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Edward F. Markquart

Series C
Attitudes and Be-Attitudes

Epiphany 4A, Epiphany 6C, All Saints A, All Saints C, Mt. 5:1-11, Luke 6:17-26

One of the most important qualities in life is your attitude. Years ago at a retreat, a person gave me a piece of paper with the quotation by Charles Swindoll on it. The quotation is printed in your bulletin and reads: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say I do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

This quotation is full of insight and wisdom.

We read and hear the platitudes about attitudes, and most of those platitudes are true. We hear the question: “Is the glass half empty or half full?” The answer to that question reveals a fundamental attitude of the person answering the question.

We know that attitude is more powerful that education. You can be highly educated and have a crummy attitude and won’t solve the problem in front of you.

Attitude is a more powerful force than money. You can have all the money in the world, but you cannot buy happiness inside your soul. Some of the economically poorest people have the greatest attitude. 

Attitude is more powerful than circumstances. I have learned it long ago; it is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you that is important. Over time, tragedies can make you bitter or better.

Attitude is more important than failures. We have heard stories of the many famous people who failed miserably in their lives such as Abraham Lincoln who lost all those elections before winning the presidency. Attitude is much more important than the failures we have all experienced.

Attitude is more important than successes. Success can go to your heard and you lose your drive. All you have to do is meet a successful athlete who has recently signed a huge contract and watch his performance go down the hill.

Attitude is more important than appearance. We know the most beautiful people in the world, and that doesn’t make much difference in the long run. Besides, time takes its toll on the physical beauty of everyone.

Attitude is more powerful than giftedness, skill or talent. You can buy the most talented team of baseball players, football players, basketball players, but the team that wins usually has talent plus a winning, dedicated attitude. A talented team cannot win without the right attitude.

Many people are convinced that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% what you do with what happens to you.  Attitude is crucial.

It is with this mood that we approach the “BE-attitudes” of Jesus. You put a hyphen in the religious word, beatitude, and you get BE-attitude. Attitudes of being. Attitudes of existence. Attitudes for life and living. Jesus talked to his disciples about the fundamental attitudes of life, about the kind of people that God wanted his disciples to be. Jesus didn’t talk about money; he didn’t talk about health; he didn’t talk about jobs and job security and job possibility; he didn’t talk about kids and living one’s life through one’s children or grandchildren. Jesus did talk about the BE-attitudes, and that is what I would like to talk about today. I would like to talk about the BE-attitudes, the fundamental attitudes of being, the basic attitudes of life and living.

There are nine BE-attitudes and I would like to briefly speak about all nine, each illustrated with a short story.

First, happy are the poor in spirit. That is kind of a strange phrase, “poor in spirit.” What does that mean? This means that they know their need of God. Often, poor people know their need of God more than richer people, and so the Gospel of Luke translates this, happy are the poor; that is, poor people often know their need of God. 

Let me illustrate. If you have been to Haiti with our mission teams, you know that these Christians know their need of God. Poor people almost always do. Whether that person is a poor person in our congregation or living in a third world country. We have people in our congregation who live in $400 a month; they tell me they are “dirt poor” and know their need of God. Every single poor person I know realizes their need of God.

But it is not just the economically poor; other people know their need of God. I was talking to a young couple the other day in preparation for their marriage. They are afraid of marriage because they have already experienced three divorces from their parents. They know their need of God to live inside their marriage in a way that didn’t happen with their parent’s marriages. This young couple knows their need of God.

To me, some of the unhappiest people in the world are people who think they don’t need God. Instead, they are running here and running there, always running, always on the go, too busy for God in their lives. Those people are so busy that they don’t have time to know their need of God. That is busy…and the American way.

Second, Jesus said, “Happy or joyful are those who mourn.” That sounds strange, doesn’t it? Let me tell you a story.  There is this man I know fairly well but not really well. His name is Cliff Lunde, and he happens to be our bishop. Don’t let that impress you too much because Cliff is an ordinary and plain human being. He is a great big guy physically with a great big heart. Bishop Cliff Lunde went with other bishops to El Salvador and visited an orphanage. At the orphanage, a child came up to him and gave him a cross. It was a powerful experience for Cliff, and when he told the story, he kept on breaking down, his emotions kept on breaking down of him. As he told story after story of people that he met, he became emotional.

Jesus said, “How happy and joyful are those who can feel the pain of others.”  To feel the pain of others is to be truly a human being. It is to BE. It is a BE-attitude.

