Blessed are a lot of folks. Blessed are the peacemakers, but not right now. Right now the peacemakers are derided as weak, as out of touch, as unpatriotic. There is a movement by some lovely if a little naïve people to start a US Department of Peace with the idea that if spent as much time planning and preparing for peace as we do planning and preparing and even waging war (we call it the defense department but I don’t think that fools anyone), if we spent that much time on peace we might actually have some now and then.
Have you heard of this movement? Anyone? My bet is that if you have heard of them at all it has been in some derisive comment or colorful aside about the whackos on this side or that side of the argument. Personally, as a disciple of the Prince of Peace, I’d like to see a little more of it in the world and I am not at all certain that a Department of Peace would do the trick, but what we’re doing now doesn’t seem to be working.
Blessed are the peacemakers? Well, we’ll see. They’ll be called the Children of God but I call a lot of people the Children of God. Blessed indeed.
How about the pure in heart? They most certainly be blessed, right? After all, who, O lord, may abide in your tent, may dwell upon your holy hill? Why those who walk blamelessly, of course, they are welcome in the tent of the Lord. Are there any volunteers for that particular position? Anyone here want to be held up to the standard of this morning’s psalm?
How about this, does anyone here know anyone who is pure in heart? We must know someone who is pure in heart, after all, we live in the richest nation on earth among privileged people where the specter of hunger is a tamed beast, not banished from the door, but kept at bay by a loose combination of efforts, surely all of this blessing must indicate a purity in heart somewhere in the land?
I think purity in heart is something we crave, we wish we could find and when we don’t, we invent someone. We invent a Mother Teresa, don’t get me wrong, Agnes, that was her name when she was born, Agnes did a lot of good in the world but was she pure in heart? Not according to her own words, in her own writings. Nonetheless, she is held up as a standard for purity in heart because we hear the words of the beatitudes and we feel the need, the desire to have an icon of purity, of blessedness in the world and if we cannot find one, we’ll make one.
I think that if we ever did find one, we’d lock them up, don’t you? They’d almost have to rant and rave against the depravities in our system and we like our saints on the other side of the world, not all up in our faces. Blessed indeed.
That’s two, there are seven more beatitudes.
The poor in spirit? What does that even mean? Those who are depressed? Well, then we have a winner; I know a LOT of depressed people. The economy is bad; there aren’t enough jobs, at least not jobs you can pay the rent with, churches, beloved for a century or more are in decline, people are running off after other Gods. I had a board meeting for Mount Cross yesterday and I heard lament after lament about how “people these days” no longer appreciate the simple, pure camp experience, how they are unwilling to unplug these days and just play in the river or learn bible camp songs.
There was a poorness in spirit there, I would guess, but we’ll get past it. But even so, if there was a poorness in spirit, shouldn’t there also be an underlying blessing? Indeed, the camp is in good financial health, we are well subscribed for the summer already, the programs and outreach seem to be working. Maybe we are also just inventing our poorness in spirit? Maybe poor in spirit just means those who indulge in fear despite Christ’s admonition to not be afraid?
Blessed? Blessed indeed.
Loads more beatitudes to go.
Meek? Sorry, that one has been done to death. The merciful? Thin on the ground it would seem from watching television, especially the news where the cries for vengeance and the calls for “asserting our authority” in whatever situation happens along the pike, foreign or domestic, seem to be the words of the day. Mercy is quaint these days, a relic of a simpler time, no longer something to be sought after, as if we could turn back time.
I think I’m spotting a trend here; how about those reviled and persecuted on account of Christ? Surely they are blessed, right?
I knew someone who told me of their trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where they spent their time on the street corner, preaching about Jesus and how the people spat on them and called them names.
I could see that in this instance they thought of themselves as the ones reviled and persecuted on account of Jesus name. They saw themselves as waging a war against the sin and depravity that has made New Orleans at Mardi Gras a vacation destination for a century, and the resistance from the drunks and other revelers was just proof of the holiness of their mission.
