By Rev. Cindy Parker
I haven’t decided if I love preaching the lectionary readings or I hate it –let’s say I have mixed emotions. It certainly keeps one honest. I certainly wouldn’t have picked this passage to preach on. Sharing that honesty with you, I’m going to admit something:
I don’t really like the Beatitudes*: probably because I don’t think we really understand them.
What is Jesus saying here? To this huge crowd who has followed him from Galilee?
Is he giving them advice? Telling them how to love their lives?
And when we hear Jesus’ words today “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
How many of us hear a command “Be a peacemaker!”
And we think, Jesus wants us to work for peace. OK I can do that. It’s not a bad thing to desire peace and work for justice, so we try and we try and try and we find out it’s not so easy, in fact it’s really difficult to not to judge others, or hunger and thirst for righteousness all the time, or be meek or to mourn . . .
And here’s the other thing that bugs me: how many of us think we have to be successful in order to be blessed?
And the other beatitudes are more about attitude. As one scholar said, “emotions are a hard thing to dial up on command.”
“Hey you, quit being satisfied with your life! Don’t you know you’re supposed to be poor in spirit?” “what are you so happy about?”Don’t you remember that Jesus said those who mourn will be comforted?
That’s why I don’t like the Beatitudes: people get them all mixed up.
How many of you were taught that, or heard the Sermon on the Mount preached that way . . . if you are poor in spirit, that’s good, because yours is the kingdom of heaven? Don’t worry about your grief, God will comfort you. You are special if you are meek, because you will inherit the earth . . .
Read The Message translation:
3You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
In this translation I think it is easier to see how Jesus is demonstrating once again that God regularly and relentlessly shows up just where we least expect God to be in order to give to us freely what we cannot earn or achieve: blessedness.
In this sermon I don’t think Jesus is offering us a recipe for success: he is not offering the keys to happiness and he is NOT offering a roadmap to having your best life now.
We read the gospel to hear the GOOD NEWS. Not to get good advice. The Messiah speaks to this crowd, speaks to us about a new kingdom –this kingdom of heaven being near.
And in this new kingdom things are different! So different that what you thought you knew is turned upside down and inside out!
“The meek inherit the earth, those who are mourn are comforted.
This is NOT a command to be meek or mournful, instead it is a PROMISE – that those who are already meek and mournful, those who work for peace, or hunger and thirst for righteousness, will find their faith honored in a world beyond this one.
How many of us have asked, or screamed at God, “What do you want me to do, God? What do you want me to do?”
Our Old Testament lesson reminds us, “do justice, love kindness, and walk humble before the Lord.”
Like the Beatitudes, this is not a list of requirements, but a reminder of what we become when we are in that close trusting relationship with God. That is why Jesus chooses the word blessed.
Blessed times nine.
Nine times Jesus uses this word-BLESSED to remind us, to remind you that you have worth — not because of something you did or might do, but simply because of who you are. You are a child of God: you have the capacity to rise above present circumstances, you are more than the sum of your parts or past experiences.
Blessing is something that can’t be pursued, but can only be received as a gift. We are worthy of blessing, for God has created us and called us, each and every one of us!
So I’d like to bless you now:
Thank you for your faithfulness, and may God bless your life and the way you share the GOOD NEWS this month and always, so that you may be renewed and take delight in the calling you have received.