First Lesson: Micah 6: 1-8
Responsive Reading: Psalm 15
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 5: 1-12
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 5: 1-12
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a story. One time there were two identical twins that I’ll call Fritz and Frank. Fritz and Frank were the types of twins that were nearly impossible to tell apart just by looking at them. Fritz and Frank’s one great difference was found in their attitude. Fritz was a hope-filled optimist tending always to see the best in every given situation. When Fritz’s baseball team would lose 10-0, Fritz would comment on what an exciting play the second out of the sixth inning was. Frank was a real downer, always believing the earth was about to cave in around him. On a nice day, Frank would comment on how it’ll probably rain tomorrow. We all know people like Fritz and Frank!
Fritz and Frank’s parents were worried that the boys were so extreme when it came to viewing life. They decide to take Fritz and Frank to see a psychologist. The Psychologist was blown away by both Fritz’s rare optimism along with Frank’s extreme pessimism. The Psychologist suggests the following seemingly radical solution: Both boys birthdays are coming soon: Why don’t give pessimism Frank a new bike, and give the optimism Fritz a box full of manure. The parents were hesitant, having always making a point to raise the boys equally. But they decide to follow the psychologist’s suggestion, hoping it would help both boys.
On the day of Fritz and Frank’s birthday, Frank sees his bicycle. The bike is a beauty a top of the line racing bike costing his parents hundreds of dollars. Frank doesn’t crack a smile. All Frank can mutter is “I’ll probably crash it and break my leg.” Fritz then receives his present. Fritz opens the box, sees the manure. A huge smile comes over Fritz’s face. Fritz starts chanting “yes, yes, yes.” Fritz then runs outside with as much joy as they’ve ever seen a child run. Fritz’s parents are confused at the boy’s joy at the sight of receiving a box of manure. So they ask Fritz why he’s so happy? To which Fritz says “With all this manure, there’s gotta be a pony around here somewhere?”
Now picture Fritz and Frank cause we’ll get back to their story in a bit. Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from Matthew 5. Jesus is early in his ministry. Jesus is starting to attract crowds that hung on his every word. Jesus decides that he needs to give a big, important sermon in response to the growing crowds. Where Jesus chooses to go is interesting.
Now one of the most scenic spots around Silver Bay is the Twin Lakes (Bear and Bean), what makes Bear and Bean so scenic is the giant cliffs that surround them so you can get a beautiful view of both at the same time, but to get this view you need to climb. Now picture Bear and Bean Lake, now picture the Lake of Galilee. So what Jesus does is take his disciples from the ground level of the Lake of Galilee to the Mount or Plain at its top. Jesus does this so they can get the “inside scoop” of his ministry. Jesus begins preaching to his disciples in his famous Sermon on the Mount.
Now I was listening to Andy Stanley preach on the Sermon on the Mount this week when he summed it up well: “The Sermon on the Mount is Extreme!” People who claim to love the Sermon on the Mount, haven’t read the whole thing.”
Jesus gives the Disciples the Sermon on the Mount to give them the insight on all of life’s manure.
Now I remember one time, I was riding in the car with my dad when he gets a call on his cell phone. The call was promising my dad the ability to purchase an unlimited warranty on his car. Dad kept an old trailblazer that probably had 200,000 miles on it that he would drive four blocks to work. So now most people would hang up on these calls but not Dad. Dad immediately knew that such a promise was way too good to be true. Dad starts asking the Telemarketer all sorts of pointed questions. You could tell the Telemarketer knew the gig was up. I believe the Telemarketer finally hangs up on Dad.
Now picture the Telemarketer, now imagine Jesus doing the exact opposite. Jesus paints a picture of his upcoming ministry for the Disciples. The picture Jesus paints is harsh containing no false promises: “You will lose those close to you, you will not gain great material possessions, you very well might even be persecuted. Rest assured in these times God is preparing you to receive great blessings even as life seemingly throws at you nothing but boxes full of manure.”
Jesus words are meant to proclaim to the Disciples that this life will bring rock bottom, mourning, and even death.
Carol Howard Merritt tells the story of having a father in hospice care. Her dad falls and breaks his hip. Her dad is already disabled before the fall and his body is certainly in no position to undergo such a procedure. Only her dad is in so much pain that they need to do the surgery, regardless of the risks. Merrit comes to realize that it is in times such as these of great pain, sorrow, anger, and powerless is when Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount might begin to make sense.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”-Matthew 5:4.
Here’s the point that Jesus is making that we often don’t understand the nature of God’s blessing. We will all have those moments in life where it seems that God might not be at work in our circumstances, but rest assured God’s blessings will probably take place only in unexpected ways.
Let me tell a story, Months before I came up to Silver Bay to interview. A pastoral colleague of mine received a call from a church in Kentucky wanting to know a young pastor with high energy to come down and interview. So I get out my best suit, best sermon, and set out on a long drive to Kentucky. I was the only candidate they were planning to interview. The interview is Saturday evening, with preaching on Sunday morning. The interview was interesting in that nearly every member of the congregation shows up. I get a call from the Call Committee Chairman a few weeks after this, saying they discussed me with the whole congregation and that I wasn’t what they were looking.
