“Beatitudes” – Sermon by Rev. Brian Combs, 10/22/14
They had been waiting in vain for a messiah of their own making. He was compared to the prophet Elijah, a warrior of Yahweh, a defender of worship and killer of false gods. He was from King David’s lineage, expected to mount a stallion and brandish a sword to slay the evil Empire like Goliath before. And wild haired John had been screaming in the wilderness about the one who was coming to baptize with fire, who will burn the chaff and separate the wheat.
Then Jesus said the unexpected opposite, to the disbelief and disillusionment of nearly all those who heard it then and now, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for they will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 5:1-12 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “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 will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What do the Beatitudes teach us?
That those who the world dismisses most are blessed by God.
That the suffering of life on earth will be remembered in heaven.
That doing the work of God will always be met with the world’s resistance.
If it is true that we all make Jesus over in our own image, our own expectations, then faith is the process of deconstructing the secular beatitudes of self.
We say, “Blessed is she who shoves and elbows her way to the front, for she who is most impatient bends the world to her liking.”
God says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
We say, “Blessed is the war monger, for he with the biggest stockpile of bombs gets to play superpower.”
God says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
We say, God says. This is why the Beatitudes aren’t about our character, but the divine character. The One who gave us the rooting aardvark and the rooted Tulip Polar; who gave us manna from heaven and mercy on earth, who gave us Jesus, the Beatitudes made flesh, the bone and bread of God’s favor among us and for us.
In a world so practiced at cussing and cursing, thank God we worship a God who doesn’t send the messiah of our making.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s father had a seizure caused by his brain cancer. At the hospital, sisters and sons and husbands took their turns standing over Dad so that the examining room light wouldn’t shine in his eyes. One would kiss him all over his forehead; another would wet a pink sponge to water his mouth.
But Barbara’s husband Ed went over to the bedside, said something and kneeled on the linoleum floor to fit his head underneath Dad’s boney hand. He reached up and put one of his big hands on top of his father-in-law’s hand to keep it from slipping off. He held still while Dad’s lips moved.
After, Barbara wondered, “What was that?” Ed said, “I asked him to give me his blessing.”
She would say later, “That we are able to bless one another is all the evidence that we have been blessed.”
From Genesis to Revelation, it’s all about blessing. From Alpha to Omega, It’s all about blessing. From death to life, It’s all about blessing.
Blessed are you…, blessed are you…, blessed are you…, blessed are you…, blessed are you…