Listen to this sermon at: https://4allpeople.sermon.net/main/main/21259550
For anything you want to accomplish in life, there is a process.
If you want to shop in the Free Store there is a process of getting a number and waiting for it to be called and getting a certain number of items in a certain time. If you want to shop in the Fresh Market there is a process of getting a key card and getting a basket based on your family size and checking out. If you want to lose weight there is a process of making sure you burn more calories than you eat. If you want to bake there is a process.
I have to admit to you, I am not a big process person. I like creativity more than process. One of my favorite things to do is to walk through the Fresh Market and figure out a dish I can make based on what they have. At home I’ll take whatever leftover ingredients i can find and throw them in to an omelet, often to the disgust of the rest of the family. I like to be my own personal Iron Chef.
While I like to be creative, when it comes to baking there isn’t a lot of room for creativity. You can’t decide to use whatever amount of flour, eggs, or sugar you want. You can’t experiment with the temperature of the oven. If you want to bake, there is a process you have to follow to get the cake or bread you want.
The importance of process is not only true for the Free Store and Market and kitchen, but for our discipleship.
Jesus said that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Over the last several weeks we have heard the invitation from Howard Thurman that “what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Like so many other things, to come alive doesn’t just happen because we want it to, but requires intentionality and process.
The ingredients to be fully alive are the leading causes of life we have been exploring over the last several weeks: the importance of living in connection and community with one another, the grounding of coherence that gives us purpose and direction, the strength of agency that empowers us to be the leading actor of our own life.
The fourth ingredient in this recipe is blessing.Like the ingredients of a cake, the ingredients of the leading causes of life all work together. They aren’t independent elements, but mix together to bring us life, and blessing is an essential part of that mix.
Unlike coherence and agency, blessing is a common word that we often hear spoken. And yet, the way we understand blessing is not the way Jesus used the word blessing.
In the words of Inigo Montoya, from the movie Princess Bride: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
People who the world calls blessed are often those who have an advantage that we don’t.
We might call someone like LeBron James blessed because he has a physical strength and talent and ability that we don’t.
We might call someone like Elon Musk blessed because he has a net worth of $20 billon we can’t imagine.
We might call someone like Beyoncé blessed because she can sing and dance and entertain unlike anyone.
Often, when we hear the word blessed being used, it is to describe someone that has something or does something that we don’t. Blessing becomes a synonym for luck.
But that is not how Jesus uses the word blessed.
Look at the scripture today from the Sermon on the Mount. Who does Jesus called blessed? People who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, merciful, peacemakers, and persecuted.
The people Jesus calls blessed are not people who have accumulated stuff.
In fact, stuff is not one of the ingredients of an abundant life. The recipe for coming alive is to blend together connection, coherence, agency, blessing, and hope. Getting stuff is nowhere in the mix. And yet, we spend so much of our time and energy and life trying to get stuff, whether it is making money, getting the latest model of cell phone or video game system, or seeing who can get the most items from the free store. We spend so much energy living in the understanding of “whoever dies with the most toys wins” and that is not what real blessing is about.
Real blessing comes when we experience the transformational love of Jesus Christ.
The poor and mourning and meek and hungry aren’t blessed because they are poor and mourning and meek and hungry. There is nothing glamorous about being poor or hungry. The people Jesus describes as blessed are blessed because it is through God’s transformational love that they are the one’s who see God.
They see God, not with their physical eyes, but when we mourn and are comforted, when we are hungry and filled, when we are merciful and receive mercy, when we live as the children of God we are transformed and we are the one’s who are truly blessed.
When our lives are transformed, we see God’s work among us, and we are blessed.
Being blessed never has anything to do with us. We cannot bless ourselves. We are blessed in what God does for us, and how God works through others, bringing us life and liberation and freedom.
Do you see yourself as the blessed people of God?
