Monday, June 11, 2012

Blessed are the Beatitudes, for Blog Readers shall understand them

BLESSED are the Beatitudes, for Blog Readers shall understand them.

The Sermon on the Mount is about to be preached. What do you start with?

If I could write the beatitudes, and you were able to help me, maybe we would come up with the following words:

Blessed are you when you are rich in possessions and gifting, because that's the results of following me.Blessed are you when you are continuously joyful, because that is just what happens for Christians.Blessed are you when everything works out well, because that's the outcome of following me.Blessed are you when all your family problems are automatically solved, andBlessed are you when I rig the tatts lotto for you, so that you can live a healthy, rich and happy life...

These are Pete’s Beatitudes! Check out Pete's cheeky beginner's guide to attending church!

This is not what Jesus says. What he says is countercultural.

It was countercultural then, and it’s definitely countercultural now.

Jesus sat down with the disciples on the mountain top and began to teach them. What is recorded in Matthew chapters 5 – 7 is what is labelled the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins with what we now know as the beatitudes. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit...' 'Blessed are the meek...' 'Blessed are the peacemakers...' 

Jesus’ Beatitudes

Mat 5:1  Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 
Mat 5:2  and he began to teach them. He said: 
Mat 5:3  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Mat 5:4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Mat 5:5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Mat 5:6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Mat 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Mat 5:8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Mat 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
Mat 5:10  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Mat 5:11  "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 
Mat 5:12  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...’ (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus isn’t saying that people that are poor in spirit automatically get into heaven. No. What he’s saying, I think, is this:

If you are poor, feeling low or depressed, you are more likely to respond to Jesus. You are more likely to enter his kingdom. We only have to think of a family member who has a nice, comfortable full-time job, the kids are well behaved, and the holiday is almost payed for. Why would they respond to Jesus? It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they generally don’t. One day, they’ll hopefully realise how empty they are without God in their life... But the statement stands true, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

What about you? Maybe you are questioning why you even find yourself reading this post! Maybe though, you’re sensing, I am that person you’re talking about. I am poor in spirit. I need something more. I’m reaching out, calling out, saying some prayers, and I need God. Well, let me tell you, ‘The kingdom of heaven is for you!’ Respond to him today!

“Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Again, I think, when you are in grief because of a death in the family, or mourning over the loss of a job, a relationship or even a little lost children’s toy, you are more likely to reach after God. And when you reach out to God, you will be comforted. One of the amazing aspects of the Holy Spirit is to be a comforter. Someone to come alongside you! So if you are grieving, take encouragement from this beatitude. Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Let me relay a story to you:
(From "In his book Humilitas, pastor John Dickson illustrates the beauty of humility in the life of Sir Edmund Hillary. In 1953 Hillary conquered Mount Everest with his Sherpa friend and guide, Tenzin Norgay. Consequently, in that same year Hillary was knighted; in 1985 he was made New Zealand's highest commissioner to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh; and in 1995 he received the British realm's highest award, the Order of the Gater (membership of which is limited to just twenty-four individuals). But despite Hilary's achievements and rewards, he maintained a humble outlook and a readiness to serve others.
John Dickson captures one story that reveals Sir Edmund's profound humility:
On one of his many trips back to the Himalayas he was spotted by a group of tourist climbers. They begged for a photo with the great man, and Hillary obliged. They handed him an ice pick so he would look the part and set up for the photograph. Just then another climber passed the group and, not recognizing the man at the centre, strode up to Hillary saying, "Excuse me, that's not how you hold an ice pick. Let me show you."
Everyone stood around in amazed silence as Hillary thanked the man, let him adjust the pick, and happily went on with the photograph.
It doesn't matter how experienced that other climber was; his greatness was diminished by this intrusive presumption. We are repelled by pride. Edmund Hillary's greatness, however, is somehow enhanced by this humility."

