This past Sunday in our series on Matthew I taught on the Beatitudes.
If I am honest, I have never understood several of the Beatitudes. I loved the opportunity to dive in and study them, and to encourage and challenge our church.
The Beatitudes serve as a kind of an intro to the Sermon on the Mount. This is where Jesus starts to expose us to the idea of the ‘upside down Kingdom’, one where those who are greatest are the ones who lower themselves to serve. This is a Kingdom where the poor and the oppressed are the most important. This is a Kingdom where weakness is strength, where our dependence on God is power. This is a Kingdom where all of us – the religious leaders, the cheats, the liars, and the ones who think we’re righteous – we’re all equally dependent on grace.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus isn’t giving us an exhaustive list of what we need to manically try to be. Rather, Jesus pinpoints those things that we do that are not valued by the world. He calls out the humble, the unseen, those who live with eternal perspective. The thing is, Jesus still pinpoints those things in us that feel like a waste of time, those things in us that feel like they’re holding us back in this world. He calls these things out in us and he blesses them.
So as I prepared my sermon, I considered our congregation in the Beatitudes. I thought of the stories they’ve shared with me, the things that frustrate them or give them joy. And as I considered their stories, I wrote some applications of the Beatitudes, and I said this:
“The Beatitudes can seem a bit distant because some of us are so familiar with it that it seems like a list that has nothing to do with us. So today I want you to imagine yourself on that hillside. Maybe it was hot outside but a wind was blowing off the sea. Maybe you would have been a bit uncomfortable sitting on the rocks. And maybe you would have heard Jesus say something like this to you:
Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you who doubt – who aren’t sure – who can still be surprised by grace.
Blessed are you who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are you who keep trying and nothing seems to work.
Blessed are the babies who yell during the sermon and the ones who take communion before they fully understand it.
Blessed are you who don’t understand everything in the Bible but you keep reading anyway.
Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.
Blessed are the women with empty arms, by chance or by choice.
Blessed are you who lay awake at night wishing you could change the choices you made.
Blessed are you who should be over it by now.
Blessed are the broken people who get to eat the broken bread. Receive the blessing of Christ today.
Blessed are you who are meek, for you will inherit the earth.
Blessed are you when nobody notices you. Jesus does.
Blessed are the unemployed, the under-represented, and the unimpressive.
Blessed are you who get frustrated with yourself for being too quiet, or too gentle.
Blessed are you who can’t bring yourself to climb the corporate ladder.
Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep for Christ’s return when you see oppression.
Blessed are you with a protective eye on the vulnerable.
Blessed are you when you rage against racism.
Blessed are you who are merciful, for you will be shown mercy.
Blessed are you who let someone squeeze through the metro turnstile with you.
Blessed are you who can rejoice when someone undeserving is shown grace.
Blessed are you who show love to every animal you see.
Blessed are you who are teachers or social workers or who clean the homes of the elderly. Blessed are you who work with the most vulnerable.
Blessed are you who are pure in heart, for you will see God.
Blessed are you who don’t engage in workplace banter about the hot girl or guy at reception.
Blessed are you who are honest when you file your taxes.
Blessed are you who confess your powerlessness to addiction, and who accept help.
Blessed are you who are honest when a lie would be easier.
Blessed are you who are peacemakers, for you will be called children of God.
Blessed are you who say “I’m sorry” first.
Blessed are you who serve people that never notice or say thank you.
Blessed are you who lets people think you’re wrong, because you love them.
Blessed are you who reject the rhetoric you grew up with about other people groups.
Blessed are you who are persecuted because of righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you who are mocked for your faith.
Blessed are you who are faced with impossible questions about theology.
Blessed are you – the only Christian in your workplace or your classes.
Blessed are the refugees, the immigrants and the expats.
Blessed are those who do not belong.
Blessed are those who feel invisible or wish they could be.
Rejoice and be glad. Great is your reward in heaven.