(Habakkuk 2:1-3, Psalm 15, Matthew 5:1-12)

Oh my friends, times like these … times like these …

Times like these it’s best to get clear about who we are.
Who are we, above all else?
To Whom do we belong, to Whom are we accountable, above all else?
Where do we stand?
What are the values that root us?
What moves us to act? And how?

Times like these… I’m talking about times like these …
Times of transition, you could say, times of tumult and upheaval
Times of possibility in some ways, times of opportunity in other ways
Times of uncertainty in all ways
Times of unity here and of disunity there
Times of reorientation, times of disorientation
Times of disfiguration, times of reconfiguration
Times where some are heard and seen, times where others are silenced and shut out
Times of fear for some, times triumph for others
Times of excitement for some, times of anxiety for others
Times of feasting for some, times of famine for others
Times of abandonment for some, times of abandon for others
Times of “not yet…” and “could be…” and “maybe…” and “we’ll see…” and “hopefully…” and “woefully…”
O times like these …

These are times of challenge, let’s be honest, whether you’re looking at it one way or the other.
These are times of struggle and uncertainty

And the good news is:
It is for times like these that our faith has been forged
It is for times like these that we come together as a community
It is for times like these that our values are most valuable

Because
When we know who we are, when we know to Whom we belong
When we know to Whom we are accountable,
When we know who we are with,
When we know what values we hold and what values hold us and root us,
When we know from where those values are derived
and how those values have helped us survive,
How those values have given us strength and vision
as they have given strength and vision to all those who have come before us,
Then we will be guided,
Then we will know which way to go
When the forces of history come and press and pressure
We will have the strength and the vision to know who we are
And how to be,
As a community of faith

So I invite you to dig deep and name those values you hold most dear,
And I invite you to understand why you hold those values, how they have rooted you, and what they have to do with your walk with God.

The coming week I will focus my sermons on naming some of these root values that we aspire to at First Congregational Church, as a “diverse community of Christian believers,” as our statement of identity puts it. These are values that we’ve held for a long time – values we’ve held, values we’ve aspired to, and fallen short of, and values we’ve forgotten from time to time, values that have inspired us, values we’ve suffered for, and committed ourselves to …

Let me propose right now that the heart of all this is the Way of Jesus
– or I should say, our
commitment to a
living relationship with the
living God
as led by
the Way of Jesus.

The heart of Jesus’ teachings is the beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are humble, those who have in their heart the least of these, the last of these, the lost, those who know how much we depend on God and the gifts of grace … blessed are the humble, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, those who know loss, who know brokenness … for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, those who accept the limits God sets for us, those who know that the truth is way beyond any of our understanding, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice, for living in right relation with each other, hunger and thirst and yearn, who need that, who feel the lack of that, who seek that … for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Even if the experience evil makes someone savvy and tough, the pure in heart keep a holy innocence, keep their sight of God safe and clear of corruption.
Blessed are the peacemakers – not just those who are peaceful, but those who make peace, who labor for peace, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for the sake of living rightly with each other, for righteousness’ sake, who have the courage to suffer for it, when necessary, 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 Jesus’ account.
Rejoice and be glad
The beatitudes are blessings upon those who put their whole reliance on God, those who know that it is on God alone that we can rely.
This makes us humble but it also makes us bold.
We haven’t got anything to lose – we’ve put everyone in God’s hands, so there’s nothing keeping us from putting ourselves out there …

Putting ourselves out there and, in the words of Psalm 15,
Doing what is right and speaking the truth from the heart …
Doing what is right – come what may. Speaking truth from the heart – come what may.

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