Tag Archives: Blessed are

Blessed are those who… (Epiphany 4A, 29 January 2017)

Readings
Micah 6.1–8
1 Corinthians 1.18–31
Matthew 5.1–12

 

There are three principles for living into the spirit of the Beatitudes: simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. (Charles James Cook, in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol.1)

 

Today we heard the Beatitudes:

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 shall inherit the earth…

And so on.

These words are all well known to us. But do we let them penetrate our hearts?

Let’s admit it, on the face of it, they are pretty absurd. ‘Blessed are the meek’? Is that how Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin got where they are today?

‘Blessed are those who mourn’? You don’t feel ‘blessed’ when you are grieving.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’? The arrogant and super-confident are better candidates for blessedness!

So let’s try to get a hold of what ‘blessedness’ is.

Normally, we might say we’re blest if something wonderful happens to us. We are blest when a new baby comes into the family. We are blest if we get good weather for a family wedding.

Or we may say we’re blest by natural gifts and talents, by good looks, a musical gift or high intelligence.

We could say we’re blest to live in Australia.

(I just want to say I’m avoiding the word ‘happy’ here. It’s a misleading translation. I may be blest to live in Australia, whether I’m happy or not. I could be blest with a wonderful singing voice—(I’m not!)—but be unhappy. You can be blest without being happy.)

So, Jesus is not saying you have to put a happy face on when you are mourning for something or someone. But he is saying you are blest.

This is the thing about the Beatitudes:

Normally, we say we are blest because we have a gift or because we live in fortunate circumstances.

The Beatitudes declare people blest when they lack something real and true, or yearn for something real and true, or accept something that is real and true. 

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 20 February 2011)

Blessed are…the enemy-lovers

Readings
Leviticus 19.1-2, 9-18
Matthew 5.38-48

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Remember our theme in this sermon series? It’s this: the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to people who ‘get it’. They are the people of the Beatitudes: the poor in spirit; the mourners; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peacemakers; the persecuted.

The persecuted. Many people are being persecuted today, for their faith, for political reasons, for their sexuality. Christians are leaving Middle Eastern countries today because it’s just so difficult to live there; there are places in which Christians don’t have full civil rights. We really aren’t persecuted for their faith here in Australia; none of us is liable to personal harm or even lack of professional advancement purely because we belong to a church.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake’. This is surely the hardest beatitude. How can people who are persecuted be ‘blessed’ in any way, shape or form? What sense could it make to say that?

Let’s look at how those who were being persecuted for their faith might have responded to what Jesus is saying here.

We need to remember again that Jesus lived in a different time and place to us. His culture was based on ‘honour’ and ‘shame’. A person with honour could hold his head up anywhere, and be highly regarded. A person without honour felt a sense of shame, and could not command any respect at all. Think of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee prays with a sense of honour:

God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.

The tax-collector takes the place of the shameful: he stands far off, beats his breast and says,

God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

If we look at those who are persecuted in such a society, we see they know what shame is; they have no honour. The people who persecute them have honour; but they have none in their eyes.

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Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A, 13 February 2011)

Blessed are…the peacemakers

Reading
Matthew 5.21-37

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

You may be starting to detect a theme in the sermons of late. It’s this: the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the people of the Beatitudes: the poor in spirit; the mourners; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peacemakers; the persecuted.

These are the people who have a chance of ‘getting it’.

In the Monty Python film Life of Brian, Brian is standing at the edge of the crowd listening to Jesus proclaiming the Beatitudes. Brian and his companions are too far away to hear properly, so when Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, what they hear is:

‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’

One of them is confused, and asks,

Aha, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?

Another in the group is obviously very knowledgeable, and adds:

Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

This bloke thinks he understands, but he doesn’t get it. I think he must have written some of the bible commentaries that I have read.

So who may understand the Beatitudes? Who ‘gets’ what they mean? And who then can ‘get’ what the Sermon on the Mount is about? It’s the meek, the pure in heart and those who seek for justice for others. Oh, and the cheesemakers peacemakers. In this series on the Beatitudes, we’re trying to hear their voices and read the Sermon on the Mount in partnership with them.

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