What is Jesus saying to You?
It is always a challenge to hear familiar words with fresh ears and open hearts. For most of you, the words you are about to encounter ... words that truly are God’s Word ... the preaching and teaching of the man who was the Word of God in human flesh ... these words are most likely too familiar.
So let’s try something different. Let’s try to hear Jesus speaking to us. Let's be aware of the Word’s impact on us at a gut level, a human level, an emotional level. Let this word happen to you and take notice ... without judgment, just note it. Read it out loud.
The opening of this passage brings us with Jesus up a mountain where we sit and gather in close to listen to what he has to say to us. We come to him as we are right now ... as we know ourselves to be. Can you picture yourself there? Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you see him look you in the eye and can you hear him say ...
1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:1-12 (NSRV)
What does this word do to you?
Does it make you happy or sad ... or little of both? Does it puzzle or confuse you? Do you feel hopeful, trusting God’s love for you? Or a little embarrassed by how much you want to resist or correct these words that seem so divorced from the world as we know it?
What does this proclamation and promise from the mouth of the Lord do to you? What does this word make you want to do next?
I want you to have a sense of this in yourself before I share my thoughts.
I discovered three things that happened to me in reading, thinking and teaching these words this week.
First ... the overwhelming grace and mercy of God that speaks such beautiful promises to me, knowing me as I am ... in my poverty and weakness, in my grief and pain and loss, in my powerlessness. Jesus speaks directly into the darkest, saddest corners of my heart and promises to give me everything — the kingdom, the comfort I need, a place in and on this earth.
Second ... I am aware of my own unworthiness for such a gift that my first instinct is to push it away. You see, I have not been seeking or searching or looking for God’s kingdom or comfort or a place and portion of this good earth. I have been chasing happiness on my own terms ... in the security of money; in the joy of life’s pleasures; in trying to exercise some power and control over this earth to make it make me happy, comfortable and secure. I have tried to compete to be seen as great and smart and powerful ... to be one of the winners in the game of life. And I have to admit, I have failed so miserably that I sometimes wonder if anyone would even miss me if I were gone. Then Jesus looks at me and speaks these blessings upon that give me everything I never knew I desired, freely and out of love ... and I realize that my life feels so cold and empty because I have been chasing after all the wrong things. Before such mercy I am undone. I matter and am loved more than I could ever have hoped. I have a future more glorious than I could have ever dreamed, let alone achieved. And that is the promise Jesus gives and proclaims freely.
And third ... there is the joy that comes from knowing we are loved and God is with us and we are not alone but knit together in Christ for God’s glory! It is entering shelter under God’s holy wings and then looking out to the world with a new longing for God’s righteous justice, mercy, kingdom and peace to fill the whole earth ... and the sober knowledge that a vision that beautiful and hope that pure will be resisted and fought against. The knowledge that the world will break our heart, daily ... but it is in that brokenness that God opens us up to reveal the beauty of God’s kingdom for the life of the world ... even in love for those who would defame, defile and destroy it.
And so the Spirit breathes new life into me. Inspires ... we might say ... to live in this strange new way of Jesus, to learn how to walk again, dream again, live and love again ... in the strange new world where God’s kingdom has come and welcomed us in.
At least that is what these words do to me ... what is Jesus saying to you?
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