Third, Jesus said, “Happy are those who are humble and meek.” Do you know how miserable it is to always be seeking glory? Do you know how miserable it is to get people to notice you or notice that you are momentarily important? Let me tell you a story.  I read this story in a magazine, SCIENCE TODAY, at the doctor’s office. It was a story of a man who discovered different blood types in the early 1900s. You know, A, B, AB, and O. He found these blood types. He also discovered that the Inca Indians of Latin America were having blood transfusions for centuries. Why? Because the Inca Indians were all of the same blood type; they could give each other blood transfusions and live. During the World War I, blood transfusions became suddenly important. Time passed. Thirty or more years passed, and finally they awarded this man the Nobel Prize for Medicine. You know what? He didn’t even tell his family about his receiving the Nobel Prize. There was a picture of this man in SCIENCE TODAY and he was looking in the opposite direction. He could not stand an exhibitionism in himself. … Me? I am not like that at all. I think to myself, “Give me the glory. Where is the spotlight? Let me tell you the good news I have done. Of course, revealing this information in the most humble of ways.” If I would have received the Nobel Prize, I would have told everyone about it in my Christmas letter and maybe sent a bulk mailing out to inform my family and friends. …Do you know how miserable it is to have to advertise yourself, however quietly? Do you know how wonderful it is to be genuinely humble? To do marvelous things for others and stay in the shadow? …Jesus said it clearly. A BE-attitude? Be humble.

Fourth, Jesus said, “Happy and joyful are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.” When I think of hungering and thirsting, I think of someone who has a real craving, a craving for water when thirsty, a craving for food when starving. There are people who crave to do what is right.

When I think of such people, I immediately think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his craving for justice and righteousness for black people. He was willing to die for his craving, his passion, his intense struggle for justice and righteousness. Wow. He was an incredible man.

I also think of Marv Dewey in our parish. He is about seventy years old and read the Scriptures at the last worship service. Marv volunteers down at the Veteran Hospital. He recently was awarded his 3000 hour pin. Yes, 3000 hours.  You don’t give away three thousand hours moving bed pans out of duty. You don’t give away three thousand hours in order to qualify as a good Christian. You do that kind of thing only if the Spirit of Christ is living inside of you. You do that kind of thing only if your heart hungers and thirsts and craves to do what is good and right and just. … Jesus said, How happy are those who have this attitude of BE-ing, this attitude for life and living.

Fifth, happy or joyful are those who are merciful and kind. Happy are those who are kind to other people who keep on making mistakes. When I thought about this BE-attitude, I had to think of The Man himself, Jesus. Not once in the Bible do you ever hear Jesus condemning anybody for making a mistake. Not once. Not once does Jesus ever condemn a person for doing wrong. He simply forgives that person and asks them to live in wholeness.

When I was thinking of people who don’t condemn others but show them mercy, I have to say that I thought of my mother. Mother is that way. The story that I am thinking about is a Viet Nam story, from the Viet Nam war days. Greg, the oldest grandson and nephew, was a student at the University of Wisconsin in those days. He was one of those radicals, with long hair, scrubby clothes, and a hostile sign. Greg was in the middle of the fray, protesting our involvement in the war. In my mind, our entire family turned against Greg although we tried to cover it up. We turned our backs on Greg for his way of thinking, his way of doing, his way of protesting. But not Mom. She was loyal to Greg with her whole being. We all remember this about Mom and know that part of her goodness is that she was kind and merciful towards to Greg and others who didn’t think the same way as she did.

Sixth, happy or joyful are the pure in heart. It is a fundamental BE-attitude, an attitude of being, an attitude of existence, an attitude for life and living. Happy are those who have clean hearts, and to be honest, unhappy are those with dirty and impure minds. Such people can’t be happy. These people have dirty minds, lusting minds, filthy minds. The Greek word for “purity” has sexual connotations; it is not a general purity of heart but a purity of heart in sexual matters.  Purify of heart is important in a sexually obsessed society. A professional basketball player can brag about his thousands of sexual exploits, and we think he is sick. His heart is an impure as it gets.

When I was thinking about “pure in heart,” my mind remembered the visits with Rebecca Anderson, the grand dame of our church. She is ninety-three, and by her bearing, commands respect and deference. That is the way Rebecca is. She is a person of immense principle and immense integrity. The other day, while calling on her, she recited this poem, from Longfellow, entitled, THE PSALM OF LIFE. Imagine grand old dame, reciting these words as sharply and as crisply as possible.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
Be a hero in your strife. 

