|October 29, 2000|
|First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct 06776|
|Rev. Michael Moran|
|Write to Rev. Moran|
For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise
shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "Save,
O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel."
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them
from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall
With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them
back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which
they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is
my firstborn. (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down,
his disciples came to him.
Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)
Sermon: Blessed are the Pure in Heart
This morning I have decided to do something different and throw away my text
and give a completely extemporaneous sermon. My, what a different
experience you are in for today - this will be straight from the heat - I
Just imagine that kind of sermon - where the words and the reality are so
dis-jointed that its almost laughable. Some change that would be.
Change is the name of the game in the church. We are all called to be
changed into the image of Christ and to be bring the world into the image of
God. But what if the church talks change, but its still the same old
thing. What if we proclaim the power of renewal and transformation, but the
power can never be seen in the life of the people or the institution that
delivers the proclamation?
In our Tuesday noontime study of Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People,
our video teachers challenged us in the first session with the story of a
man who did church but didnt change. Well call him Carl, and Carl was a
kind of a grumpy old guy who found fault with everything and never had a
word of encouragement or hope escape his lips. He had been like this for 40
plus years, Forget Christian Love, you were lucky to get basic politeness
And yet, for those 40 years, Carl did Church. He didnt stray far from
Sunday services, he served on boards and committees, he even sometimes
attended adult studies. And here was the problem: Carl did church, but he
did not change.
Now no one ever thought to call a meeting of the church to discuss this
strange case of the man who did church but didnt change. The council could
spend 45 minutes to decide whether to have chicken or turkey at the annual
supper, but the case of Carl was never on the agenda. And it wasnt on the
agenda because nobody really expected Carl to change, nobody really thought
that personal transformation was the expected outcome of doing church, and
nobody certainly wanted anyone else in the congregation to be meeting to
discuss what kind of change might be expected in their own lives.
So leave Carl alone and let him do church, but stay the same. He was a
member, he said he believed what church people are supposed to believe, he
pledged, leave him alone and dont expect this thing called the Gospel to
covert his heart and transform his life in the image of Christ.
This morning we are going to have our Fall Congregational Meeting. At this
meeting we will talk about the next years budget, about changes in our
structure, about fixing up these buildings. This is all the business of
doing church. And believe me Im not against it nor do I want in any way to
devalue it. But Im for it and I value it only in the larger context of an
expectation that lives will be touched, hearts will be transformed, and the
Kingdom of God will be made visible by its presence and work.
If the business of doing church becomes disjointed from that larger purpose,
then it is no more than "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, " as odd and
funny as a preacher reading: a completely extemporaneous sermon, or as
dangerous as two religions killing each other over control of their "holy
The core of the church is not found in the budget or the building, but in
the hearts of those who are touched by the proclamation of the Gospel. The
Gospel is good news - news that lives can be changed, transformed even, by
this encounter with God in Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Why that happens or how it happens is not within the scope of this sermon.
This focus this morning is on the fact that it can happen, it should happen,
and we can and should expect it to happen as an outcome of our doing church.
Do you expect this for yourself? Do you expect this for others?
How simple it would be if our growth in the Spirit were simply a matter of
believing the right thing or belonging to the right group. How simple it
would be if our unity with God were simply a matter of coming from the right
background, speaking the right language, having the right color skin, the
right economic status, the right sexual orientation. How nice it would be
to know: I belong to this group and thats all God requires or expects of
In Jesus day some people felt that way: "We have Abraham as our father -
what more do we need." Some people probably feel that way today. But Jesus
never accepted that kind of thinking. Jesus wanted to know what was on the
inside - what were the qualities of heart and soul that a person brought to
bear on the trials and temptations of life. For Jesus the remnant people of
the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they will see God.
This is the quality of life God works in the hearts of all who gather to
worship in spirit and in truth. The promise of this transformation in our
lives and in our world is the reason we are here. We must never content
ourselves with doing church apart from the expectation of this change, the
growth, this new life in Christ.
To receive this blessed life, and to be a blessing in the lives of others -
may this guide us at our meeting this morning and in all we do in our
personal life and in our life together.
Let us pray:
God, be with us, to give us life, life in Christ, life that fills our hearts
and turns them in deep affection to you and to our neighbors.
Help us to return each day to you in prayer. May we never cease praying for
true conversion of heart and transformation of life, so that we might grow
into the image of Christ our Lord, and share in the blessedness of his
May we also daily bring to mind the well-being of your church and the
welfare of all people. Help us, in our prayers, to train our minds for
kindness and healing, that we might rely on you for help and strength, but
also to do what we can in ministering to those for whom we pray.
We pray for peace and justice in the world; we pray for those who are
victims of oppression and crime; we pray for refugees and the homeless. O
God, may the many material blessing we enjoy never make us callous to the
plight of the poor and downtrodden.
We pray for healing and comfort for all who struggle with disease of body
and mind, for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, for any whose
lives feel shaken loose from their foundations.
Especially we pray for:
And for those we name in the quiet of our hearts.
Lord, mercifully assist us in our prayers. In all things teach us to seek
your will. Direct our lives as we walk in the Way of Jesus Christ, in whose
name we pray. Amen.
God be in my head and in my understanding;
God in my eyes and in my looking;
God be in my mouth and in my speaking;
God be in my heart and in my thinking;
God be at my end and at my departing.
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