“Do You Want Ketchup With That?


Jody Winston January 30, 2005

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Sermon

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.2 It seems to me, that while I was growing up, my mother would always serve something that I did not like for our evening meal. Perhaps the same story has been played out in your life. For me, the ritual was familiar. Some disgusting item, such as a vegetable, would be placed on my plate. Of course, I would refuse to eat it. What came next was predictable, also. My mother would cut up the offending item into smaller pieces and tell me to eat it with something that I liked. Of course, I would not do that because why would I want to eat more bites of this horrible item. Next, she would offer ketchup as a way to mask the item’s flavor and she would once again ask me to eat it. Of course, I did not because I did not want to ruin the taste of ketchup. Finally, she would tell me that it would continue to reappear on my plate until I finished eating all of it. Of course, you know that I took this option since I would never have to eat it because my mother would soon tire of saving my plate, reheating it, and going through this ritual one more time. It seems to me and maybe you will agree that we have done the same things to these blessings, known as the Beatitudes, because just like with my least favorite foods, we have cut up the Beatitudes by taking them out of context. Of course, we know why we have done this. We do not want to bless or even take care of those in need.
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3. 2 Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
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The cut occurred when we removed these blessings from the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon, given by Jesus, tells us what is required of Christians. You might assume that we, as followers of Christ, would want to hear everything that He had to say in this sermon because this sermon tells us how we are to live. Unfortunately however, this is not the case. In this Church year, where we draw most of our Gospel readings from Matthew, we do not hear the entire sermon of Jesus. Out of the about 2,500 English words found in the sermon, we read less than 800 words of those words this year.3 In other words, we read less than onethird of what Jesus tells us to do. If you want to hear what Jesus had to say about our actions, you will have to read the sermon for yourself.4 The two most important requirements that have been removed from the Sermon on the Mount are: • The Law has not been abolished by Jesus;5 • Christians must love and pray for their enemies;6 These two requirements are then summerized by Jesus that Christians are to be perfect, just like God is perfect.7 To understand why we have cut these requirements out of the sermon and thus removed our need to bless others, we need to understand what the Law teaches us on the care of our neighbor. The Law and Jesus are in complete agreement. We must take care of the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger.8 Jesus tells us that loving God with your complete existence along with loving your neighbor
This a fair count that includes the use of the “Our Father” but does not count when a parallel Gospel reading is used because in Year A, most readings should come from Matthew. 4 And if this is not a good argument for Bible study, I do not know what is. 5 Matthew 5:.17-18. 6 Matthew 5:43-45. 7 Matthew 5:48. 8 The Older Testament has many different references to the care of the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger. For example, a listing of the duty to the poor in the Older Testament includes: Exodus 22:25-27; 23:11; Leviticus 19:9,10; 23:22; 25:25-28,35-37,39-43; Deuteronomy 14:28,29; 15:2-14; 24:12-21; 26:12,13; Nehemiah 8:10; Psalms 37:21,26; 41:1-3; 112:4,5,9; Proverbs 28:27; 29:7; 31:9,20; Isaiah 1:17; 16:3,4; 58:7,10; Ezekiel 18:7,16,17; Daniel 4:27; Zechariah 7:10. A listing of the duty to the poor in the Newer Testament includes: Matthew 5:42; 19:21; 25:35,36; Mark 14:7; Luke 3:11; 6:30; 11:41; 12:33; 14:12-14; 18:22; 19:8; Acts 20:35; Romans 12:8,13,20; 1 Corinthians 13:3; 16:1,2; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 9:5-7; 8:9; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:9,10,16; Hebrews 13:3; James 1:27; 2:2-9,15,16; 5:4; 1 John 3:17-19.
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in the same way that you love yourself is the great commandment and it is the foundation of all the teachings of the Law and the prophets.9 In the Beatitudes, Jesus breaks our preconceived limits on who we should care for and how we should care for them. He first expands the definition of those in need to include those who are begging God to take care of them, those who are grieving over a loss, those who are working for what is right in God’s eyes, those who are acting out of kindness, those who are seeking God’s peace that passes all understanding, and those who are being persecuted while doing God’s will.10 As if that list was not inclusive enough, Jesus tells us later in the sermon that we must give those who sue us at least what they ask for, we must go the extra mile in service without being asked, and we must give without question to those who beg and to those who borrow.11 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus then tells us that we must take care of them just as God would take care of them.12 It is very easy to see why we would want to ignore the Law and not take care of others because it is just so difficult to do. Of course, cutting up the Sermon on the Mount into smaller pieces does not help us to digest it since we now have more disgusting bites that we have to eat. It seems to me and perhaps you think so too, that we have added ketchup to the Beatitudes just like my mother added ketchup to the foods I disliked. Of course, we know why we have done this. We want God to do all of the blessing so that we do not have to do anything. We add ketchup to the Beatitudes because we do not want to hear that we must bless others even though Jesus reiterates this point over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount.13 In addition to these commands to serve, Jesus also tells us plainly that we must be like God when we serve others.14 When we only pay lip service to God’s will, instead of actually doing God’s will, Jesus warns us that we will not get into heaven.15 Despite these clear commands from Jesus to serve others and despite the warning from Jesus, we often only want God to bless those in need. I do not know where we got this idea from, but I would guess we have
Matthew 22:36b-40. “Poor in spirit” literally means a “beggar in spirit”. This phrase was used by Jewish communities that existed during the time of Jesus. S.J. Daniel J. Harrington; Idem, ed., The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 78. 11 Matthew 5:40-42. 12 Matthew 5:43-48. 13 Matthew 5:38-42; 5:43-45; 7:12. 14 Matthews 5:45. 15 Matthew 7:21-23.
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assumed that we have been exempted from this service because God has promised to be with everyone and to give everyone what they need.16 Of course, adding ketchup to the Beatitudes does not make it taste any better and you know that we will not eat anymore of the Blessings since we do not want to ruin the taste of ketchup. It seems to me and I think that you will agree, that we want to leave the blessing of those in need to God and we really only want these blessings to happen sometime in the future. Of course, we know why we have done this. We think that God does not bless people today. In the first portion of the Bible, we hear God tell Abraham that Abraham’s family will be blessed by God and through Abraham’s family all of the world will also be blessed.17 Carefully notice that this blessing does not talk about a “reward” in heaven but instead talks about an action that has already started. In fact, the Bible constantly in Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Sirach states that God’s blessings occur now.18 In spite of this tradition of blessings found in the Old Testament, we Lutherans are very reluctant to say that God blesses in this present age. I feel the reason behind this form of thinking is that we agree with Martin Luther’s assertion that God is best seen in His suffering on the Cross and not through a person’s possessions. We then take a step that Luther did not and we assume that because God is not seen in possessions, God does not give blessings today to those who follow Him. Despite this incorrect view of God’s will, we still remember that God blesses and since this blessing, in our erroneous estimation, cannot be in the present, we move all blessings to be only given in heaven. Of course, you know why we prefer to leave the blessing of others on our plate. We feel that God will soon tire of serving up opportunities for us to bless others. But unlike my mother, God does not tire of giving us the same plate of food over and over again. Stopping this destructive behavior of not blessing our neighbor through service is very difficult for us to do since we have been trained to think of the Beatitudes as something that God will do later in heaven and not something that we do here. In order to change our life from our self centered ways into a life that is God centered, we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will come and inspire us all to serve others as Jesus has taught us. We need to pray for God’s forgiveness because when we put ourselves first, we have broken God’s great commandment to love
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Matthew 6:25-34; 7:7-11. Genesis 12:2-3. 18 Daniel J. Harrington, p. 82-83.

