“The Real Social Network” Sermon Series Continues

Date: July 16, 2017
Title: “Tweets From Our Tribe”
Preaching: The Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

Facebook – Instagram – Snapchat – Tumblr – LinkedIn – Renren – Disqus –
Vine – Pinterest – TWITTER … just ten of the most popular platforms in what we call the “social network”, each one designed or intended to bring humanity closer together. Each one is meant to build, in some way, a sense of community. You know it is true, that we live in a digital age and in a web-based world, where 320 million people hold Twitter accounts, 79% of whom reside outside the United States. Ten million Twitter users are in China alone, even though the government there officially blocks it. Of those 320 million users, 34% of them will log onto Twitter at least once a day, and 83%

We live in a digital age and a web-based world, where many of the world’s inhabitants report they are lonelier than ever. All that social networking and we are lonelier than ever, looking for a real social network, that interconnected web of relationship and meaning which alone can sustain us and fill us with hope.

Jesus was a master of that social network. Just think of the folks he brought together – saints and sinners, rich and poor, country and city folk, believers and agnostics, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, enemies and friends…Jesus was a master of the real social network. You could even say, as Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s minister of culture says… Jesus used Tweets before there was even a Twitter account to be had.

The Gospels are full of his brief, punchy, deeply meaningful statements, like the opening of what we call Jesus’ “sermon on the mount”. This was a sermon given for the benefit of his followers, and it is full of “Tweets”, if you will, from our fonder to our tribe. And how interesting it is, that Jesus chooses to begin those tweets with the Beatitudes!

Blessed, Jesus says, are the poor in spirit; and those who mourn. Blessed are the meek, and those who hunger or thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted. In a culture that celebrated wealth and military might, Jesus lifted up those on the opposite end of that spectrum and called them “blessed”. He was anything but predictable, this Jesus. And this list of blessing, these tweets to our tribe, may leave us scratching our heads and wondering if he has lost his mind.

What here could we possibly re-tweet? How might our list read today? Nadia Bolz Weber suggests it might read something like this:
Blessed are the poor in spirit might become blessed are the agnostics, those who doubt, those who can still be surprised. Blessed are those who mourn could be re-tweeted as those for whom tears are as real as an ocean… those who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted any more, those who loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the meek lifts up those who nobody else notices… the kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables, the laundry guys at the hospital, the night-shift street sweepers… or simply the parts of ourselves that are so small and forgotten. Perhaps we could tweet blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented, the closeted, the lonely, the fearful.

Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness might simply translate into blessed are the ones for whom life is hard, the ones who never catch a break, the ones without lobbyists, without documentation, without family… blessed are foster kids and trophy kids and every other kid who just wants to be safe and loved.

Blessed are the merciful, those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people, not profits. Blessed are the overworked teachers and pro-bono case takers, the ones who step between bullies and the weak, the ones who delete hateful comments off their friends’ Facebook pages…

The bottom line here might not be any of these tweets. The bottom line might just be Jesus himself. It helps to remember that the blessings he offers were given at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, before a single instruction is given, before there has been time for us to judge the message, accept or reject its intent. Indeed, before we have done a single thing in response to the preaching, Jesus is calling us blessed, and is giving us the most profound tweet of them all… God loves us. Period.

We would do well to remember this morning that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and when Matthew later recorded these Beatitudes, it was never meant to be the whole story. The models of blessing we are given have far more to do with our life attitude than with the specifics of our circumstances. Nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus suggest any set of external circumstances will guarantee our happiness. He does not say if you are married, you are bound to be happy; nor does he say if you stay single, you will probably be even happier. Jesus never says if you have a great deal of money life will be sweet, but if you don’t there’s little chance for you to rejoice and be glad. As Richard Rohr reminds us: The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection, and he told us that we must do the same.

Look around you and you will find people reflecting light into the darkest of places imaginable. Look around and you can see people reflecting love into the greatest disorder, and bringing life into moments of deepest imperfection. Look around and you will find people truly able to rejoice and be glad. For these Tweets from our tribe are blessings not just for some far-away hill in the desert of antiquity. They are blessings for us in this city, in this time, when we come to terms with disorder and imperfection, and realize our dependence on God’s grace. They are blessings which enable us to move from the shallow waters of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, into the depths of community with God and neighbor and even ourselves. They are blessings which create the real social network.
According to Wikipedia, there have been many interesting errors made in printing the Bible throughout history. One of my favorites is this one, from 1562, when the second edition of the Geneva Bible rendered Matthew 5:9 as “blessed are the place makers” rather than the peace makers. This was an obvious problem, yet there may be some truth in this typographical error.

Indeed, blessed are those who make a place for the realm of God. Blessed are those who make a place right here, right now, by shining God’s Light into whatever darkness they encounter. Blessed are those who make a place right here – in their own hearts – right now. Blessed are they who know God’s love… the ultimate Tweet from our tribe. Amen.

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