I don’t know what the disciples expected when they followed Jesus up the mountain. Maybe a great wisdom. They hadn’t been following him long. They visited a few cities in the region. So they were just getting to know the man. And he goes up the mountain. They follow.
And he unveils the very dream of God.
4th Sunday after the Epiphany | Matthew 5:1-12
I don’t know that I’d get it any better than they. I’ve read this gospel countless times and it still convicts me.
But what he does in a short few verses is lay out the alternative vision of the world. Of an upside down economy: a kingdom ruled by the weak and fought for by peacemakers. A vision which turns on its head everything they already knew about how God is working in the world.
And he begins by naming people who are struggling, suffering, oppressed by the dominant culture and he calls them blessed.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These aren’t the poor, but the poor in spirit. And every time I read this, I think of looking out my window or logging onto Facebook or greeting those who come to the church door or even those times when I felt the world was going to collapse on me.
The poor in spirit are everywhere.
And it isn’t that this is a type of person that we’re to catalog. No. These aren’t the depressed or the mentally ill or the lonely. Don’t put these people in a box.
Think instead of the lack. The absence. All those people struggling.
The kingdom of God’s dream isn’t run by the bankers who break covenant with God by charging interest. And it isn’t run by the military which take charge by force. It’s run by the people who have empathy for their neighbor in pain.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
In a world telling people to “get over it” and rush the grieving back to work, comforting those in mourning is unproductive. Irresponsible. But for a kingdom ruled with empathy, people always come before profits.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
A strange inheritor, the meek. They don’t ask for it. Nor do they jockey or prove themselves. They don’t speak with bravado or demand favor. No bullying or gaslighting. What would a kin-dom inherited by the meek require? That we all refuse to let the meek be the victims of bullying.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
When was the last time you hungered or thirsted? That very physical pain of a seizing stomach; an itchy, irritated throat. Our heads get light and our senses irritable. Our very bodies screaming for relief. For those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, it is the very body that feels and reflects the pain of injustice. And their pain compels us to relieve it from them.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Because they don’t of course. Not under our empire. Where mercy is a sign of weakness worth exploiting. An empire of vengeance and hatred. Of torture and wickedness. To show mercy is to overthrow the whole system which governs us. To give home for the refugee or bring righteousness to the broken.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
See God as Jesus saw the crowds. God present in humanity. Present in one another. In the victims of violence and in the perpetrators. In refugees and those who would be enemies. God present and visible with eyes to see.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Those who would stand in the breach. Who would stand between the warring factions and between the slaver and the slave. The one who would stand up to injustice and make the case for righteousness knowing what would happen to her.
The risk of actually making peace. True peace. Shalom.
Far beyond the absence of war or conflict, Shalom includes
justice & truth…
The well-being of others.
These are the children of God. The ones who make Shalom.
The last two blesseds…well that’s about the suffering we endure by seeing the pain in our world. Recognizing the sin and naming it. Standing up to injustice and abuse where we find it.
What do we think is going to happen? The powerful don’t like to lose power.
Abuse will follow. Perhaps even death. Standing up for what’s right is often dangerous. Standing up for Shalom is always dangerous. For its blessing is far more dangerous to the powerful than violence.
These are our be-atitudes. Who to be to make the Kin-dom. To make Shalom.
They don’t feel like blessings, but they are. Because Jesus wants us to flip our economy upside down to make God’s dream for us a reality.
Put a premium on empathy over order.
Comfort the mourning and prevent more tragedy.
Allow the meek control and demand the forceful take a backseat.
Make justice happen so those starving from its lack are fed.
Push aside vengeance and the desire for winning.
Don’t focus on motives.
Run every decision through the simple question: does this make Shalom? Or is it just about shutting someone down?
These are the blessed.
Not the wealthy and powerful. The ones in charge of things in our world. In charge of our governments, agencies, even our schools.
But these. The ones who see; who know pain. Whose response to pain is comfort and support. The ones who raise voices, rather than silence them. Who give their very lives for the blessedness of creation.
This is God’s dream for us. To live in true wholeness and happiness.
And yet we crave safety without justice, unity without wholeness, power without truth. All along wondering why things still feel broken.
But we aren’t broken. We aren’t wrong.
We are blessed.
Blessed alongside all these others. To be among them, rather than the powerful. To be with the blessed as our be-atitude.
Blessed in love and safety and hope and truth and justice and wholeness, and the well-being of others. Blessed with a Shalom which passes all understanding.
Sharing our Be-atitude meal, the realized kin-dom, where all come as equals to eat and drink and receive blessing.
Blessed together as one body, children of the living God.