God’s Heart

Matthew 5:1–12, preached by Rev. Jane McBride on January 29, 2023

Today, we will take time to tell the story of our ministry with the residents of Lexington Commons. Our purpose today is to remember the warmth of sharing meals, the joy of conversation, and the gift of lasting friendships. We are also here to mark the ending of an era, with sadness, and with thanksgiving for all the sweet memories and valuable learnings that will remain a part of each of us and of who we are as a church. I’ll offer a few brief thoughts now about our two scripture passages that will lead us into our time of reflection.

Thanks to Sandy Johnson for pointing me toward a press conference with retiring basketball star Maya Moore, in which Moore comments on Micah 6:8: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.” What Moore says about this passage is illuminating and eloquent. And yet, as I did some poking around the internet, learning more about Moore’s own story, I realized it is even more impressive how she has lived these words. As a basketball player, she won honor after honor—titles, golds, championships, MVP awards. And then she abruptly stopped playing, at the height of her powers, not yet even 30 years old, to spend her days trying to free a man who had been wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to prison when he was 16 years old. And now she has written a book and started an organization dedicated to changing the criminal justice system. 

So when a reporter from ESPN asked Moore about how Micah 6:8 has guided her, Moore noted the drama that is around these well-known words. God is angry at oppression and injustice in the world. God is upset because God’s people—who, in Moore’s words, are supposed to be “showing God’s heart to the world”are doing just the opposite. Moore says, 

God’s patience and grace is very long. But there come moments where God is like, “enough is enough.” This is one of those moments. “It’s simple, what I’ve called you to do.” (Justice, mercy, humility) ”How do you keep losing track of my heart?”[1]

In today’s passage from Matthew, Jesus reminds us that being in tune with God’s heart means seeing blessing in people and situations we least expect. Jesus was speaking to his small group of followers when he issued his beatitudes. And yet, he was clearly looking at and thinking of the crowds of needy people who had been relentlessly following him everywhere, seeking healing and hope. If we want to know Jesus’ heart, and the heart of God, then we must notice that he began this most important teaching, called the Sermon on the Mount, by proclaiming God’s blessing for those in poverty, the grieving, the meek and the persecuted, the ones experiencing a lack of justice so profound that they hungered and thirsted for a better life, the peace-makers, the pure in heart, the merciful. And this blessing is not some empty, flowery promise, a condescending pat on the head. Because there is also an assurance of vindication. “For the Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs.” “For they will be comforted.” “For they will be filled.” “For they will receive mercy.”

Today, we must speak the name of Tyre Nichols as one God blesses. Tyre is in God’s heart today. Blessed are Tyre and Daunte, George and Breonna, Amir, Ahmed and Philando, and thousands upon thousands of other Black and Brown people lynched so that the heart of white supremacy can continue to beat in our nation. For God sees those denied dignity and agency. For God fights with those the world treats as if their lives are not sacred. For God meets the needs of the powerless and those who refuse to hold on to power by cooperating with oppression. The promise of vindication, of real change that will bless a hurting world, comes from the heart of God. And yet it is the work of God’s people to show God’s heart to the world, to give flesh to these values and priorities of God.

In many ways, the blessings Jesus speaks of describe the power of the crowd itself to become a real community instead of just a random collection of people. Divine blessing happens, you see, when we know and care for each other, when we learn from each other, when we share power and shift resources to benefit each other. Poverty, grief, and oppression thrive in isolation, and grow when people are separated from each other and pitted against each other. The simple blessings of community can truly change the landscape of power—the blessing a warm meal, the blessing of sacred listening, the blessing of genuine relationship between people whose lives are very different. This is the blessing we have been privileged to be part of through our relationship with Lexington Commons. This is the way in which we have seen and shown the heart of God. Cynthia, Francie, Marilyn, will you tell us more? Then we will have time for anyone else who would like to offer a memory or story about Lexington Commons.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsThnA8AUIQ