NOTE: I now preach short sermons as they are translated into Farsi and delivered in English and Farsi. 75% of the congregation are Iranian asylum seekers.
When Jesus started teaching and healing people, the word soon got round, and people came from all over to hear him and to be made well. He had what they wanted. They were ill and they wanted health; they were struggling and they wanted help; they were abused and belittled and they wanted to be recognised and valued. They couldn’t always put into words what they were looking for. They wanted something more, something beyond what they could see and hear and touch. Their souls reached out. And maybe this new teacher could help them.
Jesus had a way of putting things that made you see the world differently. He talked about a kingdom ruled by God, where people lived in God’s way, and this kingdom was different from the murky politics of this world. In God’s world, the values were topsy-turvy.
Blessed are the poor, Jesus said, for yours is the kingdom of God. It is not the rich or the powerful who find happiness in God’s kingdom, but those who know they need God and trust in God, those who don’t rely on material possessions or comfort for their happiness. Jesus might say to you today: Blessed are you when you give up homes and jobs and citizenship to follow me.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, Jesus said, for you will be filled. Those who consume grand banquets at the expense of others will not know true happiness. But those who identify with the poor, with those who hunger because they have to sell their produce cheaply to wealthy nations – they will be satisfied. Jesus might say today: Blessed are you when you have to live out of foodbanks in order to survive, because you seek a greater kingdom. And blessed are you when you buy goods that have been traded fairly.
Blessed are you who weep now, Jesus said, for you will laugh. Those who know that they are vulnerable, those who carry great pain of loss and bereavement and broken relationships, those who live with mental or physical illness – they will find true joy, the joy that comes when they know that they are loved and valued and cared for. And today, Jesus says, I know your tears and your fears. And I am there for you, always. I love you and you are precious to me. Let your tears flow because they will bring you healing.
And Jesus said: Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Today he might say, Blessed are you when the authorities come looking for you when you start to explore another faith. Blessed are you when they threaten you and find all kinds of ways to punish you, because you turn to Jesus. Blessed are you when people mock you because you are open about your faith.
The Kingdom of God happens when you start to follow Jesus. The Kingdom of God happens when you put your trust in him. The Kingdom of God happens when you start to live by new values. And then you are blessed. Not because you have earned the Kingdom, because God gives it to you freely. Not because you have earned a blessing, because God gives it to you freely. But in your weakness, your eyes are opened to God’s presence, and the Kingdom of God is all around you.