I asked if they had been offering coffee or sandwiches to help get people “on their feet” who had clearly lost their feet earlier at one or another bar. I asked if they had offered safe transportation to any and all who might have gotten lost in the shuffle and narrow streets. I asked if they had prayed and held vigil that people might find Christ.
Nope, they said, they stood on a street corner on a small stage that they brought with them; they shouted Bible verses and condemned those walking by as sinners and told them all that the wages of this sin was death.
On account of Jesus name? Is that what they were after? Nothing that they said was untrue, the wages of sin are death, and everyone on that street was a sinner. But if they were doing it in Jesus name there might have been a little more compassion, a little more understanding that everyone on that street was a sinner, including them, and that you cannot just pick the beatitude you want to embody any more than you can pick the commandment that you want to be held blameless for, they are all there, you are held to the standard of them all if you want to claim any single one of them.
It is the flaw in claiming any sort of righteousness of your own, the problem inherent in casting aspersions on others from the lofty position of your own holiness. It is a house of cards and as soon as the truth enters the scene, you remember the truth, right? Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, as soon as Jesus actually enters into that scene in your life, your own righteousness is revealed as pride, not actually an everyday sin, but a cardinal sin.
It is the problem in using things like the Beatitudes to judge, by any measure, in any sense, one another. It is substituting your wisdom for that of God, it is substituting your vision of how things are for that of Christ, it is trying to make the scriptures your servant, instead of walking humbly, and being the servant of God by serving your fellow man.
That is what the Lord requires of you, not in order to earn your salvation, it is by grace alone that you are saved, but so that your salvation might shine forth in your life, that the impact of Christ might be a sign for the world that the Kingdom of God has come near.
Do justice, love kindness, though personally I like the translation as mercy, but that is of course violating the final word, to walk humbly, but I can live with that.
Yeah, I can live with that, with being something less than what God demands of me, what God would have me be.
Can you? Can you confess that you are not what God would have you be, not this side of death anyway? Can you confess that and still be a force to be reckoned with in the world, a proclaimer from not just the mountaintops but also the street corners, or do you need to be righteous to speak of righteousness?
Sounds crazy, sounds foolish. Sounds true.
None of us is blessed if the standard of blessedness is our own accomplishments, our own glory. Nothing I have ever done has been truly righteous, not on my own account, anyway, and certainly not yet.
Same goes for everyone, whether standing on a street corner in a crowd of drunken revelers or in front of massive video screens, speaking the word of God and asking for money in the same breath or even in a place like this, humble, like it says, merciful, like it says, seeking justice as best we can, like it says.
We ought to crow about the good we do and scold the world on its sin. Everybody knows that, that is common knowledge; that is what we call: wisdom. We ought to take the salvation we have and who everyone how great we are now that Jesus loves them and tell them how much better they could be if only Jesus loved them too, we could point to the truth of our salvation as proof, we are now righteous because Jesus says so.
One of the “blessed”s is left out of the account in this morning’s Gospel reading. Not that the Gospel is inaccurate or actually missing something, but last weekend the second reading for Shirley Williams Funeral was Revelations 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.”
Blessed are the dead.
The dead can boast in the presence of God, like Paul says. Not those of noble birth, not the ones who are wise by human standards, not the powerful.
That’s when the struggle against sin is truly over and that’s when the victory against ourselves is truly won. Shirley is now righteous. Shirley is now wise with Christ Jesus, the wisdom that comes from God.
For the rest of us, for the time we have left on this earth there is only boasting in the Lord, of doing the things we are called to do, living abundantly in the knowledge of our salvation and letting our lives, our confessions, the truth be our testimony to the world even though they might see it as foolishness.
God chose what is weak to shame the strong. Sorry folks, we’re the weak. (It’s okay, God knows) We’re not expected to attain righteousness, just faith; not perfection, just hope; not mastery, just the knowledge that blessed are we, the poor in spirit some days, the mourning some days, the hungry for righteousness some days, the reviled for Jesus sake, the peacemakers all to seldom, the pure in heart almost never, the meek more often than we’d like to admit, the not yet dead.
Blessed are we, the redeemed of Christ, all the time, every day.