1/29/2017 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany The text is Matthew 5:1-12.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was one of those days. Jesus had just begun his ministry when a great crowd from the surrounding countryside began to follow him. Upon seeing the crowd, Jesus went up on the mountain, and after sitting down, his disciples came to him. It was then that Jesus opened his mouth and began to them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…” In all, there are 9 lines which begin with the word “blessed,” and each of the first 8 lines have a second half that gives the reason why these people are blessed – that is, why they have found favor or honor by God. Yet, when you look at the list of those who are called blessed, it is unexpected, to say the least. It’s unexpected because we don’t understand the true nature of what it means to be blessed.
We think that the truly blessed in this world are those who are healthy, wealthy and wise. They are secure and protected. They are blessed because they have great success in their jobs and relationships and they tend to be good-looking, athletic and/or charismatic. These are the qualities we tend to associate with being blessed. So our beatitudes might read:
Blessed are they who make a fortune or earn a six-figure income or
win the lottery.
Blessed are they who are physically attractive, athletic and strong.
Blessed are they who have a mc-mansion in the city, a summer home
on the Cape and a winter getaway in Florida.
Blessed are they who have won the applause of their peers.
Blessed are they who are recognized as the social elite or the Einsteins
of this generation.
And yet, true happiness, true blessedness, doesn’t come from having more material things than we can possibly use or consume, or a wall full of college degrees, a basket full of awards, or a body to die for. We tend to think that those who are blessed are full, complete, overflowing, self-sufficient and above average, But, Jesus thinks very differently. Jesus says that those who are blessed are empty, incomplete and lacking. They are blessed not because they are poor in spirit, mourning, or meek. They are blessed because they know their neediness and they turn to their God who is “into” giving comfort, mercy and righteousness. So, their blessing comes from God – it comes from knowing their dependence upon God for life itself. It comes from grabbing hold a relationship with their Lord and finding their wholeness in God’s blessings.
This means that all of the beatitudes are rooted in humility. All of them are rooted in neediness, not strength. For, as noted in the Life Application Bible:
You cannot mourn without appreciating how insufficient you are to handle
life on your own strength.
You cannot be meek unless you know you have needed gentleness yourself.
You cannot hunger and thirst for righteousness if you proudly think of
yourself as already righteous.
You cannot be merciful without recognizing your own need for mercy.
You cannot be pure in heart if your heart is full of pride.
You cannot be a peacemaker if you believe that you are always right.
You cannot identify with Christ in the face of negative reactions from
others without dying to yourself and renouncing your own rights.
For, God’s blessing is very different from what we are used to in the world. We can’t decide who is blessed and who is not by whether they are rich and successful. To understand God’s kingdom, we need to know who God is and what his blessings are about. For, God greatly wants to bless his people in a full and complete way. God is not about to give sparingly – providing us a little bit of comfort or a small inheritance. God is willing to give us more than we can long for in this world.
The beatitudes call us to proclaim God’s grace in response to our gifts in Jesus Christ. For through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus gives us the kingdom, mercy, peace and everlasting presence. And, this he does abundantly so that we can share these gifts with others and never run out of them.
So, blessed are you when you realize your utter helplessness and put your whole trust in God. Blessed are you when you let the light of Christ shine through you to others. Blessed are you when you realize that nothing you have here on earth lasts forever. Blessed are you when you find that you can’t go it alone – that you don’t have enough endurance to meet life’s challenges. Blessed are you when you turn to God for wholeness. For, God will be there to help you, to give your hope, and to provide strength when you are weak. So, blessed are you – a beloved child of God – a sinner of Christ’s redeeming – for you have found favor with God and have the kingdom of heaven now and a future inheritance of comfort, satisfaction, and mercy. For, everything in this world will one day pass away…but our relationship with God through Christ Jesus our Lord, is forever.
May you find comfort and hope in your relationship with God. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.