We are a people who have been blessed by God. Not because we have things other people don’t have, but because we experience the power of God’s strength and power and love and grace unlike anyone else. I have lived all over the world and been a part of churches all over the world and I have never seen God at work in the way I see it here at the Church for All People.
Not only do I see it, but others are starting to notice. Throughout this year our church has been on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch multiple times, earlier this week we were on the evening news as the South Side High School Harmony Project server at the market and free store.
But people are not only noticing us locally, but nationally.
This last week US News and World Report published this article “From a Vicious Cycle of Poverty to a Virtuous Circle of Success”. This article details the transformation that has taken place in our community. A transformation not only where homes are renovated and an entire community rebuilt, but where people are comforted, fed, and given the gift of life, where the kingdom of God is made present among us.
This transformation is the true expression of blessing.
We are blessed because God is at work here. We are blessed when a person has a key in their pocket and hope in their heart.
A key ingredient to coming alive happens is the awareness that comes when we look around and realize that we are blessed.
We are the very people who Jesus called blessed.
But our full sense of blessing is not only found when we open our eyes and recognize it, blessing finds its fullest expression when we share the gifts of grace we have received with others.
We are blessed in order to be a blessing. A blessing that is received and not shared is no blessing at all. But when we can offer to others what we have found, that is when we Come Alive.
When we come here we receive radical hospitality, healing, inclusion, and joy. Then when we leave here, and we take those gifts in to the places where we work and live, life builds upon life, and blessing happens.
We live this blessing out through our connection with one another.
We aren’t individuals living out our own faith, we are a community. Last week on World Communion Sunday we recognized that we are connected with Christians all over the world. In the words of the Apostle’s Creed, we are part of something called the “communion of saints”. Our connectedness is not only with the people in this room and Christians all over the globe, but also with everyone who has come before us and everyone who will come after us.
We are blessed by those who have come before us. None of us have come to this place of faith on our own. There are people like Howard Thurman and John Wesley and Angela Davis who are the giants whose work we stand upon. There are people who are our parents and grandparents and mentors whose names will never be in history books, but who are the people that have shaped us and formed us.
This year, in the life of our church, we have lost an unusually high number of saints who have gone on to their great reward. People who have blessed us. People like Dave Wollam who was a fixture of our community and always greeted us with a smile, Virgil Smith who loved greeting people at church, Nate Wilson who fed us many meals, Vernell Howard who filled our church with music, Natasha Gibson who loved this church and her wife Tiffany deeply.
These people, and so many others, have gone before us, and passed the torch to us. Part of what challenges us to come alive and keeps us accountable is to ask ourselves, how are we doing in carrying on their legacy? We have been blessed by the people who have come before us. What are we doing with the gifts they have given us? We can imagine Dave and Virgil and Nate and Natasha and Vernell and Cynthia and Noah looking over us and praying for us…. But if they are watching us as individuals and as a church, what would they have to say?
This has been a year where a lot of people we loved died. In and of itself, that is a sad thought. They have gone to glory, but we miss them. These are people who are an important part of us.
But, over this same time, we have had more babies born in our church than we have had people die. Life is present among us.
The gift of blessing is not only to recognize that we have been blessed by those who came before us, but to ask ourselves how are we going to be a blessing to those who will come after us.
How do we live in a way… how are we a church in a way… that will bring blessing and life to people long after us? How will we be a blessing to Russell, Malachi, Eloise, Lochlan, Jose, Liam, Riley, Olive, and Owen.
What will be our legacy? How will we live in our lives in a way that when we come to the end, people will look at us and say that they saw God in us and through us they were blessed?
As we go in to this week, I want you to consider two questions. How have you been blessed? Not blessed with stuff, but blessed by God’s transformative love. Let us open our eyes to see the blessings among us.
Second, how are we going to be a blessing to others? How do we share the gifts of grace we have received with people longing to be transformed?
If we live in the legacy of those who have come before us and in the promise of those who will follow, we will come alive.