4th Sunday after the Epiphany
February 2, 2020
“Rain On My Parade”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon is today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew chapter 5.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
I have a singing wheelbarrow at my house that recently sang to me, “Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter, life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.” No…not really. You had to be here last week to get that joke. Anyway, those are words written by Bob Merrill for the Broadway musical “Funny Girl” in 1964. Barbara Streisand then made the song famous in the movie version of the same musical in 1968. It’s from Merrill’s song we now have that famous phrase “rain on my parade.” Perhaps that has happened to you literally; you have gone to a parade and it rains; that blows. But that expression means more than that specific incident. “Rain on my parade” means that you don’t want someone or something to intrude on your pleasant experience or mood. We don’t like things that rain on our collective parades; we don’t want anything to interfere with our happiness, our comfort level, or our joy. We would prefer that someone or something NOT rain on our life parade.
Today’s Gospel is the beginning of the well-known Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the equally-well-known “Beatitudes.” They are called the Beatitudes because of the Latin word beati which means “blessed” or “happy.” (makarioi) Is that why the Beatitudes were given…to make us happy? For years people believed the opposite. The Beatitudes were seen as exhortations – a set of rules for Christian living, seen as requirements. That is simply not correct. Instead, they were given to us by Jesus because He already knows that we don’t like to have our parade rained on. He knows we don’t want anything to interfere with our comfort or our joy. And by the Beatitudes, Jesus is teaching us “Guess what? Some rain IS going to fall on your parades. Count on it.” The problem is that even as disciples we don’t want someone to rain on our parade. We would prefer to be disciples on our own terms.
We don’t want to have our life parade rained on. We don’t want to mourn. We want to be happy. In fact, we will do whatever we have to do or structure our lives so that we are happy and so we can avoid any stress or sadness. We like happy; we like to do all the things and act in ways that make us feel happy…even if we know they are completely against what God wants us to do as His disciples!
We don’t like to be meek; in this world, the meek get nowhere fast. The meek get trampled on in this fast-paced, “every sucker for themselves” world. The assertive and powerful are the success stories. Why do you think all the reality competition shows on TV are so popular? People want to see what it takes to succeed, no matter what. That’s why “Survivor” was so popular; succeed at all costs. “Meek” doesn’t interest us. No one would want to watch “Mr. Ordinary” in which a perfectly content employee shows up each day, does their best, and then goes home. Boring! We want movers and shakers; we want success! Meek? Maybe not so much.
We don’t want to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We want to fit in with the crowd and not let our faith set us apart from everyone else. The last thing we want to be known as is a holier-than-thou “do gooder” or “Bible thumper.” And we would rather not be a “peacemaker” or be persecuted. No thank you. We would rather be respected than persecuted. It is a whole lot easier to just lay low, let someone else take the risks, and play it safe.
The Beatitudes are not the “be happy” tudes. Jesus gave us this teaching not to make us happy, but because He knows we want to be disciples on our own terms without someone raining on our life parade. The Beatitudes are neither a list of ideals that we cannot attain, nor are they requirements for us to meet because we know that we cannot meet them. Let’s be honest…we do not see ourselves as truly merciful or completely pure in heart or constantly hungering for righteousness or really being persecuted for what we believe and so on. That just ‘aint gonna happen.
The Beatitudes are given to the disciples – us – those who are poor in spirit. And that, my friends, means there is going to be rain on our human parade and lots of it, because we are still subject to sin. We are going to hurt and mourn and be persecuted and need constant forgiveness of our sins. Discipleship does not take that away and it will interfere with our parade. While Jesus does not promise to take all that away, He does promise to be there; there in the midst of the rain of our spiritual poorness, to remind us we are blessed.
Being blessed is not to be happy, but to be a recipient of the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed describes the special joy that God gives to those who faithfully believe, follow, and serve Him in Christ. A disciple sees things as God sees them. And you know what, that might cause some rain to fall and cause discomfort, but that discomfort is only temporary to the deep, eternal joy that faith in Christ brings. The highest blessing is to know that God forgives our sins through the cross of Jesus. The Beatitudes are meant to sustain us disciples, us forgiven sinners, along the parade of this life. And when we approach our God amid our trials and suffering and the rain of our lives, we find from Him grace and love for us even amid the rain on our parade.
The reality is that life is NOT candy and the sun is NOT a ball of butter, but with Christ and because of Christ we are blessed – blessed beyond measure – blessed even amid the rain on our parades.