Sunday, May 2, 2021

On a Hillside 19) B6 Outward seriousness

 It's been pointed out how unhelpfully jumbled up my Beatitude posts are.  This is mostly because the sequence was broken into by choosing two for preaching around Easter.  To tidy things up I have given each posting so far a code: B1, B2 etc.  Today, I am preaching on B6 Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God..

The worship leader began the service this morning by declaring what a demanding beatitude this is.  How serious it is to speak about 'seeing' God.  The opening song underlined its gravity: Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus. We know such 'seeing' is of different quality. As a similar song based on Eph. 1:18 puts it: Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord.  It is a deeper heart engagement with God.

Many Scriptures could accompany this beatitude but I chose the story of the Pharisees coming to Jesus in Mark 7:1-23.  No one can doubt that the Pharisees were serious about God.  Every detail daily living mattered in pleasing God and much of it involved OUTWARD SERIOUSNESS.  That's how the story begins.  I gave a brief personal case study of being brought up in a loving Baptist family where outward seriousness also mattered.  For example, Sunday was God's special day on which no work was to be done. Even when my A levels began the next day!  Honour God and he will honour you, my Dad said (rather like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire refusing to run on Sunday!)  Not that there was much spare time with worship services in the morning and evening, Sunday School in the afternoon (attended through my teens) and the Youth Fellowship after the evening service.  And what commitment was expected. As a church member I was given a series of cards with my name on them to put into the Communion plate to show my attendance. Oh, there was so much else too.  There was to be no Casual Christianity only Committed Christianity!   Now, I want to return to this experience when we have looked further into the Scripture story.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were in some respects good people.  They are honoured in the story of Judaism because their witness held fast during turbulent times. They believed in prayer, in synagogue worship (which they greatly developed) and in contemporizing the law.  Unlike the Sadducees they believed the Torah should be interpreted through generations by the tradition of the elders. They truly wanted to be serious with God in every little part of life.  This encounter with Jesus, however, is both embarrassing and tragic. 

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