“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019

“‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?” (Psalm 1; Luke 14:25-35)

Please turn with me once again to Psalm 1, in the front of your hymnal. We sang this psalm earlier in the service, but now I’d like us to speak together the first three verses. Psalm 1, verses 1 through 3:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Well, this sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Delight in God’s word, meditate on it every day, and you will be blessed! In all you do, you will prosper! Hey, sign me up! This is a pretty sweet deal.

So, I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord. I like reading the Bible. I think about it a lot. Now all my life should be hunky-dory, shouldn’t it? I should be prospering like nobody’s business. No more problems. Smooth sailing all the way.

But maybe, just maybe, my life doesn’t exactly look like that. Maybe yours doesn’t either. All this fruit I’m supposed to be bearing, where is it? Why does it feel like I’m withering sometimes? Instead of prospering, I end up perspiring. Instead of my life being fruitful, it feels like it’s futile. This is being blessed? “‘Blessed Is the Man’: Really, Lord?”

Friends, this is the paradox of the Christian life. On the one hand, the Lord tells us we are blessed. On the other hand, our life doesn’t always look so blessed. Both are true. We can feel and experience both realities. And in the end, the Lord’s pronouncement that we are indeed blessed outweighs our not-so-blessed circumstances.

So why doesn’t our life always look so blessed? There can be several factors at work here. For one, maybe we aren’t really delighting in the Lord’s word. Maybe we skip out on church or Bible class, and thus we miss out on all the blessing we could be receiving here from God’s word. That’s a possibility. Are you building your life around God’s word? Or do you let it go in one ear and out the other without sinking in very deeply? That’s a problem. Do you meditate on God’s word day in and day out, throughout the day and night, and let it shape your thinking and your living? If not, you’re missing out on the fruitful union with the Lord that he promises. You know, Jesus says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.” So check your connection to Christ, if you see that your life is not so fruitful. And the fruit you will bear is the fruit of the Spirit, things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If you’re not connected to Christ and soaking up God’s word on a weekly and daily basis, then you will not be as fruitful as you should be, as God wants you to be.

What can be another reason our life is not prospering so well? Sometimes we bring our troubles on ourselves, through the foolish choices we make. We suffer the consequences of our own bad decisions. If I eat bad foods, and I don’t exercise, and I sit around all day smoking cigarettes, it should not be surprising if my health suffers. If I spend beyond my means, and I go down to the gambling boats and blow my money, it’s not surprising if my wealth suffers. If I’m mean to the people I know, and I can’t control my tongue, and I don’t show any kindness or forgiveness, then my relationships will suffer. Often we suffer the consequences of our own wrong choices. And so our life does not prosper.

But what if we’re not making stupid choices all the time and our life still suffers? Has the Lord forgotten about us? Is his promise only good for others and not for me? Is it only others who are blessed? No, that’s not it.

Sometimes we can be doing everything pretty much right, and we still suffer. We go to church. We read our Bible. We’re trying to live the right way. And yet, it seems, we are not prospering. And that’s perplexing. Think of the example of Job. He was suffering all sorts of misery. His children died. His fortune was wiped out. He himself was suffering maladies in his body. “So, Job” his friends told him, “the Lord must be punishing you for something. You must have done something wrong to be suffering so. You must have some unconfessed sin.” But Job searched his heart and mind, and he could honestly say, “No, there’s not anything like that I can think of.” Job’s sufferings were a mystery to him. He was serving the Lord the best he could. Yet his life was miserable. “Blessed is the man.” Really, Lord?

Or take another example, this from the Book of Psalms. There the psalmist laments: “Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? It doesn’t make sense, Lord! How long, O Lord, how long?”

And in the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus even tells his disciples that their lives will not always be so pleasant or seem so blessed, precisely in their following him! In order to be Jesus’ disciple, you will have to hate your father and mother and wife and children and even your own life! Ouch! That is being blessed? To be Jesus’ disciple, you will have to bear your own cross. And to bear your cross means to suffer precisely because you belong to Christ! What kind of blessed life is this? To be Jesus’ disciple, you have to renounce all that you have! That doesn’t sound like prospering. “Blessed is the man.” Really, Lord?

Yes, really! You know, Jesus had some “Blessed is the man” sayings of his own. They’re called the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are those who mourn.” How can Jesus call them blessed? It doesn’t make sense. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” OK, now we’re getting at it. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You see, we are truly blessed, even when we’re suffering and bearing our cross for Jesus’ sake. Think of the hundreds of Christians being slaughtered in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Or the 21 Christian martyrs beheaded in Libya by ISIS a few years ago. They were killed unjustly, simply because they were Christians. But Jesus calls them blessed.

Brothers and sisters, often we can’t figure out why our life is not all hunky-dory. There doesn’t seem to be a direct one-to-one correlation between how we’re living and why we’re suffering. It’s a mystery. Sometimes we’re even suffering because we belong to the Lord! Our life doesn’t get better, it gets worse, because we’re following Jesus! And yet the Lord does pronounce us blessed. And his word is true. We are what he says.

Listen, was there ever a more righteous man than Jesus Christ himself? Jesus did everything right, and I mean, every thing! He never walked in the way of the wicked. He always delighted in the law of the Lord. He meditated on it day and night. Indeed, Jesus is the Word of God incarnate! No more righteous man has ever walked this earth. And yet Jesus suffered more sharply than any man ever has. Unjustly, supremely unjustly, did he suffer the shame and scorn of men, to the point of being nailed to a cross like a common criminal. And there, hanging on that cross, God’s own Son–the one of whom the Father had said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased–there, on the cross, Jesus suffered the utter abandonment of the Father. And Jesus cried out, quoting the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why indeed? It made no sense. Until we understand that this was precisely God’s plan to rescue and save and bless us poor miserable sinners beyond anything we could imagine or deserve. Jesus did this for you! For in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, we are blessed beyond measure. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. In him we have life, life abundantly and eternally, sharing in Christ’s own resurrection and everlasting life. This is truly what it means to be blessed! We have a hope and a joy and a peace that the world cannot take away, that our circumstances–even our suffering–cannot extinguish. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

“Blessed is the man.” And the woman. And the child. Baptized into Christ, you are like a tree planted by streams of water. You will bear the fruit of the Spirit, even as you bear your cross. Your leaf will not wither, even into old age. The word of God, coming to you in preaching and teaching and the Sacraments here at church, and in your daily devotions at home–the word of the Lord will refresh your heart and strengthen your spirit, so that you will prosper in your Christian walk. Brothers and sisters, all you who trust in Christ Jesus our Savior–you are truly blessed. Really, Lord? Yes, really!

Published in: on September 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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