How blessed are we?

Published 7:44 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

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By Sam Askew

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find a passage that begins at chapter five with the Beatitudes and concludes at the end of chapter 7 with the illustration of wise and foolish builders. During this time of self-quarantine and social distancing, there is time to read and reflect upon this sermon of Jesus. It speaks, and possibly shouts, a relevant message for our present shared situation.

Those who have already in life have known what it is to be poor in spirit, to mourn, and to accept in meekness what cannot be changed. Such persons are the backbone of support for these troubled times. They hold to the assurance of the guiding presence of God; “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3b)

I appreciate the word “façade” for its pronunciation relates well to its definition. To someone like myself, having not learned to read phonetically, my pronunciation of the word was the “ca” sound as “k.” Now set in memory I learned the definition. The word facade means “an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less creditable reality.” Most simply put: what is seen is not what is fully real. The “Sermon on the Mount” teaches the necessity of being authentic and real.

Honestly, I am challenged by have the conversations with the church leadership about cancelling worship and all congregational gatherings. If God comes first in my life and I am to place my full trust in God in all things, how can suspending the ministry be a good decision? Will not I as the pastor exist merely as a facade?

My answer is that Jesus asks us to choose to be salt and light and be attentive to the fulfilment of the Law. The treasure we have is what makes Christians unique and of special need in times of crisis. To choose the right path is often costly, yet, with eyes open we venture forth. We cannot serve two masters, both God and money. Ministry does not depend upon a building or gatherings of more than two persons. Ministry is about the personal witness of our relationship with God.

Jesus teaches the need to maintain a sense of proportion as we face the challenges of life. He said, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important? (Matt 6:25) A good thought upon which to reflect after being confronted with statements by the college youth on spring break “If I get it, I get it,” and from a seasoned elected official, “that seniors are willing to die to save the economy.”

The sermon goes on to assure us that the guidance of God is always available. It is not limited to any one person or group. The guidance of God is known by being healthful, life-giving and a good gift. We must ask of God for wisdom so it may be given. We must seek among the paths using our intellect. We must knock at doors that had been considered shut to our understanding. For the message is this: “For everyone who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt 7:8)

While as good people and faithful Christians we may want to pat ourselves on the back. I suggest reflecting upon the final part of the sermon. Might we have become builders upon the sand? Is our goodness a facade to our Christian witness? Reflect upon what has taken place in every community throughout the world but focus upon our own.

We pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and yet as quick as the bread shelves are restocked, they are emptied. Yesterday, I was feeling guilty of placing in my cart the final loaf of bread even though it had been two weeks since I was able to find one to purchase. I cannot imagine the grief there must for those of the medical profession who serve as our front line of defense, arrive at the end of a long shift of duty to discover empty shelves.

The good news is of the volunteers ensuring that students continue to be provided meals. Seniors are still receiving meals delivered to their home. Grocery shelves are able to be restocked. Therefore:

Let us see the blessed; the medical professionals whose lives are endangered.

Let us see the blessed; those who keep food on our table.

Let us see the blessed; those who have been our service persons and are now without employment.

Let us see the blessed; the elderly who must choose loneliness over illness.

Let us see the blessed; the educators who are expected to meet questionable results.

Let us see the blessed; the owners of small businesses who maintain the vitality of every community.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall.” (Matt 7:24-25) Striving to be among the blessed we can choose to accept the disappointments of today and adapt as appropriate; trusting in the provisions of God and in the ability to be a faithful witness in Christ to our neighbor.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Sam


THE REV. SAM ASKEW is the pastor of Windsor Congregational Christian Church. Contact him at 242-4794.