"Transfigured Curses"

February 14, 1999 message
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland  USA
based upon Matthew 5:9-12

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Youíve heard that phrase before, Iím sure. In part, the beatitudes weíve been exploring the last few Sundays share a similar message. These blessings Jesus spoke to the crowds long ago touch many of the sour experiences of life, times when we come to the end of our rope, or when we lose what we consider most valuable, or when matters fly out of our control, or when we face difficult choices, or when we are wronged, or when integrity and character are so hard to find in others or in ourselves.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit," Jesus said, as well as "those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for whatís right, the merciful, the pure in heart." These beatitudes of our Lord flow out of the "lemon" times of life, the sour situations that set our teeth on edge. In a sense, the encouragement behind them is, if you will, to make lemonade. That is, when life hands you a curse, make a blessing out of it.

But is that all these beatitudes are, just little ditties to stick on our bumpers? "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." While that phrase touches the sidewalk entrepreneur in us all, it sounds just a bit too easy. Where is the "aide" that makes the "lemon" into "Lemonade?" Especially when the lemons are really rotten? The last three beatitudes of our Lord get us down to the bottom of the barrel, especially the latter two, which speak of persecution for making the right choice.

Here youíve been handed lemons, and have chosen to make lemonade out of them. You have your stand on the sidewalk, and instead of buying the result of your hard work, people come along and knock you down, tear apart your booth, pour out your drink, steal your money, and laugh as they walk away. A bumper sticker just doesnít cut it at a time like that. Everything inside of you wants to return the favor, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. On the other hand, you might want to run away and never try again. What sort of blessing is this?

In response to such persecution, Jesus said, "yours is the kingdom of heaven." Not "will be," but "is." How interesting! In response to such persecution, Jesus said, "Rejoice and be glad. Heaven is right beside you, applauding you. And by the way, youíre in good company. Godís witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble." Again, how interesting!

Furthermore, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Hmmm! He didnít say, "Blessed are those who try not to rock the boat, who seek to avoid conflict in the name of peace." No, he said, "Blessed are those who get up and make peace." He didnít say, "Get up, pull out your Smith and Wesson Peacemaker and blow some peace into or out of those who have treated you so badly." No, he said, "Blessed are those who make peace Godís way."

Real peace isnít the absence of conflict. Peacemaking isnít avoidance. Neither is it forced, either through the barrel of a gun or through a penetrating word intended to silence another. Godís way of reconciliation, something we focus upon during the upcoming season of Lent, involves a cross. Jesus chose to die, to place himself in the cross-hairs of humanity, in order to make peace, to reconcile us to God. Once, we all were enemies of God. In Christ Jesus, however, God made peace with us. He didnít say, "phooey on you," and walk away. He didnít pretend, "Iím okay, youíre okay." He didnít pull out his heavenly arsenal and blow us away. Simply, though not easily, God made peace by the power of the cross.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said, "for they will be called the sons and daughters of God."... This morning, I extend an invitation for you to share stories of reconciliation, experiences of real love in action, where persons got up and made peace with the aide of a power beyond them and yet a power within them. These donít have to be terribly profound stories. Most true peacemaking is just plain, nitty-gritty, time-consuming stuff. I am aware of one story we need to hear this morning about a daughter of God who reached out and made peace with her earthly father. Maybe we could start with that one.

(This led into a time of  persons in congregation sharing stories of reconciliation, one from a woman who only recently was reunited with her estranged father, in the time leading up to his death.)

©1999Peter L. Haynes

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