2013: Patty Andrews, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Donald Byrd, Richie Havens, George Jones, Ray Manzarek, Patti Page, Lou Reed; and now in 2014 we have already lost Pete Seeger.
            I admit I know more about these folks than about Maclemore and Ryan Lewis, Vampire Weekend, a seventeen year old named “Lorde,” and a group with guys who wear helmets called Daft Punk.  Tonight, at the Super Bowl half time a Grammy nominee named Bruno Mars is playing.
            But it is time to move into the twenty-first century with some of my pop culture and music references.  Are you ready for this.
Katy Perry, “Firework”
            The singer, Katy Perry, a Grammy nominee this year, has an interesting story.  She grew up in a very conservative Christian home, both her parents being Pentecostal pastors.  How conservative a home?  At her house, “deviled eggs” could not be called deviled eggs.  She has moved from an environment where pop music was not allowed to being a major force in that music.
            But I think Katy Perry, in this song is reaching into her Christian roots.  There’s a spark in you/Ignite the light/and let it shine/’Cause baby, you’re a firework.
            You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
            But what about all that has come before?  We don’t typically read the Beatitudes, all those “blessed are” as affirmation, do we?  We often read them and see how far we fall short of these conditions of blessedness, of deep happiness.  What if, however, we think of the Beatitudes in a different way?  What if we read them as a portrait of who we are becoming as we are being shaped by God’s Spirit?  But this shaping by God’s Spirit is not simply a passive experience on our parts.  We have a role to play.  We are invited by God’s Spirit to be co-creators of our hearts, souls, minds, spirits.
            Yes, the Beatitudes are an ideal.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who grieve and mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for the right reasons.  Who doesn’t see where they may not have arrived yet?  But we are on the journey.  Jesus wasn’t addressing people who were utterly failing, he was reminding people that they were on the way.  This is who we are, in part, and who we are becoming as we work with the Spirit of God in our lives.
            And don’t we need such pictures of where we are headed?  At its best, the Christian tradition of acknowledging saints is intended to help us picture what we would like our lives to be like.  Part of the appeal of Pope Francis is that people are seeing in his life something of the Spirit of Jesus, something of the Beatitudes.  I am helped in my spiritual journey with Jesus to be reminded of people I aspire to imitate in certain ways – Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr.  This week I lost a friend, a man named Jim Perry.  I worked quite a bit with Jim over the years before he retired and moved back home to Vermont.  I admired Jim’s kind heart, and warm relationality.
            I want to be like these people – Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr., my friend Jim.  I want to be blessed with a gentle spirit, with the ability to see all that there is to grieve and mourn in the world and to grieve and mourn with others, with gentle kindness, with a hunger and thirst for a better world and a richer relationship with God, with being merciful and forgiving, with a pure heart, with being a peacemaker, with having the courage to do what’s right even when it is difficult.  I am not there, but I am on the way.  You may not be there, but you are on the way.
            What if we read Micah not as pure imperative – “do this, do that,” but even more as invitation.  God’s way is the way of justice – you come too.  God’s way is the way of loving kindness – you come too.  God’s way is the way of relationship – you come too.  Again we are on the way.
            We are co-creating with God our lives, and moving in this direction.  And when you are co-creating with God’s Spirit in this direction, well, baby you’re a firework.  You are the light of the world.  In the words of The Message: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world.  You are light, bringing out the God colors in the world.
            Come on let your colors burst/Make ‘em go aah, aah, aah/Your gonna leave them in awe, awe, awe… ‘Cause there’s a spark in you.  You’re a firework.

            Next week we will spend some time acknowledging that we have the capacity to hide our light and loose our saltiness, but today just celebrate that you’re a firework.  You are the light of the world, even brighter than the moon.  Amen.

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