Sermon Series: Love Yourself, Love Your Neighbor
“You Are Blessed”
Christmas Eve - Thursday, December 24, 2009
Have you been following all the drama on TV and in the papers about Tiger Woods? Well then, me neither.
Why are we so interested in the lives of celebrities?
John Ortberg says one of the reasons we are fascinated by celebrities is because one of the questions we all ask ourselves is “What is the good life?” and we suppose that surely the rich, famous, powerful, and beautiful must have access to the good life.
I confess that I never put down the newspaper in the morning without reading the Reliable Source column. What famous person ate this week at what restaurant in Georgetown? What politician’s house is selling for how many million of dollars? What parties have Tareq and Michaele been crashing lately?
I swore I wasn’t going to watch Oprah’s White House Special. And then I did. Worse yet, I couldn’t find the clicker fast enough to change the channel so Jane walked into the room and caught me watching Oprah’s White House Special.
We are fascinated in spite of ourselves by the rich, famous, powerful and beautiful. If the rich and the famous and the beautiful and the powerful don’t have access to the good life, who does?
John Ortberg says there was actually a magazine that used to be published in southern California called “The Good Life.” Judging from the ads in the magazine, he says, it seemed as if the good life could be pursued primarily through fine dining and weight reduction, which seems a little paradoxical when you think about it.
What is the good life? Who has access to it?
The biblical term for having the good life is “being blessed.”
If the Bible is to be believed, an unmarried pregnant teenage peasant girl is a prime example of what it means to have the good life.
In the Gospel of Luke, when Mary finds out she is pregnant with the savior, she says “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… Surely from now on all generations shall called me blessed.” (Luke 1:48) All generations will look to me as the example of having the good life, Mary says.
Those of us who pray the Rosary say:
Those words are also from Luke. (Luke 1:28 and 42)
Hail Mary, full of grace, you have the good life and the fruit of your womb who will die on a cross will have the good life.
Some of Jesus’ teachings seem to suggest that people whom nobody would ever see on Entertainment Tonight are the ones who actually have access to the good life.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
What is the good life? Who has access to it?
The whole world of advertising and entertainment pretty much exists to convince us that you get to the good life by having great hair, great teeth, great clothes, great sex, great cars, great toys, great vacations and great bodies. Browse any newsstand.
But I think we come to church on Christmas Eve because most of us, as attractive as we find some of those things, know that there is something more to the good life.
Mary is the role model of the good life. The truly good life consists of living in such a way that something of God is born into the world through us.
Let me tell you two secrets about this: something of God is never born into the world through us without labor. There will always be labor. We will always be stretched and it may feel as if we are being pulled inside out.
And let me tell you a second secret. It is often the thing we think is our curse that turns out to be our blessing.
On Christmas Eve we sometimes have parents or family members of some of our gay and lesbian members here, so let me tell you about the parents of one of our gay members from, I think it was Arizona, whom I met some months ago. They told me that they had no understanding of homosexuality at all when their son came out to them. At first, they considered it an awful thing. “How can this be happening to us?” they asked. They were Southern Baptists and their pastor preached against homosexuality form time to time. It was awful, they thought.
Then they got to know their son’s friends, who were nice young people, they said, and they eventually attended a PFLAG meeting in a city near where they live, and, they told me, that they discovered a new community of love and acceptance and purpose that had given them a whole new life. PFLAG is better than church, they told me. No offense, pastor, they said to me, but there is more love at PFLAG than there is at church.
It is often the thing we thought was our curse that turns out to be our blessing.
Foundry has a key scripture. We put it on the front of our bulletin every time we worship. Jesus said there are two great commandments. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
The assumption behind this is that we love ourselves in healthy ways. If you don’t love yourself, please don’t love me the way you love yourself.
In order to love our neighbors well, we need to know our true blessing. If we think it is our hair or teeth or clothes or our car that is our blessing we will not see the way our neighbors are blessed. We will not see the God in our neighbor waiting to be born through them into the world. We will totally misjudge them.
May you know your true blessing this Christmas.
The magazines on the newsstand will tell you that the good life comes from great hair, great teeth, great clothes, great sex, great cars, great toys, great vacations and great bodies.
But at the hundreds of memorial services I have conducted throughout the years, when people have stood up and talked about the departed, never once have I heard anybody talk about somebody having great hair, great teeth, great clothes, great food, great sex, or a great body. Once somebody talked about the person’s car and maybe a couple of times vacations were mentioned, but only once or twice.
When we are gone, the people we leave behind will not judge our lives by any of those things, but by the something of God that was born into their lives by the way we lived. This is the good life … for something of God to be born into the world through us. This is what it means to be truly blessed.
This is what we came away from our TVs and magazines to be reminded of tonight.