Psalm 9:1-4 “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause, sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.”
David wrote these words to be sung somberly and mournfully. To the tune of “The Death of a Son.” It could have been written in response to the death of his first son by Bathsheba was dead and he had fallen into despair. These words were sung in response to heavy grief. Things were not going well. Times were tough. There was discord in his Kingdom. It was not to be a light and airy piece about shouting from the roof tops the praise to God. Life while comfortable, was full of disappointment and unrealized expectations. To borrow a line from a 60’s TV show, “Gloom, despair, excessive misery, if it were not for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” 2020 and 2021 have not been the best for us all. Masks, shots, and social distancing seems to have taken the zest from life.
Yet today, I will not be overcome by the dirge of the world and simply “give thanks with all my heart, for all that God has done. I will sing the praises of God. I will keep on keeping on; always looking forward and not back.
Matthew 7:13,14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
The sermon is about over. Jesus is concluding. It is a place of determination. We have a choice. Each one of us on the grassy hillside listening and make application of the words of the Rabbi, must decide. Jesus sums it all up with a choice between two gates. A wide gate leading to destruction or a narrow gate that leads to life. And what strikes me the gate we choose is dependent upon the path we take in our present. We are all walkers. We are all on a journey toward a gate. There are only two gates at the end of our paths. The difficulty of the path determines the number of people taking it. It is best to take the road less traveled by. Only one of the two gates are worth the journey. God’s choice for us is to take the gate that is small. Narrow or wide is the ultimate choice.
Matthew 6:28-30 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
The world has become bi-polar. Everything is poured into one of two buckets. Everything seems to be either good or bad. There is no middle ground which allows judgement. One bucket is much larger than the other. The smaller of the two is filled with the good, pure, lovely, heartwarming, and beautiful. But these wondrous things barely cover the bottom of the bucket. The sides of the bucket are rarely wet. The problem is that it is easy to give into negativity. It is hard to see the good in world. The hilltop lecture is telling me to be more cognizant of the beauty of life. God loves beauty. He created beauty. I may not as well dressed as Solomon or seen as beauty in your eyes. Yet, God delights in the adornment he supplies. I am a new creature born in beauty before God. It is filling my good bucket today. God supplies me with everything I need to do what God has for me today.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the light of the world…”
The world that we know is in turmoil. I am in a black room with no window or door. I try to bring figure it out. I have tried philosophy to understand why I am in this room. I have tried psychology to determine my thinking process of living in a dark place. I have tried education to learn enough to know all the characteristics of the blackness. Medicine has no hope to lighten my room it only lengthens my lives in this blackness. Drugs to enlighten our surroundings create shadows, but they do not last. Politics do not seem to help; they have no program of support for the dark. I can depend upon myself with a humanistic outlook and say “to thine oneself be true”, but it is still black. I can feel for the sides of the room and slid down the wall and give up. Agnosticism in a dark room says there is nothing more. A realist would say, “what is, is.” The only answer to the world’s bewilderment of total blackness is Jesus. Any other answer is simply darkness.
Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Revenge is an attitude the seems to permeate our culture. When we feel put upon, or canceled we quickly fall into response mode. We want to react in to wreak vengeance upon the offender. A simple sarcastic comment slips out of our lips or runs through our minds. Even occasionally even the most devout Christian has visions of due justice. We want people to get exactly what they deserve.
God tells us we are not to seek revenge but submit these feelings to God and respond His way. Jesus challenges His people to choose a different behavior when we are confronted with anger and want revenge. I must resist and convert my feelings of anger into attitudes of positive action.
For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
There have been times when someone I love and respect simply lashes out with a hurtful comment or condemnation. I am bruised and wounded. How am I to understand the innermost feelings and pains of others? I cannot come to an understanding of someone lashing out because of some perceived slight. Justice is about mutual agreement. An agreement between two people which have lived in two different lives. I am not making excuses for bad behavior. I have no position of authority to pass judgement. I do not set the rules for you. I hope you do not have a set of rules for me that is different than those who you hold yourself to. Please do not demand of me that which you do not exhibit and live yourself. Show to me they are better than mine. That is justice. Until that day, I must follow the expressed expectations in the will of God. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Joy is a completed, accepted, and settled assurance of God. Joy comes from knowing that God is still in control. Joy comes from a quiet confidence of our forgiven past, current care and resignation to God in my tomorrows. Joy is the assurance that everything, everything, everything is going to be alright. And in that joy of assurance, I am determined to give all praise and credit to God in everything.