(Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/j6Aes2xLw9A)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Every now and then I like to hear a good riddle. I’m not all that good at figuring them out but I certainly enjoy the challenge they present. Of course, some riddles are more challenging than others. Some riddles are downright impossible! But many riddles are solvable if you just get in the right frame of mind. In fact, riddles aren’t meant to be impossible! They aren’t meant to make us feel stupid but rather to make us think a little differently. What’s wrong with thinking a little differently every once and awhile?! No, we can appreciate the harmless little ways that riddles can make us step back from our rigorous ways of thinking and enjoy alternative ways of thinking.
Well, here are a few popular riddles that help illustrate my point (see last page for answers):
- Who can jump higher than a mountain?
- Joe is 13 yesterday. He will be 16 next year. How is that possible?
- There are thirty cows and twenty-eight chickens. How many didn’t?
- When you have me you want to share me. When you share me I no longer exist. What am I?
- You do not want to get me but if you get me you don’t want to lose me. What am I?
I could go on awhile but I think you get the point: riddles are fun! And they’re fun because they help us to re-think about stuff in a non-judgmental, non-condemning way. Sure, we might feel dumb if we don’t figure them out and the answers are simple and straightforward but that isn’t the intent of riddles. No, the purpose of riddles is simply to help us to think better…sharper…clearer.
In many ways, the purpose of our scripture is also to help us to think better, sharper, and clearer. It helps us to think as God thinks and believes. God’s ways of thinking are not our ways. God’s ways of thinking are the best, the sharpest, and the clearest of all ways. Indeed, God’s ways are the right ways of thinking. The passages of scripture that we lifted up earlier are good representations of God’s ways of thinking. God reveals His wisdom to us all throughout scripture. Time and time again, we hear God’s voice coming through loud and clear. Sometimes through people, sometimes through angels, sometimes through events, sometimes through history, and sometimes through prophecy. In our first passage, we heard the prophet, Micah, speak to us very clear words from our God: “He has told you, O mortals, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Ever since the days in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to understand what is “good.” Doing good, thinking good, acting good…these have all seemed to become subjective, relative, since those ill-fated days in the Garden. What is good for me may not necessarily be good for you and vice versa. My understanding of “good” may be drastically different than your understanding. Thus, the idea of “good” has become this relative, subjective concept. Yet in spite of this relative subjectivity, God never loses the right understanding of what is good. Indeed, He helps Micah give us three very clear means of doing what is good: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. The path to goodness couldn’t be explained any clearer!
Recall that we are deep into the season of Epiphany. We have been celebrating how Jesus is the true light of our world. Jesus walks among us today, overcoming the darkness of this world and lighting the path to the Father’s glory. We are all searching for the path to the Father’s glory. We are searching for a way home…for a place where we are no longer burdened by sin and doubt and longingness. We are searching for a place without darkness, a “tent on the Father’s holy hill” as the psalmist sings in our psalm for today. Jesus lights the path to such a tent. The path is for “those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart.” God wants us to walk his path and dwell in his tent. God sent the Son to help us walk on his path and dwell in his tent.
Make no mistake, the Son shines a light on a path that is difficult to see. Much like a riddle itself, the path to the Father’s glory can be confusing. Paul’s wisdom to his congregation at Corinth illustrates just how confusing the path to the Father’s glory can be. We heard how “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” God chooses to reveal his glory through a different way of thinking. Surely the fools and the weak and lowly and despised of this world are to be ignored and forgotten! And yet this is not so! No, it is exactly through the fools and the weak and lowly and despised that God’s glory is revealed to us. God uses the unexpected and unappreciated to teach us of his glory.
This contradictory type of teaching is best heard in Jesus’ “sermon on the mount.” Like Paul’s unusual teaching to the Corinthians, Jesus radically changes our understanding of what it means to be blessed. Who knew that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted could best reveal God’s glory to us?! Yet these are exactly the type of people God uses! Jesus’ teaching unfolds just as clearly and sharply as a riddle! Indeed, those we consider to be the least blessed are actually the most blessed. God uses their suffering and misfortune to enrich their lives with the greatest blessings of all: the kingdom of heaven, comfort, righteousness, mercy, and a heavenly family. What more could we ask for?!
Time and time again, God speaks to us in ways that seem like riddles. His words challenge us to re-think what we’ve come to believe about the world and those around us. His glory is revealed to us in the clearest and sharpest ways of thinking. Our ways of thinking are not God’s ways of thinking. We need to be continuously reminded of this through teachings like Paul’s and Jesus’. We need to listen to the wisdom of prophets like Micah which simplifies the path to God’s glory. Jesus is our light. We who have seen the light are called to share the light with the world. We have received a great blessing in and through Jesus. Let us not forget just how great a blessing it is. As we go about celebrating this season of Epiphany, let us be mindful of the blessing that is the light of Jesus and our calling to share his light. Indeed, we are…blessed to bless.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(riddle answers: 1-everyone…mountains can’t jump!, 2-“He” is a boy’s name, 3-ten of the thirty cows didn’t eat chickens, 4-a secret, 5-a lawsuit)