I begin today’s message with the disclaimer that it has NOT been brought to you by the Apple Corporation, the smartphone, the Mac Air, nor the Apple Watch, as much as those items are likely in your possession maybe even at this very moment. Apple is a household fixture that we can’t imagine living without and I am not about to change your mind. Some of you here today may remember this advertising campaign which financial and technology experts believe saved the tech company from its demise. Think Different was meant to change Apple’s course and shift the consumer’s perspective as to what the company valued and envisioned for its future.
The ad does a bit of a “drive-by” of 17 iconic figures from the 20th century….you likely recognized many of them…Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Jim Henson, Mahatma Ghandi…all individuals who showed what hard work and perseverance could accomplish. “Here’s to the crazy ones” Richard Dreyfus opens the monologue….to the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers…round pegs in square holes…they see things different. You can’t ignore them…they push the human race forward…because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…are the ones who do.
This commercial is like a new revamped version of what Jesus is talking about this morning. But in a more pop cultural kind of way. The message is clear. Richard Dreyfus reminds us that sometimes we need to go against the current of popular opinion and do what needs to be done. To make change happen in the world. The people included in the Apple ad all made a contribution to humanity in big ways. I must confess however that I struggled over whether or not to show it to you this morning. I felt the lens was one of fame of fortune and wondered what would Jesus make of this message? For Jesus it was always about turning the tables on our preconceived notions of how things are…whether its two thousand years ago or today. With his list of paradoxical statements we read in Matthew 5, he is trying to show us what life in its fullest…kin-dom living we could say…really looks like.
He uses the word blessed to describe the down and out circumstances of life….he covers them all…the grieving, the poor in spirit, the meek…all will be in a future time relieved of their state of suffering and demise. But then there are also those who hunger and thirst for justice, the peacemakers, the merciful, the persecuted….those who are working for change in our world. Frederick Buechner says of the beatitudes that Jesus didn’t pick spiritual heroes, men and women of impeccable character and morals, but rather those who had nothing to give and everything to receive. Not the spiritual giants but rather the “poor in spirit”. Not the ones who are righteous, but the ones who hope they will be someday and in the meantime are well aware that the distance they still have to go is even greater than the distance they've already come. I love that statement….thank you Mr. Buechner.
Jesus uses the beatitudes, these seemingly ironical statements to get us thinking about what we truly value. And whom we look to. One afternoon this past week, I was parking at Save On and there he was, sitting on the cold sidewalk near one of the entrances with a cardboard sign. I knew what he wanted…I decided to go in the doors furthest away from him and would seek him out upon my return. You see, I find it awkward digging in bag for loose change. I consider myself a generous person when it comes to those who sit on cold cement with cardboard signs but this day I wasn’t feeling it. And I told myself I’ll find him when I am finished my shopping and I’ll come out and I’ll have my toonie in hand. But when I departed the store, he was gone. He’d moved along, but most likely asked to leave because he was bad for business. And I missed my chance to exchange hellos with him or learn of his need. Or to maybe be a blessing to him or him to me. I’ve thought about that missed opportunity often this past week. Was he out to change the world….maybe not….but it may have changed me.
The beatitudes for us today in 2020 are a measure of both challenge and action. It would be so easy to make this message all about complacency…that it’s ok that you are suffering right now in body, mind or spirit….Jesus blesses you anyway, you poor thing. Right, tell that to the guy at the grocery story….to the teenager who feels alone and isolated…to family members who buried loved ones this past week….to the fill in the blank with your own personal situation of being poor in spirit. We have no time for suffering and pride ourselves on the advancements science and technology have made to this end to keep us happy and healthy and wealthy.
But Jesus sees it different. The comfort Jesus intended is that we do not give up on our suffering but rather live in to it as a means for change. The question that I pose to you all gathered here this morning is how do the beatitudes inform the work we are called to do as Winfield United, part of the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada?. When we live fully the life as expressed in the beatitudes, we say ‘yes’ to the invitation to participation in the kin-dom of God...living life to its fullest. The beatitudes don’t ignore the possibility of conflict or suffering, Jesus is making that crystal clear. You most likely will be persecuted, people may speak false words against you, and they will insult you, but the challenge is in remembering who you are in God and the call of your life as a result. It is an active response that requires a shift in perspective.
Being with you for this past month, the questions about our mission and ministry as we move into the future together have been surfacing. This work, talking together about our hopes and dreams is job 1 I believe. But what I am most curious to know in this moment is what is the source of blessing in this place? What is it that gets us out of bed on a Sunday morning and brings to this gathering of diverse beliefs and opinions? Think Different is the title of this reflection…the think different Apple commercial reminds us that people can do remarkable things that make this world a better place but often times at a considerable cost. Maybe a better title for this sermon would be Live Different…live a blessed life even in the messy bits. Take some time this week to think about who and what you value…and maybe they will be successful celebrities with a cause….or maybe those who have nothing to offer like the guy at the Save On….how do they change our world? An equally important to ask is how am I about to change the world? And by the way, you are blessed already you know.
Amen and Amen.