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God and our neighbor. Finally, we need to pray for strength because we all know how hard it is to eat something that we do not like. Despite our shortcomings, God accepts us. We see that clearly today in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. When we come to the L ORD’s table, we are not asked for a list of whom we served. We are not asked what Laws we cut up, we are not asked what we put ketchup on, nor are we asked if we have left anything on our plates. Instead, we are told to take and eat the bread and to take and drink the wine. When we do this, we show to the world our Lord’s Passion for creation, of how He forgave our sin through His sacrifice, and we can hardly wait for the great feast in heaven. Today we also celebrate the baptism of Stephanie Rogers. Here too, in this gift from God, God does not ask us for a list of accomplishments. God does not ask us if we have kept the Law. Instead, God comes to us, forgives us, and gives us everlasting life. Every time we see a child baptized, God once again shows us that it is not our actions that bring us to God. I thought that I had become a better person since I always eat what is put on my plate. Well, my wife reminds me that I only put what I like on my plate. We all need someone who will tell us that we need to expand our horizons and eat what is placed before us. The Church is that group, which will tell us that we need to try new foods and when we need to finish what is left on our plate. One more thing . . . God also changes us. Some of us, God changes in a twinkling of an eye and we give Him thanks and praise for that. Others of us are changed a little bit every day. We praise God for His faithfulness in our journey. And for others of us, God gives us ketchup so that we can stomach the things that we think we cannot stand. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

References
Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, ed.. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. 1, Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991. ISBN 0-81465803-2.

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