A Reading from Matthew 5:1-12
adapted from the Aramaic by (translated by Neil Douglas-Klotz)
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 those who are refined in breath; they shall find their ruling principles and ideals guided by God’s light.
Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire; they shall see the face of fulfillment in a new form.
Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe.
Aligned with the One are those who wait up at night, weakened and dried out inside by the unnatural state of the world; they shall receive satisfaction.
Tuned to the Source are those who shine from the deepest place in their bodies. Upon them shall be the rays of universal Love.
Healthy are those whose passion is electrified by deep, abiding purpose; they shall regard the power that moves and shows itself in all things.
Healed are those who bear the fruit of sympathy and safety for all; they shall hasten the coming of God’s new creation.
Health to those who are dominated and driven apart because they long for a firm foundation; their domain is created by the Word above, the earth beneath.
Renewal when you are reproached and driven away by the clamour of evil on all sides, for my sake…
Do everything extreme, including letting your ego disappear, for this is the secret of claiming your expanded home in the universe.
Last week we started our discussion of the Beatitudes, a primary teaching of Jesus, found in two different forms in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the Gospel of Matthew, this teaching is a part of a bigger sermon, which we’ll be looking at for the next few weeks. For Jesus, this sermon was rooted in his society, while it may seem challenging to talk about politics from the pulpit, Jesus’ ministry was highly political. In declaring God’s favouritism for the humble, the weak, those in mourning, and those persecuted for their faith, Jesus blessed those listening with new hope.
They thought themselves outside of the love of God – outside of the kingdom of God, forgotten by a society that rewarded able-bodied contributors who would further the reign of those in power. Language is key to understanding why this declaration was so powerful, and so threatening. Jesus, in using the word kingdom, reminds his followers that something bigger is at stake than paying taxes, and being good citizens. For Jesus, this kingdom is ultimately our greatest goal. This kingdom is what we would call community, a kin-dom, where we see one another as kin, as family. Jesus’ re-envisioning of the world threatens the normal order of things. No longer are you blessed if you are favoured by the emperor. No longer are you blessed if you happen to be the right skin colour, faith group, orientation, or gender. Jesus’ declaration of blessedness is rooted in community, rooted in care for one another, rooted in transforming the world into a kin-dom of heaven, here and now, an almost but not yet experience of God’s blessings. Jesus sought to transform the understanding of the word of blessed, as much as he wanted to transform this notion of kin-dom.
If you look up this passage in some bibles, they’ll actually translate blessed as happy. As in, happy are those who mourn…happy are the merciful…
If that’s in your Bible, try to ignore it.
I don’t actually believe that Jesus is trying to see terrible situations as leading to happiness. That we are not denying the reality of the world that is around us. Much sorrow and destruction can be wrought from saying that you must take pleasure in your pain. Or see yourself as happy even though you are not. Or suffer for your faith.
Those poor in spirit, or mourning, or hungering, or peacemaking do so for a future that will come, for the sake of community, for all people. So this understanding of blessed, is not Jesus saying that you are blessed BECAUSE you suffer, he is saying that even though you are suffering, may you experience the blessings of love.
We have great difficulty understanding this kind of blessed, made worse by our culture. Especially since the rise of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) there’s a whole new kind of language – making connections using hashtags, a word or phrase that connects to something bigger.
Like when you’re out for dinner, and you take a picture of your food, you might put a hashtag on it that says #hungry. It’s like trying to sum up an idea, with just one or two or three words.
One of the ones that has really caught on, is #blessed – the sermon title is what it would look like. And you’d see it on all manner of things…someone might take a picture of their dinner, and put #blessed. Or their family #blessed. Or their family’s dinner #blessed. It’s like a little prayer of gratitude, but we can see how this is jarring to how Jesus uses the word. There’s very few on this list of beatitudes that someone would count as a good thing. Being in mourning, hungering and thirsting for change, being meek or poor in spirit…this isn’t #blessed.
Jesus calls his community blessed to remind his followers that it has nothing to do with happiness, nothing to do with feeling like you’re particularly favoured by God. This list has nothing to do with a holiness checklist either…that we could somehow attain a blessing by doing the things on the list here.
You put your Jesus-fish on your car with flamboyant bumper stickers just so you can ensure you can claim persecution when the car is keyed. Or try to outdo one another with humbleness to the point that it becomes annoying to others. I’m more humble than you are… like children on the playground. Or that if we are not peaceful or pure in heart at each and every moment we’ve somehow failed.
So the beatitudes are not about happiness or gratitude, and they’re not a personal holiness checklist.
Instead, the beatitudes are about a community which Jesus hopes to build, remembering all are blessed in his sight, knowing all are welcome. They are attitudes of being, defining a community responsible for one another, holistically capturing all that we’d squash down and diminish.
We can have a direct influence upon those who experience this list…so I want you to think about someone who is poor in spirit…they might be a friend, a neighbour, they may even be yourself, some for whom the end of the January blahs are starting to get to, who need a Bell Talk Day, full of action to restore their spirit…to restore your spirit…what do you need if you are poor in spirit?
Or how about those who are in mourning? What can you offer them as comfort? My wife’s grandmother died this week, and I can tell you the number of phone calls, emails, cards, and food deliveries, wonderfully overwhelmed them. What can we offer to those in mourning? And before anyone says anything, the words “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “God wanted another angel” or anything like that that seems comforting, is not.
Whether they mourn a recent loss, or carry the grief of old hurts…how can we comfort those who mourn?
What about those who are meek? I remember being in school, and having that one kid at the back, that never spoke, that did their work but were always excluded on the playground. I remember the teacher going out of their way to call on them in class, and encouraged participation. Without people to recognize the light in others, our world would be a dark place. So if you go about your days, quietly bettering the lives of others, or if you know of someone like this…what could you do to help their light shine for all to see?
What about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Those who protested at airports in the U.S. last night after seven (predominantly) Muslim countries were (arbitrarily) declared a threat to U.S. borders. Or those who marched last week. Or those who are fighting for rights for all. What can we offer as we sit comfortably here in Canada?
When we envision this kin-dom come, we adopt these attitudes of being, defined by a community responsible for one another. A community that is healthy and healed, and blessed and tuned and aligned to one another. A community rooted in caring for one another instead of turning those in need away.
 The Living Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, Good News Bible, Common English Bible