sermon on mount

You are not what you eat!

We are what we don’t eat!

 Acts 11.1-18

Matthew 5.1-12

I have to say I have never watched it myself. But I am told that the programme – I’m a celebrity get me out of here- usually contains a scene where the contestants have to eat something disgusting. In a way I can sympathies with their reaction having once had to eat octopus tentacles on an official visit to Spain. Actually chopped into slices and deep-fried they are delicious. Yet such experiences raise the whole question what we like to eat and what we don’t, what we think we should eat for our health and not and, indeed, what we should and not eat for religious reasons. For such deliberations brings us to the heart of today’s lessons not just from Acts but Matthew as well.

 

 

So let’s start with Peter. Now he could be a black or white sort of guy. Moreover, he saw details as the foundation of the bigger picture. Even small things could either be seriously right or wrong for him. Thus, pre-Joppa, he knew exactly what he had to eat to be God fearing. He knew what all who obeyed God should eat if they were to be on the inside. In fact, he was trying to do religion then by paying attention to the little rules and hoping the bigger ones would take of themselves.

 

That’s why his vision that day at Joppa came to him as a huge surprise. Certainly, if he hadn’t had this revelation, Christianity would have faded out as a footnote in Jewish history. But that day he was given the keys to the Kingdom; he was made to see what the nub of every religion is all about. He was shown what the sacred must truly be founded on. He was made aware that what really matters to God is often not detail. Rather it is have a go at living the truly good life. It is having a bash at obeying God in a way that serves the big picture. Put directly, it is attempting no matter how unsuccessfully to live out not the minutae of religious observance but the beatitudes of faith.

 

Ah we say – but the beatitudes are not easy. Much easier to be concerned with what we can and cannot eat – what formula of rules we can obey to the letter – what boundary walls we can erect to keep people in or out. Since being poor in spirit and peacemakers and above all merciful are painful. Let’s not even start on being pure in heart! That’s just too hard! In the final analysis we say – the beatitudes are just impossible!

 

 

But, you know, the word ‘impossible’ is a strangely flexible sort of term. Since the famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three “laws” of prediction. These are known worldwide as “Clarke’s Three Laws.” Here they are:

Law 1- when a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Law 2 – The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Law 3 – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

 

If we say then that the beatitudes are impossible we are very probably wrong.

 

If we say trying to base our life rules on them will test us to the limit then we are right. But so is venturing beyond them. For then we will discover the possibilities of God.

 

If indeed we say the casting aside of our self imposed boundaries is impossible we forget Christ did magic – it’s just we call them – miracles.

 

And where do we need miracles today?

 

Oh there are a hundred and one such places!

 

Let me take the example I heard of only last week. For Cardinal Vincent Nicols has just returned from Iraq. He remarked that until recently that country was an intricate pattern of religions and faiths. Sadly, this relatively harmonious patchwork has been destroyed and the lives of Christians as well as other minorities are now at serious risk.

 

Here then in at least one place is where we need miracles. Miracles brought about not by obeying to the letter some rule or other. Instead miracles ushered in by living, offering and inviting others into the community of the beatitudes. Miracles opened up by casting barriers aside and embracing our common humanity under God. Because that is the only way to value all human beings no matter what they believe or where they come from.

 

Or as Maya Angelou wrote of the human family:

 

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

 

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

 

So, how do we sum up?

 

Well, I think we need to acknowledge we are less what we eat than who we eat with.

 

We are less Christian when we obey rules and ignore God’s vision.

 

We are less human when we stop believing in miracles – the beatitude miracles – the miracle of the vision of Joppa – the miracles we can make happen through Christ. Since that is the food of God and the very taste of heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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