Anticipation and Payoff.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

There is a reason why we think accomplishments, things, and the attainment of goals are what will fill us, and the denial of things will satisfy us: it’s because we’ve been disappointed.

And there’s two things about disappointment that are always true:

1.) We were expecting some kind of payoff that didn’t happen.

2.) Anticipation comes first.

 

 

 


Sermon Recap: Happy are the Hungry.

Who is happy?  Not the full.  Happiness does not come from being full.  When I have what I want I’ll be happy.  No. The fulfillment of desire does not bring happiness.  This is an American theology of consumption.  And it is not true. 

Who is happy?  Not the fasters.  Happiness also does not come from having no appetite.  When I want what I have I’ll be happy.  No.  The abandonment of desire does not bring happiness.  This is an Eastern and fundamentalist theology of denial.  And it is not true.

Who is happy?  Happy are the hungry.  Happy are those who pursue what they desire.  It is the pursuit.  It is the chase.  It is the journey that brings happiness.   When I pursue what I want I’ll be happy.  This is the truth.

And what do we hunger for?  What do we thirst for?  What do we desire above all else?  God.  We hunger for righteousness.  We hunger for right relationship with God.  We eagerly seek His face.  He hungers for right conduct.  We eagerly do his will.      

 


"Nothing but sincerity…"

Its-the-great-pumpkin-charlie-brown

Even though I haven’t seen “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” in at least 4 years, I could probably recite it by heart. 

And I think that’s why when Vince paraphrased this week’s beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8a) to “Happy are the sincere for they will experience God,” a line from that cartoon popped in my head.

For those of you less familiar with this TV special, Linus is obsessed with the Great Pumpkin. The Great Pumpkin is a stand-in for Santa Claus, basically, only the Great Pumpkin doesn’t come to you; you must go to him. And every year, he chooses to show up in the “most sincere” pumpkin patch, Linus explains. 

Linus finds a sincere pumpkin patch and camps out with Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, there on Halloween night; as Linus remarks: “You can look all around you, and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

But, as we know, the only thing resembling a Great Pumpkin that arrives that night is Snoopy dressed up as the Red Baron. 

Sally, who was crushing pretty hard on Linus until she realized hanging out in a pumpkin patch all night on Halloween is, in fact, very boring, responds harshly. She is not a happy camper, and threatens to sue, get restitution for the candy she’s out, etc., before throttling Linus and leaving. 

Left alone in the pumpkin patch, Linus cries out: “Oh Great Pumpkin, where are you?!” 

More interesting, though, is the ending. In trademark Peanuts comic-strip fashion, Charlie Brown and Linus discuss their lackluster Halloween experiences at their brick wall, and poor Charlie tries to comfort his friend: “Don’t be too hard on yourself, Linus. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, too.” And that’s when Linus loses it: “Stupid? What do you mean stupid?” he fumes. “Just you wait til next year, Charlie Brown! You’ll see!” 

And he goes on to rant and rave through the closing credits about his allegiance to the Great Pumpkin, and how he’ll find a pumpkin patch next year that’s *real* sincere.  

While not a perfect analogy, I think when it comes to God and the way we interact with him, we have a tendency to be more like Sally and Charlie Brown than we are like Linus. 

We decide we believe in Jesus and we give our lives to him. We make big changes. We want to be more like Jesus, and we want to do what God wants. We begin to take risks: we stick our necks out for God. We give our time to Him. We make ourselves vulnerable. We go where we think we’re supposed to go and then camp out, putting up our “Welcome God” signs in our sincere pumpkin patches, and we put our faith in Him, that He’ll come, that He’ll be there. 

Then life happens: we meet resistance. People who we thought loved and supported us hurt us. We experience abandonment. We experience failure. We become exhausted and frustrated. We trip up, and then we find ourselves alone, wondering: “Oh God, where are you?” 

And the reason why this hurts so much is because we really believed. We let our guard down. We were sincere. We were sincere pumpkin patches, places where we thought God would show up, and He didn’t. At least, it didn’t seem like He did. 

So we put our guard back up and harden our hearts saying things like: “Well, I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, and here’s another one.” Or we shake our fists and say: “I’m owed restitution! I’ll sue! I’ve wasted my time! What a fool I was!” 

We think armor will protect us and keep us from getting hurt again. But hardening ourselves does not protect us: it changes us. Cynicism creeps in. Disbelief and skepticism become our first reactions to anything that asks us to step out in faith. We think the worst of others. We keep track of the ways we’ve been wronged, intent on never letting that happen again.

The trouble is: faith, hope, and forgiveness are central to our lives in Jesus. And in this broken world, this also means sincerity is as well: when others hurt us, when we feel like God’s abandoned us, we need to tell God. And even though God doesn’t actually hurt us, we need to acknowledge that we feel hurt.

And we need to tell HIm because unlike the Great Pumpkin He is there, and He hears. In fact, He is here with us. But we need to be sincere; we need to put our armor away, and go back to that child-like vulnerability and faith in Him, that He didn’t fail us, and that there is still hope, in order to fully experience Him in our lives and in this world. 

 


Sermon Recap: Blessed are the Pure of Heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

Happy are the Pure. Purity is an action. Happy are the confessors for they shall be clean. 

When we confess our sins God purifies our hearts. When was the last time you confessed your sins? Happy are the Pure. Purity is an attribute. 

Happy are the sincere for they will experience God. God wants us to have sincere relationship with him. God’s people are to be brutally honest with God. That’s the example we are to follow.

When was the last time you had a heart to heart with God?


Sacred Grounds: Wed. Oct. 17th 7-9

Hello St Paul???s!

 

Thanks to Ruth Alumbaugh, we have the opportunity to minister to the local community through worship tomorrow, Wednesday the 17th

 

Ruth and I have put together a small group to lead worship at Sacred Grounds in Willimantic.  Sacred Grounds is a Coffee House put on by First Congregational Church.  The event is from 7-9 with 2 sets of worship and a small devotional/sermon in the middle.  There will be coffee and other refreshments served. 

 

So, come join us tomorrow night from 7-9 at Sacred Grounds, First Congregational Church 199 Valley St Willimantic, CT.  This is an excellent opportunity to join with the community and worship The Father in Spirit and in Truth!

-Nick Santostefano