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Occupying the Mountaintop

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them…Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV)

I have told many that I am a political news junkie; whether it be radio, online or cable TV news, I am often running some broadcast in the background of whatever else I am doing. In addition to the scandal at Penn State, and the endless gaffes from one Republican presidential wannabe or the other, what has been occupying (pun intended) much of the news for nearly two months now is the Occupy Movement that began in New York City but that has now spread to over 1,000 sites in this country (as well as others abroad).

I have hesitated to comment on this movement, in part because I was waiting to see if it would fizzle and die, or if it would be brutally beaten back by law enforcement and municipal governments. While there have certainly been moments of brutality around the nation, this movement has done anything but fizzle out, and it only promises to grow stronger in the wake of Mayor-sponsored evictions in places like New York City and Oakland.

The church is often accused of sitting idly by while world change swirls around it. That was certainly the critique during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, and many have begun drawing parallels between the sit-ins that later developed into a mass political movement then and these occupy actions in parks and city squares now. We’ll see if this turns into a mass political movement or not. But as people of faith, we cannot ignore what is going on.

The reason why we cannot ignore what is going on is that our entire faith is built around a man and his twelve disciples who started a movement by “occupying” space that was normally reserved for priests and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, with all of their self-righteous lecturing about Jewish law and temple cult practices. Jesus tried to show them a different way of reaching the people, one that promised to revolutionize their relationship with God and catapult them to the mountaintop.

These two verses are the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowds about everything from living a blessed life to the importance of settling with your “adversary” before you get to court. He occupies the mountaintop to draft a blueprint for life and ministry that is favored by God. He occupies the attention of the people to show them a new way of living. He occupies our hearts with his words of encouragement and assurance. Jesus seeks to occupy our spirits with redemption and transcendent power. And if we listen in, we just might receive the keys to occupy eternity.

Oh God, turn my ear to hear your word, and my heart to be touched by your grace. Show me the path to occupy a greater territory where joy, hope, and abundant life prevail.

Prayer focus for the week: increasing the space where God can occupy our hearts and our communities with peace, equity, and blessedness.

Posted in Pastor's Blog.

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