Get Up and Go
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-20
It’s hard to think of a more appropriate time for us to hear the words we hear today from the Gospel lesson and from the prophet Isaiah.
Some of the things I say today may be a little difficult to hear and it may make you uncomfortable, but the truth is that these texts should do the same thing.
Oftentimes, we hear the Sermon on the Mount and we are filled with peace and comfort. It’s a reminder that no matter what this world brings, God is a God of redemption, mercy, and forgiveness, so we don’t have to worry.
When this sermon, this act of Jesus – his first public act in the Gospel of Matthew – is portrayed in movies and entertainment, it is usually accompanied by calming, soothing music and images; not those that make us get up and move. As we hear him say, “you are the light of the world! Let your light so shine before others!” We see a calming parent, soothing his children to sleep in a chaotic world. We are never shown the exclamation points.
Because the words he says today, the words we hear from Isaiah, too, are so powerful, we often glaze over them and let them be a call to rest and comfort. Today, we are called to something different. This is his call to discipleship, and we must not fall asleep. We must listen and act.
Today, we as a people are more divided than we have been in decades. I certainly have never seen this in my lifetime.
Since we just had an election, there has been all kinds of analysis and research out there about political division. The Washington Post reported this from PEW research:
More than 4 in 10 Democrats and Republicans say the other party’s policies are so misguided that they pose a threat to the nation.
and, More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican party makes them ‘afraid,’ while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic party.
Both sides are terrified of the other side.
With the big political changing of the guard that we’ve had, it is so easy to get caught up in it all. Add in the influence of social media and the heightened emotions of the people around us, and it seems important to take sides, to jump in and make statements that are hurtful and divisive. Sometimes we even fail to recognize that another person sits at the other end of our statements and actions.
What it’s come to is that we have begun to think in binary terms: Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, black and white, American and foreign, male and female, Christian and non-Christian.
It seems like we are hanging on to a cliff, about to fall into a gray area without those distinctions. . . a place where same sex marriages are recognized, where medicine might be socialized in a country that has always fought so hard against Socialism, where immigrants are taken care of before our veterans are, a place where our kids grow up too fast, and even we can’t keep up with every new thing that comes along, with all of the news and pictures and stories that come our way, and we are grasping and grasping for the edge of that cliff, trying to hold on, believing that, if only we can have a more clear definition of these boundaries between the two extremes we would feel safer, we could pick a side and crawl up off that cliff and stand on a solid ground of knowledge: He is my neighbor, he is not; she’s OK, she’s not.
God tells us in Isaiah, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Paul tells us over and over again, that in the midst of division we are to bring unity.
When people are mad and fearful and sacrificing the freedom and life of others in order to protect themselves, we are here to say, with faith and confidence, with love and hope, that there is a firm foundation only when we break down those boundaries, not when we build them up.
As Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.”
There is one thing that every single person in this world needs, and that’s Christ, our Savior, who forgives us and saves us even though we don’t deserve it.
Today, everyone has the tools with which to share his/her opinion, and it seems that we are putting every bit of passion and energy we have into fighting for one side or another.
We who are gathered here today are disciples of Christ. When we hear the words of Matthew 5, Jesus’s first sermon and his first public appearance in Matthew, we are to hear a call to action.
When I visited Israel and Palestine several year ago, my group visited a church in Galilee. The Greek Orthodox priest spoke to us specifically about the Sermon on the Mount and its translation, noting that our translations usually include the phrase “Blessed be. . .”
Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
The priest instead believes that the more appropriate translation from the original Aramaic is “Get up and go!”
Get up and go, you poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Get up and go, you who mourn, for you will be comforted.
Get up and go, you who are meek, for you will inherit the earth.
Get up and go, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled.
Get up and go, you who are merciful, for you will be shown mercy.
Get up and go, you who are pure in heart, for you will see God.
Get up and go, you who are peacemakers, for you will be called children of God.
Get up and go, you who are persecuted because of righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
In this world, where people are caught up in pointing fingers at “the other” and putting people in boxes, we are called to remind the world that we , all of us, yes,
Jew, Muslim, Christian, and atheist;
Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Socialist;
transgender and queer;
we are all called to shine light in the world, reminding it that the hungry need to be fed, that the lonely need companionship, that the sick need healing and that those who mourn need comfort.
We are called to meet our neighbor and show them faith, hope, and love.
We are called to give all that we have, our time, our talents, and our possessions to God.
Decide that you will do the thing that is hard, the thing that is uncomfortable, but you know it is right.
Knock on the door of that neighbor who flies the confederate flag. Shake his hand, and show him neighborly love.
Ask your friend who may be worried about family members flying in or out of this country if they would like to pray with you for the safety of their loved ones.
Invite your Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Atheist neighbors over for a meal to get to know them better.
Offer to buy groceries or gas for someone who is a single parent and is just not making ends meet.
Go for a walk with someone in the midst of a divorce and let them know that you understand that relationships are hard.
Being a Christian is not a sedentary job. It is active. It is hard. And it is beautiful.
In times like this, we sometimes don’t know the right thing to do; it seems like we have to be caught up in all of the division of this world.
We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world, and we are to live the Gospel here and now, creating unity through caring, no matter what side of the divide we are grabbing onto.
Guest Pastor Ashley Huber
Chaplain at Kansas University Hospital