A sermon preached for the 6th Sunday of Epiphany on Luke 6:17-26, Jeremiah 17:5-10 on February 17, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas
Have you ever imagined what God really wants for you? I mean really desires for your soul, your life, your well-being?
It’s hard question to ask, because culturally, I think our immediate response is “oh no, God will judge me, rehearse my sins, make me feel guilty, or God will give me a list of to-dos’ that I should be accomplishing, but I’m not.” Our culture offers a God who is distant or angry at us, leaving us feeling like we are supposed to do better than we are.These fears can hold us back from spending time with God in quiet meditation and asking what God desires for us. But I’ve found that judgment, guilt, anger, or a list of “shoulds” is not what happens when I ask God what he really desires for me.
I invite you to practice asking God this question. I want you to close your eyes and drop your attention down into the core of your being, breathe in and out from the center of your soul and just listen for a moment, listen with the ears of your heart, what does God really desire for you?
Maybe a word floated into your mind, or a feeling of well-being, or a sensation in your body. Or maybe it was just a relaxed moment of calming silence surrounded by people of love and faith. God wants to give us the good stuff—God wants to give you and me the deep spiritual truth we really need, that will give us wholeness and peace. God wants to bless us through a deep and abiding spiritual relationship that feeds us body and soul and defines us according to God’s identity and love for us—a blessing that comes when we spend time sinking our roots deep into the water table of God’s love.
That’s what “blessed” means in the Sermon on the Plain from Luke—"Blessed are you –how satisfied, how unburdened, how peaceful are you because you have received the good stuff you need from God.”
Those who are in need, have an easier time receiving the good stuff from God, because there’s nothing that blinds them of their need for God. Jesus is not lifting up poverty as a preferred state of being—the person is blessed, not the condition they are in, so we must continue doing everything in our power to end poverty and hunger. But those who are poor, hungry, grieving, hated or excluded, have no illusion about their need for God. Their need is so great, their soul is so bare, their heart is so open, nothing gets in the way of them receiving Jesus, or his healing, his grace, his love, his freedom. The crowds around Jesus have no delusion they can save themselves. They live in the kingdom because they are so aware of their need of it. Jesus says,
• Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
• How satisfied are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled with the good stuff God provides.
• How unburdened are you who weep now, for you will laugh and are open to God’s love embracing you.
• How peaceful are you when people hate you…because you are so grounded in receiving the love you need from me.
• Blessed are you who know the really good stuff of life comes only from God, and you are open to receiving all that God has for you.
What is God’s deep desire for your life? What do you need from God that would enable you to feel "satisfied, unburdened, peaceful, blessed?" I did this meditation when I was preparing for today. When I closed my eyes and meditated on this question, of what God really desires for me, the word that floated into my mind was “freedom.” I wondered, “freedom from what?” The answer was as clear as bell:
Freedom from perfectionism, freedom from having to get everything right, freedom from the burden that if I get everything right, I can prove to my family, to you, the world that I am good. What would it be like to be free of the running commentary in my head that points out everything flaw, all the things that I could and should do better? What would it be like to be freed from the fear that I am not worthy or good enough, and someone will find out?
What does God desire for me? Freedom—freedom from this trap of fearing I am not worthy, and trying so hard to prove that I am. That’s good stuff! That’s what I really need from God!
You will notice that the answer to the question of what God desires for us, also reveals what can get in the way—what blinds us or blocks us from receiving the really good stuff God wants to give us. It was so clear what blinds me and blocks me, but it didn’t come as judgement, anger or guilt—it came as a knowing—that God knows me fully and loves me as I am, and love me enough to not want to leave me there. God is ready to give the good stuff—a message that unburdens me and gives me satisfaction, and peace.
What God desires to give me is the polar opposite of my own auto-pilot, life-management plan—running around the like a chicken with my headache cut off with a list of things to do as long as my arm, while a prosecutor, judge and jury in my head, are busy telling me all the ways I have failed or should have done better. When I am stuck in that pattern, Jesus looks at me and says, “woe to you, who are so caught up in yourself, and what you can do, because you’re not available for me to fill you up with the good spiritual stuff that unburdens you and gives you peace.”
“Woe” means, “how sad for you, what a shame for you.” Jesus says,
• Woe to you who are rich—you have so much stuff, you’re not even aware of your desire for God’s goodness.
• How sad that you are full now—you are so full, you cannot get in touch with what you need from God.
• What a shame for you who are laughing now—you cannot even sense your spiritual poverty.
• Woe to you when all speak well of you—your great reputation blocks you from seeing the holes in your soul that only God can fill.
Jesus speaks woe over all of us when our beliefs or circumstances make us blind to God’s deep and loving desire for us and our life. Notice that it is what we aspire to and work for in our culture that can block us from being aware of our need for God. What a true sadness that the very things our culture wants us to pursue are what hinder us from a deeper relationship with God.
This experience of being blessed by God, of getting in touch with what we really need from God, has been an important part of the conversation for those of us using Rooted small group curriculum. We are getting in touch with the good stuff God wants to give all of us, and we are honest about what hinders us from seeing and receiving the peace, and unburdened satisfaction that comes from a deepened relationship with God. We pray for each other, for God to release our burdens and what holds us back, so Jesus’ Spirit can fill us with the abundant blessings God desires to give all of us. Last week the Rooted Group prayed for me to be released from perfectionism and it changed my behavior today. Instead of checking and double-checking everything to make sure everything was perfectly ready for worship, I went to Sunday School—not just for ten minutes, but for a whole half an hour!
So what does God really desire to give to you? What gift from God can unburden you, bring you peace, help you live with a deep sense of satisfaction—not the stuff of the world, but the good stuff in here, that makes us like a tree planted by streams of water, with deep roots that sink into the water table of blessing that sustains us.
I encourage you to ask God this question, throughout the week. Take five minutes—a pause over coffee, or a break after lunch, or a few minutes before going to sleep at night, and ask God what he really desires for you. Practice quieting the mind and listening inward for the Spirit to move, giving you a feeling, a bodily sensation, a new thought, a word, or a picture of this blessing. God has good stuff to give you that will bring you peace, and an unburdened feeling of satisfaction. Then you can write your own beatitude as a reminder. Here’s mine:
“Blessed are you, Linda, when you focus on ‘being,’ instead of ‘doing’ and allow God’s freedom from perfectionism to ground your heart and your day.”
I have printed it out and taped it to my bathroom mirror. What is your beatitude? What’s the good stuff God wants to give you? Listen this week for your Beatitude, for Jesus says to all of us, “Blessed are you…”
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