Now I knew that I wasn’t the right fit for this congregation. The Kentuckians were looking for and needed a different type of leader. But still, rejection in whatever walk of life stings whether it be professional or personal.
Here’s a point that Jesus is making within the Sermon on the Mount best summed up by Kent Crockett:
“Man’s rejection can be God’s direction. God sometimes uses the rejection of hateful people to move us to a new place or assignment where we wouldn’t have thought of going on our own. He must slam the door in our face through rejection to get us to look in another direction. Then when we get to that new place, we thank God for the rejection rather than being bitter about it.”
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”-Romans 8:28
There are going to be many moments in our life when these words will not be easy to here. These words might not bring immediate comfort on the loneliest nights of our existence.
I came across the following saying this week that I thought was really good “God often takes the trash out of our life and recycles it into something good.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”- Matthew 5:11-12
I want to close with the following story this morning about a man who was able to embrace these promises from the Sermon on the Mount in even the darkest of one’s circumstances.
The following story was told by Chuck Colson, Maximilian Kolbe (Kol-bay) was a Polish Priest working in Warsaw at the start of World War II. In February 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the Nazi Regime for publishing unapproved literature. Kolbe is sent off to Auschwitz. Kolbe arrives at Auschwitz and starts acting like Fritz the Optimist, he ministers and finds comfort for his fellow prisoners on every day of his stay.
Kolbe’s ministry facing a crisis though on one July day, an inmate escaped, the Nazi Soldiers were furious. Nazi policy was to take ten prisoners and place them to die in a starvation bunker. One of the ten men to be sent to death was a Polish farmer named Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek). Franciszek who you can call Frank cries out “My poor wife! “My poor children! What will they do.”
Maximilian Kolbe was not going to sit idly by in the face of this injustice. Kolbe breaks out of his line to address one of the Nazi officers. Such a bold act would normally be a death sentence, but Kolbe had to do something. Kolbe tells the Nazi commander “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned.” The Commander was stumped, so he merely asks “Why?”
Kolbe knew he needed a good reason, so he played on the Nazi’s normal methods of destroying the weak and elderly first.
Kolbe responded ““I am an old man, sir, and good for nothing. My life will serve no purpose.”
The officer responded: “In whose place do you want to die.”
At this moment Maximilian Kolbe points at the weeping Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek). Everyone in the camp is stunned. The officer gives in because Frank looks to be a lot stronger, more valuable worker than Maximillian Kolbe.
Kolbe is taken to a dark chamber: stripped of his clothes, left without food or water. Inside the death chamber, something extraordinary happened because of Maximilian Kolbe. In days past, prisoners would wail and weep in agony. Prisoners alongside Maximillian Kolbe in the death chamber were singing songs of praise and songs of hope even as they prepared to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
August 14, 1941, needing a place to house more prisoners. A German Doctor walks into Kolbe’s bunker, where he sees a barely breathing Kolbe smiling, right until the moment where the Doctor placed the needle in Maximilian Kolbe’s arm.
Franciszek Gajowniczek (Fran-She-Cek) (Guy-o-nick-chek) died 53 years after Maximilian Kolbe in Poland. Maximilian Kolbe was able to find hope in even the foulest smelling of manure.
My point for this morning is this. The Sermon on the Mount is tough to hear. We would rather not have to the endure terrible circumstances of our life to receive God’s blessing. Andy Stanley sums it up best: “The Sermon on the Mount is your life if your faith was perfect.” If you had the courage to look at the grave as fearlessly as Maximilian Kolbe. Perfect faith like if you were able to ask “Where’s the Pony?” upon receiving a box of manure. We might not believe quite like these men, but what Jesus is saying is that’s o.k. The truth of the Christian’s life is it will contain nasty things in Sin and Death. Jesus in the Beatitudes today is also making the following point that as times when life seems the darkest it is then when God’s blessings are getting ready to appear. Whereas we will always mourn death, soon we will be comforted when we come face to face with the awesome power of Resurrection. Amen
 The author of this analogy is unknown. The analogy comes from the Stories for Preaching website retrieved on January, 23rd 2017. I took creative liscense inserting names of Fritz and Frank.
 The following analogy comes from the Attitude section.
 Matthew 5:1-12
 The following lines come from a You Tube clip posted by Shawn Nelson on May, 23rd 2014. The following clip comes from Stanley’s 2011 “Shocking Statements of Jesus: Sermon Series- Part 5”.
 Merritt, Carol Howard. “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”. Day 1 found on Text Week. Jan.30.2011. Web. 23.Jan.2017.
 The following analogy was found on Kent Crockett(kentcrockett.com)’s website under “Rejection” on January 23rd, 2017.
 The following analogy comes from Charles Colson’s book The Body and was found on the Creative Youth Ideas website on January 23rd, 2017.
 Maximillian Kolbe was canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church on October 10, 1982.