The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson is Designated-Term Pastor of the Congregational Church of Salisbury, CT, UCC.
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Reflection: Upsy Down Truth
If Jesus’ words are for you, today, my heart goes out to you. Because these words are clearly for you who are bearing heaviness and hurt. When you are pushed to the point that you will seriously consider an utterly improbable teaching that has no apparent connection to reality — well, then, this sermon is for you.
The truth is, those whose whole experience is degradation and depredation, diminishment and dismissal, decline and despair — you are, in truth, blessed. We perhaps hadn’t seen the truth clearly until Jesus brought the teaching: God will carry you through your experience of pain and into the reality of paradise.
It's a sermon of reversals, a periscope of u-turns, a lens that turns apparent reality upside-down into the truer, holier reality.
Happy are you, in truth, who are now truly grieving.
Fulfilled and confident are you, in truth, who now are tremulous.
Reminds me of a song from young childhood:
In Upsy Down Town the sky is in the sea
The sea is where the sky should be
The rain is falling up instead of falling down
Down in Upsy Down Town....
This would be a good one for faith formation: training our minds to stay nimble. Giving our students and ourselves a way to practice belief in impossible things — until trusting the reality beyond impossibility becomes, well, child’s play.
Redeemed are you, in truth, who live with rejection.
On cloud nine are you, in truth, who have been walking on eggshells.
Delighted are you, in truth, who are carrying heavy burdens.
This sermon serves as antidote when the influencers around us have established an ungodly version of reality. When we begin to believe that the one who accumulates the most assets wins, we’re in a demonic version of reality. When we begin to believe that might makes right, we’re in a reality that perverts the gospel. When we begin to believe it is okay (even necessary) to withhold care from strangers or foreigners, we’re in a reality that has rejected the Word. When we begin to believe that God helps those who help themselves, we’re in a reality that has twisted the Word beyond recognition.
Jesus peels away worldly illusion to show the reality of shalom:
Wondrous are you, in truth, who bear the scorn of stiff-necked neighbors.
Worthy are you, in truth, who have been falsely convinced of your unworthiness.
Saved are you, in truth, who are lost.
Loved are you, in truth, who now feel utterly forlorn.
O God — holy Mystery, Grace beyond naming, Wonder among us — by your grace, let us believe the upside down truths that abide at the heart of child’s play: all is well; your realm is real; you are here. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 224,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For the family and friends of Rev. Carl F. Reynolds, former pastor in West Stafford, CT, and long-time alumni at Silver Lake Conference Center. Rev. Reynolds died on Oct. 21
- For the people of the Philippines after Typhoon Molave left thousands homeless and many missing over the weekend
- For those affected by wildfires that continue in California
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the people who have donated to RIP Medical Debt in an effort to help those people whose lives have been devastated my medical costs
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
South Killingly Congregational Church, Danielson, CT
Westfield Congregational Church, Danielson, CT
First Congregational Church, Danbury, CT
King Street, UCC, Danbury, CT
First Congregational Church UCC, Dalton, MA
Village Congregational Church, UCC, Cummington, MA
West Cummington Congregational Church, UCC, Cummington, MA
Four Corners Community Chapel UCC, Cumberland, RI
Armenian Evangelical UCC, Cranston, RI
Edgewood Congregational UCC, Cranston, RI
First Korean Church of Rhode Island, UCC, Cranston, RI
This Week in History:
October 29, 1969 (51 years ago) The first computer to computer message was sent over the ARAPANET system, a computer network that led to the development of email, the internet, and eventually the World Wide Web as we know it. Computers from UCLA and Stamford Research Institute were connected and 2 characters were successfully transmitted as a UCLA programmer tried to Login to the SRI machines. The characters 'LO' were transmitted before the connection crashed. Later that evening, the machines were successfully connected again and the UCLA programmer was able to Login to the SRI machine.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”