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All Saints, November 3, 2013

 In the name of God the Source of who we are, God the Example of how we should love, and God the Presence with us now.  Amen.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who had really bad taste in men. Her friends, including her priest and me, tried to reach her, but she always thought she knew best. If there was one criminal in any room of 100 men, she’d elbow her way through the 99 sane, healthy guys and head straight for that bad boy.

It would be smiles and oh-how-wonderful for a while, then his true colors would come shining through, and we would have to hold her while she sobbed and sobbed. One time when she was in the middle of the tears and “How could I have been so blind?” period, I just lost it.  I don’t know where the words came from, but I stepped back from trying to console her and screeched: “Why do you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over?! Make some new mistakes!!”

I’ve thought about that a lot, because it applies to my life too. Not my love life, thank God…but, hey, there are lots of ways in which to keep on making the same mistakes. I wonder what it would be like to make some new mistakes. Know what I mean?  What’s new with you?

There may be some folks here this morning who have a cultural context for these reflections. Many 12-Step programs define insanity as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  No, make some new mistakes.

We have a challenge in today’s Psalm and Gospel: “Sing to the Lord a NEW song…let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.” Try it a different way this time…change your M.O., reorient yourself, approach from another perspective…and then sing to the Lord a new song.

Easy for you to say, long-dead Psalm-writer, but you don’t have to put up with what I’m facing. True enough but, as you face it, are you doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result?  That’s insane.

So how might we embrace a new way and sing a new song?  As usual, Jesus has an app for that. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful examples of applied-theology ever written.  The Beatitudes contain all the directions we need. 

Now because we’re singing a new song with these lessons, we’re going to listen to them in a new version: new words from a new location.  This rendition of the Beatitudes was written by Gene Patterson, a man who was a Presbyterian minister for more than 40 years, and who has seen every form of heartache -- and experienced quite a number of them himself. Hear the Message in a new-song way…listen for God’s Message to you personally.

Jesus taught: 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less.
That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care.
At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right.
Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate
Instead of compete or fight.  That’s when you can discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
The persecution drives you deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down
Or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.
What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort
And they are uncomfortable.

You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! –
For though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds.

And know that you are in good company. 
My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

*  *  *

No more tit-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb for behavior:

Ask yourself what you want people to do for you;
Then grab the initiative and do it for them!

The vision of this passage, and this version of it, is in fact true. We don’t have to succumb to despair or violence or grasping or revenge or any of the other dark thoughts that entice us to evil. We could live -- generously. We could let other people live…we could even, from time to time, be kind. We could trust God for comfort, for the meeting of our needs, for hope that leads us to the future. We could practice letting light shine through us.

It would be a very different life, the one that’s based on generosity. New peace, true shalom, many smiles, simple blessings. And a new song of praise to sing to the God for whom nothing is impossible.

Yes, we would make some mistakes, but they’d be new mistakes…and perhaps, as we got used to the new way of living, we’d make fewer and fewer of those. We could give stuff away, and find that we still have all the stuff we need. We could laugh more, because we’ve unclenched and relaxed into the generosity of God. We could stop trying to make people love us, and find the love we’ve longed for in the only One whose love is unconditional. Absolutely unconditional.

God loves you unconditionally.
When we learn that, my beloved brothers and sisters…when that new thing happens…there is nothing for it but to sing! 


     - Prof. Patricia G. Bleicher