4 Epiphany - Matthew 5:1-12

Bible scholars contend that Matthew presents Jesus in the image of Moses, but I think he looks like Aladdin.

He climbs the mountain and launches into a sermon that is really a magic carpet ride.

I can show you the world

Shining, shimmering, splendid,

Tell me, blessed, now when did

You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes

Take you wonder by wonder

Over, sideways and under

On a heaven's kingdom ride

A whole new world

A new fantastic point of view...

from way up here

it's crystal clear

that now I'm in a whole new world with you.

Jesus shows us God's law, and one another, from a stunningly different perspective.

He is giving us the view from heaven.

Blessed are the ones who do not appear to be blessed at all.

Your enemy is your neighbor, and the person who persecutes you needs your prayers.

For the next three chapters, Jesus will spin heads showing us a whole new world, a dazzling

place we never knew.

And that's because it wasn't there until he mentioned it.

Those Bible scholars point to the fact that in Matthew's gospel, the teachings of Jesus are

arranged into five long sections, intentionally matching Torah, the five books of Moses.

Today's gospel is the opening of the first section.

So these announcements of blessing are Genesis chapter one.

Jesus, from his position of authority seated on the mountain, is creating a whole new world.

The Beatitudes are not observations.

He is not looking at the downtrodden, cursed, and exploited and noticing something.

He is not giving us incentives or how-tos for securing blessing, some checklist of

spiritual goals, as if God will be happier with you if you just grieve or starve more.

These words are the opening of the new Torah.

In the original version, God created a whole new world by speaking it into being.

Let there be light...and there was light.

Let there be...let the waters...let the dry land...and it was so, and it was good.

Jesus, a.k.a. Emmanuel, God with us, is doing it again.

He is speaking a new reality into being.

He is not saying things because they are true.

Things are true because he is saying them.

This whole new world, which Jesus names the kingdom of heaven, is a jarring change for those of us on the ground in this tired old world infatuated with violence, power, and prestige.

The blessings do not at all align with our conventional wisdom and the society that reinforces it.

We can quickly dismiss his magic carpet ride as pie in the sky, wishful thinking.

But what if the view from up high is actually truer than the limited one here on the ground?

Can we, dare we see the world differently, and where would that lead us?

Theologian Anna Madsen invites us the church to do its ministry now from the perspective of

God's certain future, the kingdom of heaven we trust is coming to us.

Instead of being what she calls a salvation church or a service church, we can be an anticipatory church, leaning into and basing our work upon the promises of God's whole new world.

The primary focus is not ensuring personal salvation after death or attending to personal, cultural, and communal needs; it is minsitry to the redemptive reign of God.

It is letting Jesus lead us to where God is making things new, the Good Friday graveyards where God speaks forth new life, the empty places and souls the divine word comes to fulfill, to be in Madsen's potent words ambassadors of life wherever there is death.

Lest this become too general and impersonal and theoretical for us, Jesus steers his magic carpet not higher, but lower and closer in to specific faces and stories until we are making eye contact.

Blessed are the broke, for they rely on the real God.

Blessed are the black, for they will have safety and opportunity and justice.

Blessed are the transgendered, for they will be celebrated.

Blessed are the homeless, for they will receive new socks which mean more to them than

a new car means to others.

Blessed are the immigrants, for they will be welcomed home.

Blessed are the children and unemployed, for time and wonder are theirs.

Blessed are the decimated, for the whole new world belongs to them.

Blessed is Los Angeles, for unspeakable grief will bring the city together and teach it love.