Blessed are You
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
November 5, 2017
Scriptures: Psalm 34:1-10 NRSV and Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV
The Beatitudes, as we know them, probably came as a shock to many of Jesus’ listeners. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew has set us up, so to speak, for a different kind of Messiah than we hear in this beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
From the very first verse of Matthew’s chapter one, we are told that this is the account of the Messiah, descendant of King David, descendent of Abraham. This is a signal that the prophecies are being fulfilled. A new king is being introduced onto the scene, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, announced by wise men from the East in such a way that King Herod freaks out to the point of ordering all baby boys from that area destroyed, in his attempt to cut short the life of this interloper, this new ruler whom Herod feared would strip him of his power, prestige and his wealth.
Everyone who had anticipated this new king looked for a strong ruler, a man of might and power, one who would ride in on a big white horse and unseat those at the top of the food chain in Jerusalem and Rome. John the Baptist, a devout and righteous man of God, was telling people that he was just the precursor to one coming after him, one so great that John wasn’t even worthy to carry his dirty sandals; one so great that he would burn away the evil remainders with an unquenchable fire.
We imagine this Messiah as one not to be trifled with. He comes on scene with power against the evil one, and is blessed by God, who names him his Son, the beloved. In the history of humankind any such king or ruler would be anticipated to be ruthlessly strong, unafraid to take on man or beast – anything that stands in his way. Power wins – in the human world. At least that’s what the world tells us.
And then Jesus begins to speak and he speaks words that seem to be the opposite of what would be expected. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn and the meek. These are not the attributes we think of when we are feeling blessed. In fact, they are all too familiar feelings; feelings of loss and struggle, feelings of being the underdog, not the champion. They are the feelings that all humans experience at one point or another, and Jesus tells us that even then, we will be blessed.
In our heartbroken times, we will be blessed with comfort. In our difficult times of not knowing what to do next, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Be merciful. Be peacemakers. Don’t get discouraged when others try to discredit your faith and make you look foolish. Keep believing and believe all the more, because if they didn’t see some higher power at work in you, they wouldn’t take the time to belittle and defame.
The message of Jesus speaks to the hearts of those who long for a different world and tells us we can inherit the earth, be children of God who receive mercy even though we are neither perfect by the world’s standards nor by the Law’s rules, and still, the kingdom of heaven can be ours.
Jesus came not to take over, but to transform. Jesus teaches that God’s ways are not the way of the world. You can be poor and be rich. You can be peacemakers and win. You can be hurting and feel like you’re at the end of your rope, and still have hope. That’s the way of Christ, the way of peace and mercy, of generosity and grace.
Matthew sets his readers up and then comes this wonderful twist in the story line. Jesus teaches from the underside of life, and in the end, proves to us that nothing can quench the true power. Not even death. Nothing is impossible with God.
Take out your bible this week and turn to Matthew chapter five. Start reading there and don’t stop till you finish chapter seven. And then the next day, find a bible of a different version, and read it again. Find a Message Bible and compare that to what you’ve read and see what jumps out at you. What hits you between the eyes or makes you smile as you remember how God has been at work in your life?
As God has blessed us with the saints in our lives, we are called to live with such character and faith, that when we die we will join that great cloud of witnesses surrounding the throne of God. And before that, we have big shoes to fill. May God transform our hearts and fill us with courage against great odds, faith that can move a mountain and hope that shines like the sun in the middle of our darkest night. Amen.