Have you ever heard of the upside down kingdom of God? We think in society, the people who will be reward most in the end will be the most successful, the most powerful, and the most intelligent. In fact, it is not PRIDE that God smiles upon. It is not being prideful that Jesus says will be rewarded. It’s the upside down nature of God’s kingdom. Humility will be rewarded. Meekness will be rewarded. And in the end of the days, what Jesus will bless the most will be those that served and loved him, with humility.
See verses like Matt 19:30, 20:16, Mark 10:31, Luke 13:30 – The first will be last, and the last will be first.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

Let me begin this section by saying, that I am a part of The Salvation Army and The Salvation Army is a holiness movement. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. Or more simply put, we long to do what is right for God.
Matthew 5:8 picks up the same kind of idea.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
I heard a story once of a charismatic church that was ‘successful’. The pastor had a book deal. People gave generously. The church was well known. They had just entered their new auditorium. Successful in the eyes of the world, I guess. A mate of mine, a Salvation Army Officer, who knows the pastor from a local minister’s network, had coffee with the pastor. They discussed many things, but one discussion was about ‘doctrines’, about what the church believes; their belief system.
In The Salvation Army we have eleven doctrines that outline what we believe. Like, we believe that Jesus has by his death and resurrection made an atonement for the whole world, so that whosoever will may be saved. We believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and so on. As they were discussing these beliefs, The Salvation Army officer said, ‘You know what the issue is. Your church doesn’t have a doctrine about holiness’.
Let me explain. This particular charismatic church has a whole set of beliefs similar to many churches, but they were missing one vital doctrine. Within The Salvation Army this is the tenth doctrinein our doctrinal statements:
“We believe that it is a privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let me clarify. The church in this example, was doing well in many respects, though the focus seemed to be more on the success of the church, than it was about Christ and his kingdom. Holiness seemed to be lacking. The Pastor was more concerned in chatting about himself, than anything else!
For Salvationists, Wesleyans and others, hungering and thirsting for righteousness is key. It’s part of the DNA. Holiness is a must. It’s one of the doctrines.
It is fundamental to the church’s existence. It must permeate the culture of the church. It stops us from running after ‘success’ from a worldly perspective but ‘success’ in the eyes of Jesus. Souls saved. The oppressed set free. We MUST hunger and thirst for righteousness. And we will be filled; filled with purpose, holiness and the Spirit’s power.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

There was a famous pilot who was doing a routine fly, and then there were engine problems. The plane was in deep trouble. He would have to make an emergency landing. The engines had failed and he would have to strive to land the plane safely without the proper functions within the plane. He landed the plane safely... Just.
As he gets off the plane, he heads towards the hangar. The serviceman, who had serviced the man’s plane, had put the wrong fuel into the plane. The serviceman was nervous. He had sweaty palms, was upset and beside himself. He began to consider what other profession he might be able to start. Maybe Costco, Wal-Mart or Toyota were looking for new employees.
The famous pilot walked towards the engineer. “Excuse me, are you the one that serviced my plane.”
“Yes sir.”
“Well, here are my keys for my plane. Please have it ready for me to fly out tomorrow morning. And I’m confident you’ll never make that mistake again...”
That’s mercy.  That’s grace.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. As they had shown mercy on others, Jesus will show mercy on them.
Matthew 5:9 touches on a similar thought.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

Matthew 5:10  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:11  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:12  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

The last three verses of the beatitudes are about persecution. As I’m a resident in Australia, I understand persecution to be expressed quite differently to some third world countries. Many people are still being executed for their Christian faith in 2012, not to mention electrocution, torture, solitary confinement and all forms of abuse.
In Australia and probably the Western World, persecution has a different look. It looks like a pastor being taken to court by an Islamic group for allegedly vilifying Muslims during a sermon. It happens when I’m watching “Q&A on ABC” with Tony Jones, when a conservative says they don’t believe in gay marriage and people laugh and jeer at them. It happens at School, when someone asks you what you did on Sunday, and you say you went to church, and then they disown you. It happens in the workplace when you choose to be what people label a ‘goody-goody two shoes’ and you feel like an outsider.
But here’s the good news, rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven!
So if you are poor in spirit, mourning, merciful, persecuted, then be blessed!

To finish off this sermon on the beatitudes, here is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the first part of the Sermon on the Mount:

MESSAGE Version (Matthew 5:1-12): 1 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down 2 and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.5 "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.10 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.11 "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. 12 You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

BLESSED are the Beatitudes, for Blog Readers shall understand them.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog article. I especially enjoyed where you wrote about the poor in spirit, as well as the example of the pilot extending forgiveness and grace. Though I'm not convinced that the guy helping Edmund Hilary was prideful necessarily, as maybe he thought he was being helpful to ensure an authentic photo--but the example is a really good one to show Edmund Hilary's attitude of humility. I do love The Salvation Army and what they stand for.


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