Matthew 5:12 (NRSV) The Beatitudes
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught 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.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Just as these nine ways that the beloved community is blessed introduce Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” to his disciples, they perfectly preface Lenten introspection on our discipleship. Lent is not about giving up stuff to make Easter more celebratory, but about taking up and appreciating surprising ways of being that embody the Kingdom of God that Jesus brought, brings, and will bring.
Most of my Sunday School teachers made us memorize the Beatitudes as “rules for being Christian.” Others skipped them in favor of more craft-friendly stories like calming storms or finding lost sheep. None explained why some Beatitudes seem like incentives for good behavior and others like after-death consolation prizes for a hard life. Not until I questioned college professors did I come to cherish this description of upside-down land in which past and future faith communities are becoming what is intended.
Modern-day disciples must find their own meanings and ways the Beatitudes address their lives. Mine are a work in progress:
- Exactly what Jesus knew of the timing of his death is unknown, but his words expressed urgency to tell what is most important about life. They aren’t words of saccharine reassurance, but of quiet revolution, robust defiance of worldly values, and creation of a new community in the intersection of earth and heaven.
- Thinking we can ignore difficult conditions because of heavenly glories is dangerous theology. There is a time for expressions of peace, mourning, pureness, and so forth, and also a time for transformation of unjust and repressive conditions. The Beatitudes, like Micah 6:8 (“do justice…love kindness…walk humbly….”), are deep and lead to difficult choices. Scripture offers a broad view of complex human traits and behaviors, all within the context of being God’s people, made in God’s image.
- To take the Beatitudes seriously doesn’t require a dozen Lenten resolutions, but only one: My waking prayer must request calm eagerness for the day’s offerings, repeated gratitude for its hidden blessings, and guidance on seeking help or helping others in the LPC community or the world we serve. At night I’ll reflect on the day’s lessons and assurances.
Finally, as Lewinsville ponders being Christian Community, how can we celebrate and continue what we’ve accomplished during the pandemic to be aware of our blessedness and to convey blessings to others, to help “invisible” people of low status who now rank high in our ideas of essentiality, to use tech ingenuity to bring church into homes and small groups?
Dear Lord, Help me to appreciate the blessings of my life, many of which are obvious, but also to notice the blessedness of others of all kinds and situations, within our church community and in the world, often hidden to all but you. Thank you for the teachings of Jesus that open our eyes to the true meaning of a community of disciples, and let it be so in Lewinsville Presbyterian Church. Amen.