Lives of great people remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time. 

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Rebecca has left her footprint on the sands of time, her footprint on my life. “Lives of great people remind us, we can make our lives sublime.” After all these years, her photograph is hanging on my door, reminding me that when I grow up, I want to be like Rebecca, the pure in heart.

Seven. Jesus continued, “Blessed and happy are the peacemakers.” When I thought of the phrase, peacemakers, my mind flashed back a few years when Anwar Sadat, Begin and Jimmy Carter were in Camp David, and walked out to greet the cameras with the Camp David Accord.  We were sitting there before the television, watching LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE with our children, Anne and Joel. This news special broke into the program, as I recall, and we heard about the possibility of peace. It was an emotional moment for my wife, Jan and I, and little Joel asked us why we were so upset by this good news? We said to Joel, “Peace sometimes takes twenty years to make, and this peace accord may mean that you won’t have to die fighting in the Middle East.” He didn’t understand but we did. … These men are the giants of our generation and each person took great risks: risking assassination, risking the wrath of the Palestinians, the Jews, the Arab states. If you are in the middle of a conflict, peacemakers always take enormous risks and will be hated from somebody on the other side. Peacemakers are also found in homes, marriages, and at work. Jesus said, “There is an inner joy to peacemakers, who take the risks so that we can live in peace.”

Eight and nine. “Happy and joyful are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who are reviled for God.” I tried to think of people who are currently being persecuted for their belief in Christ, for doing what is right and following their Christian convictions. I thought of Bishop Tutu in South Africa and the Bishop of Namibia. I have thought of people who are being slaughtered by their governments. I thought of Christians being killed in Poland, the Soviet Union, China, and Latin and South America. I thought of Jews who were lead to the death chambers in World War II, and other people who have experienced genocide.  Christians all over the world are being ridiculed for their faith and dying for their faith, and Jesus makes the bizarre statement that these people have an inner joy. Not happiness dependent on happy circumstances, but an inner joy in their dedication to Christ and values that are higher than themselves.

We have briefly looked at nine qualities that make for joy in one’s heart.  We have called them the BE-attitudes, the basic attitudes of being, the basic attitudes for existence, the core attitudes for living and life. Often and usually, all of these nine qualities are found in the same person. These nine qualities belong together, like finding nine grapes in a clump. … It is interesting to me that the Apostle Paul lists nine fruit of the Spirit and all nine belong together; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. These nine fruit of the spirit belong together, and I am suggesting that the nine attitudes BE-ing belong together.

I would like to tell you one more story and this story exhibits all nine qualities found in one person, or shall I say, one couple. The story is a story about the wedding day of Nancy Larsen to David McGinnis. Dave is from a small town in southern Oregon, near the Rogue River. Nancy grew up in our parish, attending Highline Community College. Their wedding was a familiar wedding to us all; they did what wedding couples are supposed to do.  But it is what happened after their wedding that is important. Dressed in their bridal finery and the groom’s tuxedos, the couple went to call on the nursing home where Nancy worked. The bride and groom, all splendid in their wedding garments, promenaded up and down all the corridors of the nursing home and the old residents came to their doors to see this many splendored thing. It was as good as it gets. Everyone was pleased.

This simple gesture was an example of all of the nine beatitudes being found in one couple. Nancy, Dave and the people in the resident home know their need of God. They were merciful and kind, even to have thought of such a gesture. They are humble, some of the most humble unassuming people you would ever meet. They were hungry and thirsty to do what was right, and this visit to the nursing home was right. There was a purity to this simple gesture, a purity of heart and delight of all who saw the bride and groom coming down the hallway. The two of them brought peace to those corridors; people who may have been upset moments before were now smiling in the hallway. Some people may have ridiculed Dave and Nancy for doing such a thing right after their wedding ceremony, before their reception, but Dave and Nancy felt it was right. So in one moment, in one short period of time, all nine qualities of the BE-attitudes were found.

Jesus said, “Happiness has nothing to do with wealth, education, health, job, kids, success, failure. Inner joy has to do with the BE-attitudes, the attitudes of being, the basic attitudes for life and living.

(Today is All Saints Day and saints are those who walk with Jesus. To be a saint to live with the BE-attitudes in your heart. Amen.

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