Blessed

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.”

As someone who doesn’t like crowds, I can always relate to the stories of Jesus where he does what the more introverted people like I do: as moving as the rest of today’s Gospel is, it begins with Jesus pulling away from the noise and confusion.  I don’t think that was just a distaste for crowds.  Sometimes, we need to pull away in order seek out a clear path so that the divine message carried in our words and actions can be heard loud and clear.

Our Gospel reading today is the first part of Jesus’ teaching in what we often call, “The Sermon on the Mount.”  Several chapters of Matthew’s Gospel detail this message and the great wisdom with which it is filled.  What stands out for me today, though, is the way in which this teaching begins.  Jesus sees the crowds.  Jesus sees the people in the crowds.  He sees them.  I imagine in doing so that he also sees the enormity of the need and yearning in those who have gathered.  Whenever there are crowds, there is usually a desire to be seen, and heard, and understood.  That was true for Jesus, and it is true today.

Last weekend, I had my own experience of standing in a crowd.  Like many people, I made my way up to Washington, DC to stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers who wanted to send a message to our new president.  I was gathered in that crowd not to see a person, but to stand up for the people I know and the issues important to me, and to them.  I was wearing a scarf full of ribbons with the concerns of people I care about: my friend from high school who has adopted children from Guatemala and fears for the lives and well being of other immigrant children in this country; my social worker friends and colleagues who work every day for better resources for housing, mental health care, and meaningful work opportunities that require funding that keeps getting cut.  There is a lot on my mind and in my heart these days.  There was a lot of my mind and my heart as I stood in that crowd.  As I look back I think to myself: how amazing would it have been to be seen; to be heard.  

That amazing thing is, I believe that is exactly what Jesus did.  He saw the needs of the great crowds that began to follow him in these early days of his ministry.  He saw the needs and yearnings of the crowd, and he took them with him to the mountain.  On that mountain, he gathered his disciples around him, and he began to speak:

“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.”

These are not vague, abstract promises of what might someday happen for God’s people.  These are the blessings set upon those who are gathered and yearning to be seen.  They set out what God’s promise is for God’s people.  That is as true today as it was during Jesus’ life and ministry.  What are the blessings that Jesus calls upon us, when we gather and look to Him, our hearts filled with yearning?  I suspect that if Jesus was talking today, his blessing might sound something like this:

Blessed are you who yearn; God’s love is right here.

Blessed are you who are grieving; God gives you comfort.

Blessed are you who are quiet; God speaks to you in the stillness.

Blessed are you who seek goodness in a broken world; God will open your eyes to see.

Blessed are you who forgive when you have been hurt; God enfolds you with grace.

Blessed are you who see God in all things; God also sees you.

You see, these blessings…the beatitudes…come at the beginning of a time of Jesus’ great ministry of teaching and healing where he repeatedly and relentlessly tells us something about God’s ever-present reign of love on this earth, which is greater than any political power or economic system.  God’s reign of love transcends what we human beings do to try to manage our limited resources.  God’s reign of love is abundance, the creative and creating power to fill our yearning with an abundance of divine grace.  Later, in this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will teach his disciples to pray, using the words of the Lord’s prayer which we will also pray in a few minutes.  In that prayer, we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Our prayer to God is also Jesus’ prayer: bring our earthly life into alignment with the heavenly life.

On this day, we are blessed.  You are blessed.  As we gather together in the name of Jesus, it is Jesus who sees the yearnings of our heart and the brokenness of our world.  It is Jesus that extends to us through time and history a knowledge of God’s abiding presence and blessing upon those who seek a path leading not to power and might the way the world sees it, but to God’s reign of righteousness where those who mourn are comforted, where those who hunger and thirst are filled, where those who seek God are seen, and known, and met with that abundance of divine grace.  Like a great wave, some of us pray.  Some of us advocate.  Some of us are the doers of acts of mercy great and small.  Some are the tellers of the stories of seeing that mercy at work in the world.  Like our story last week of Jesus calling his disciples to bring themselves, to be the fishers of people in this world, we are all called to work of creating God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  We do it every day in the way we move through the world, in the way we see each other, in the way that we breathe and move and talk and act out of the abundance of divine grace which enfolds us.

Blessed are we who gather here, for God is in our midst.

Homily prepared for Red Door Healing Service at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church: Friday, January 27, 2017.

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About harasprice

Social worker, professor, seminarian in The Episcopal Church, student, parent, teacher, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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2 Responses to Blessed

  1. Pingback: Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:1-12 Nazarene Mountain teachings: Blessed and legal commentaries | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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