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Take a Seat

Take a seat. When things are important to discuss it’s also important that everyone involved is open to listen. When Jesus emerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan river -he is lead to be tempted by the devil. Jesus prepares by forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He is tempted with promises for bread, prestige, and power. Jesus responds to each temptation drawing upon scripture. Take a seat to hear and engage in God’s word this week. Be ready to hear how scripture speaks into our lives.

After Jesus hears of John the Baptist’s arrest, he withdraws to Galilee. What had been spoken by the prophet Isaiah was being fulfilled; the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” For those who sat in the region and shadow of death- they are invited to take a different seat. The light has dawned and Jesus begins his ministry.

He will call his first disciples, teach in the synagogues, proclaim the good news of the kingdom and cure every disease and sickness among the people. And before he gets too far along with all he is called and capable of doing, he will take a seat.

Jesus sees great crowds follow him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan so he goes up a mountain ( this should remind us and the hearers of this word of Moses who also went up a mountain). Now that Jesus is up on the mountain, he sits down.

Jesus’ disciples came to him and I imagine they took a seat as well. Those he called to follow him got to sit and listen and learn. This week will you take a seat? Right now into whatever state or place you find yourself in this moment, will you take a seat? Will you pause? Will you listen and learn? Jesus has some things to say to us. Into this very time and place we can trust Jesus is still speaking.

It’s important to listen and to learn. The the words and wisdom of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew chapters five through seven the Sermon on the Mount have both hard to hear things and rich sayings. The Golden Rule, praying for your enemies, not worrying... wisdom teachings from our Wisdom Teacher. So take a seat, pull out your bible and read these three chapters of Matthew’s gospel in a single time of sitting. Take a seat to listen and learn. And you might even want to read this with someone alongside you. When we do this together we go far. Together we can do hard things.

Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Beatitudes are at the beginning of these three chapters of teachings. You have most likely heard them before. We heard them as part of our lectionary, earlier this year on Sunday, February 2, 2020 in the season of Epiphany. Nine months ago, none of us would have been able to predict that this time upon hearing Jesus identify those who mourn as blessed it would include the world mourning more than a million people dying from a global pandemic. Take a seat, we have a lot to learn.

Each year we gather as community on All Saints Sunday to remember. We remember those we love who have died and are no longer on this earth. We say their names. At home we may take extra time to pull out photos. We might light a candle. In worship as names are read we have rung a bell. Now as we take a seat- I invite you to sit with your memories and your mourning. In our grief we get to sit with these words.

As Jesus’ followers, we call it holy to remember and we trust we are blessed in our mourning and will be comforted. We have courage to say their names and give God thanks for those we love who have died. As Jesus’ followers, we listen and learn from Jesus’ teaching and trust God’s word.

Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Roman Christian community, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death? As Jesus’ followers we get to keep coming back to Jesus’ teachings, sitting at his feet to listen and to learn.

Hearing the Beatitudes nine months later, take a seat to pause and let them in. We get to trust that not even a pandemic or a very tumultuous time in our world is stronger than God’s love for us in Jesus.

All of those blessed; the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, those reviled and those whom all kinds of evil is uttered against falsely on Jesus’ account-face challenges.

Jesus called blessed those who faced these situations. Those the world might thought to be pitied, cursed, or outsiders Jesus calls blessed. Having taken a seat to listen and learn, Jesus speaks a new word to his disciples to prepare them for their ministry.

In hardships and heartaches we are blessed. What the world would deem as a weakness, or a punishment, or a curse Jesus will turn upside down. So take a seat and hold on as we listen and learn how following Jesus leads to the cross into the very heartache and heartbreak of the world. Jesus will call those on that road, blessed. What most would prefer to avoid or prevent Jesus identifies as holding blessings. The blessings not of power and might, riches and domination. The blessing are really so much more; the kingdom of heaven, being comforted, inheriting the earth, being filled, receiving mercy, seeing God, being called children of God.

Over ten years ago, I realized that to be the most loving mother I could be would ask of me a great challenge; to get out of the way. There are many aspects of parenting that invite us to do things that are challenging like set limits, practice patience, let go of control, provide love, understanding and compassion even when very tired and overwhelmed. The awareness that I am speaking of is the challenge to allow my children to live through and experience for themselves the difficulties that were coming their way. To not smooth over the rough spots, to not enable them, to allow them to struggle and face the consequences of their behaviors, to be able to be beside them as they did the hard work that life requires without my interference or taking it over from them or taking it on for them.

I am so very grateful for those who have encouraged me and been examples for me in the ongoing learning to do this. They have invited me to learn how to allow my faith and trust in God to come to life as I let go, get out of the way and keep learning and growing.

It is through the facing and overcoming of struggles, hardships and heartaches that character can be formed, esteem built, problems solved, and faith more deeply fortified. The prayers I learned to repeat and continue to this day are variations on this, “Dear God, please don’t let me get in the way and prevent any of the challenges or difficulties that are naturally coming to my children. They were your children first let me entrust them to You.”.

So together let’s take a seat to listen and learn. In our struggles let us learn and draw upon the strength of God’s word and the power of the promise of God. Together let’s take time to sit and read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). God is with us in this. We get to keep learning and growing and take a seat to listen and learn.

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