5 1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
Thoughts on the passage:
The Beatitudes are one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. They get used (and misused) in popular culture. Their pattern and phrasing are familiar to us all “blessed are those who … for they shall …”. We are used to thinking of them in terms of blessings, but the literal translation of “beatitude” is happy, fortunate or privileged.
When we think of the word privileged, what comes to mind? Wealth and status are two things that come to my mind. The freedom and ability to do what I want is another thing that I think of. In a world of “haves” and “have nots”, the privileged are the “haves.” Privileged feels like something that is desirable. It is something that we seek after.
What would the beatitudes look like if we used the word “privileged” instead of “blessed?” “Privileged are those who grieve.” “Privileged are those who are hopeless.” These are jarring phrases. What is there about grieving or feeling hopeless that makes one privileged? What is desirable about these states of being? Jesus is challenging us to rethink our understanding of what it is to happy, to be blessed, to be privileged.
The things we value as a society are often not found on Jesus’ list. Instead we often value just the opposite. We value wealth, not poverty. We value abundance, not hunger. We value power not persecution. In the same way we value people who are wealth, people who are powerful, and people who are happy. We pity those who are poor, powerless, grieving, or persecuted.
Jesus is telling us that God does not use the same metrics. Our standards are not God’s standards. God finds value in unexpected areas. Through the Sermon on the Mount we are being challenged to do the same thing. We are asked to look not with our traditional values, but instead with God’s values. As Christians, we are meant to see people with the same eyes that God does and love them, whether they are rich or poor, black or white, male or female, happy or sad, weak or strong. All of them are God’s children and all need love and grace.
This is the heart of the second core value we have as a congregation: being committed to each other. What it means is that we are dedicated to caring for each other. We do it in all times and places and in all ways. It means praying for each other in our needs and it means celebrating with each other in our joys. It means gathering for support at funerals and it means gathering to enjoy each other’s company at a ballgame or picnic together.
Being committed to each other is not something we can just do with lip service. Anyone who has been married has probably had point in time where we were not really listening to our spouses. We asked them how their day was but we did not really take the time to hear the response. Being committed to each other means take the time to listen and to care what is going on in each other’s lives. We need to listen, to care, and to be ready to act when people need us.
There is a second part of being committed to each other. We also need to be willing to share what is going on with our lives. We need to be vulnerable with each other and honestly share how things are going. We cannot care for each other if we are not willing to acknowledge the places that we are hurting and we need help. If I don’t share where I am hurting not only do I do myself a disservice, I do you a disservice because I do not give you the chance to care for me. Being committed to each other is a two-way street.
When we look at the Beatitudes we are reminded that we are all blessed and we are all privileged. We all have a reason to be happy. God does not love us because we are rich. God is not just with us in our wealth and abundance. God is with us in joy and our sorrow. God is with us when we have it all and when we have nothing. Through the good and the bad God is with us.
Now we need to be with each other in that same way. We need to be committed to each other in the joys and the sorrows. We need to be committed to each other whether we are rich or poor, weak or powerful, loved or hated. We need to be committed to each other, just as God is committed to each one of us.
Questions to Ponder:
When is a time that the church has been there for you in your life?
Who is someone you know who needs to be remind that they are loved both by God and by others in the tough parts of their lives?
What can you do to share your needs more with others?
God, over and over you remind us of your love for us. No matter how often we hear it we often struggle to believe. Instead we connect your love with signs of privilege. We see wealth, happiness, and abundance as signs of your blessing. Help us to remember that your blessing has nothing to do with these things. Help us to remember that you love us no matter what. Help us also to love each other with that same unfailing kindness and devotion. Amen