This past Sunday, I had the privilege of leading the service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansford. I offered a musical sermon in which I spoke about the lessons and the Gospel reading and played/sang musical pieces that related to the scriptures. I wanted to share on my blog post, for those of you who were not in attendance at that service, just a small portion of the sermon that I gave.
The Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany was Matthew 5:1-12. In this introduction to the Sermon on the Mount (Jesus’ longest sermon and the very famous one that includes the Golden Rule and the Lord’s Prayer), the Beatitudes were presented.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These were, in some ways, challenging for Jesus’ audience to hear, as they were countercultural. While the popular culture of the time raised up those who were rich and those who were respected in the community, Jesus instead turn to those who were outcasts and those who were struggling and named these people as blessed. The Beatitudes come with a joyful promise, as each line reminds us of the joy that is ahead for those who live purely and compassionately, as Jesus lived. This Gospel message guides us to not follow the values of the world and to blindly accept them as our own, but to look inward and to choose to live in a way that is true and that is an outpouring of love.
Hurricane Sandy took us for a wild ride last week. Living in east-central Pennsylvania, I would not have expected to ever experience the wrath of such a hurricane. There are still people within an hour of me waiting for their electricity to be restored…6 days later. The amount of devastation in New York and New Jersey is unbelievable.
I have found myself unsettled since Sandy blew through. Even though my power was restored in 24 hours and damage to my home and my parents’ property was minimal, I’ve just been shaken by it all and almost can’t bear to see the videoclips and photos and to hear the stories that are being shared on the tv news and on the internet.
Yesterday, I found out about a former student of mine who is organizing a project to help those in Rockaway, NY who have lost everything in this storm. This student, now in high school, was an active member of the Pleasant Valley Intermediate School Student Council when I advised and led this group in my tenure as a teacher in Pleasant Valley. Nina is collecting canned goods, clothing, blankets, batteries, coats, toys, and more — to help those who need help the most. I spent time last night getting things together to donate. As my parents have recently moved to a new house, we’ve been doing a lot of cleaning around here over the past several months, and this is a great opportunity for us to let go of things we no longer need and to pass them on to people who could really benefit from them. I am inspired by Nina’s continued commitment to leadership and helping the community, and I am so happy to see her initiating this project. She is a high school student who excels academically, a friendly and warm young woman who brings joy to many, and a person who gives back and helps her school and community. She had all of these qualities as a seventh grader in my Student Council, and she is becoming more involved and helping more and more people as she grows and works hard at all that she does. I am so proud of Nina, and I feel better that I am helping in a small way to alleviate some of the suffering of these people afflicted by Hurricane Sandy. If anyone would also like to contribute to Nina’s project, please get in touch with me, and I will pass on Nina’s contact information to you. She is welcoming additional donations, and I support her project and want it to be a great success.
There are many other ways to help. My friend Stan suggested on his most recent blog post donating through Music for Relief. The Tamaqua Salvation Army did a fantastic job of helping people in Schuylkill and Carbon County in so many ways over the past week. Andy Leibenguth and others delivered hot meals to residents without power. WNEP News did a feature on their great service.
While this storm has shaken so many of us, it has also brought people together. I am moved by the acts of kindness and compassion that continue to make life better and restore hope for those who were affected by this storm.