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GUEST SERMON: 'How would Jesus Score?'

The Guardian guest sermon
The Guardian guest sermon


I don’t play sports much.

I lack the talent and athleticism for any sort of sport to have much interest for me. Sometimes I watch people, though. Professional players are very impressive. I can see why they get paid so much money. They almost never score “touchruns” against their own team. That was known to happen when I did mandatory scholastic sportsing as a child. It’s part of why I don’t now.
There are people out there who know what I mean. You were the kid that didn’t understand why everyone was yelling and laughing when you made a triumphant run down the field and did a perfect whatever to score a thing. 
You know what it felt like when your heart fell as you realized that this proud accomplishment that should have brought you honour and glory actually brought you shame. You remember the way your teammates looked at you when instead of bringing them closer to victory you handed your opponents the win.
Yes, you as an individual scored. But you scored for the wrong team.
If that makes sense to you, take that idea, that feeling and carry it with you to where Jesus is preaching his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Consider taking a minute now and reading it yourself. It’s not like you’re making anyone wait for you. This will still be here when you’re done.
As you read Jesus saying, “Blessed are the…” substitute, “Winning are the…”
That was the idea that word was conveying: The ones who were doing it right… the ones who were scoring the points. Not unlike today, they had an idea of what it meant to be “winning”. That involved being rich and powerful and having influence and status in their community. What Jesus said would have thrown them for a loop because none of those things he said are ways to get ahead in the world. By any measure, they’re ways to lose.
We still look to win by being one up on the people or groups around us. We want our political agendas running the show. We want our morals legislated into law. We want our rights protected and our money in our pockets. The winner is the one with those things, and if as Christians we’re on the losing side of that balance, someone else must be winning… right?
The key to understanding is in the words that Jesus wraps these “Beatitudes” in: The Kingdom of Heaven. Two different goals. Two different directions. Scoring in the “Kingdom of the World” goal doesn’t win points for team Kingdom of Heaven.
We don’t win by making things easier for ourselves. We don’t win by elevating ourselves above other people. At least the kingdom of heaven doesn’t win that way.
All through this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus hits point after point where people thought that they were scoring points… scoring points with other people and scoring points with God. The point that Jesus is trying to make, the thing he just can’t get them to understand is that they aren’t there to score points for themselves. They’re there to score points for the team. It’s like they were so proud to be on Team God that they forgot to ask what game they were supposed to be playing.
The upside-down, backwards, uncomfortable, sort-of-unfortunate truth is that the Kingdom of Heaven team, Team Jesus, doesn’t win by winning. If Team Jesus won by winning, he would have ridden into Jerusalem on a war horse and sacked the palace with a legion of angels. Instead he rode to the cross on a donkey.
Whenever we “score” at someone else’s expense, we score for Team The World.
I’m out of words, so I’ll leave it at this: Maybe instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do,” it would be more relevant to ask, “How Would Jesus Score?”
 
Rev. Aaron Reimer is with Island Wesleyan Church. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.

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