Matthew 5: 1-12 “How Blessed Really?” 2/2/2020 Rev. Jerry W. Krueger Boardman UMC

 

Today’s scripture, Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches, instructs how to live, locates our Christian identity, and models how our lifestyle should occur in the world.

So first, let’s talk about being blessed. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those hungering for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, those who are reviled, and the lied about.

Ever asked anyone, “Hi, How are you today?” And they reply, “Blessed.” “What do you mean by that? Blessed? Explain that to me.”

Do we REALLY want these blessings in Matthew’s scripture? Blessing in THIS reading sounds rough, almost negative, downtrodden. But before we continue, I want to ask you to finish these phrases: Hot & --- On &-- -. Light & ---. Blessed & ---. (Cursed)

When we look up blessings in Bible commentaries and word studies, they’re linked with curses. There are benedictions, and …..Maledictions.

The people in Jesus’ day knew this. They used curses not to swear, but as ways to curse those who were against God and good, against righteousness, those who promoted suffering.

Jesus is saying, “you are NOT cursed because you are lied about, or poor, or hungry, or grieving, or persecuted. In God’s eyes, because you do the right thing you are blessed, despite what society and culture may say.”

But doing the right thing can have consequences pushing back against cultural norms. In Jesus’ day and in our day as well.

The Beatitudes open the Sermon on the Mount. Look in your Bible in Matthew 5:1-12. Nine blessings are grouped in two parts. Verses 3-6 and 7-12.

Blessings declare God’s favor, not on attitudes, but on certain conditions and behaviors. These declarations encourage appropriate responses and actions on our parts.

In Jesus’ culture and in ours today, wealth, power, prestige, and status are prized. In contrast to the world, God states His favor is found among the powerless and the poor, the meek.

Those with none, or with limited resources and options, yearn for God’s empire and intervention in their lives. The second portion of the blessing speaks of the future. That is the “not now,” part with which we struggle.

When life is difficult, when discourse is elevated in angry, accusatory tones, when people lie about you, spread falsehoods about you, even though you are doing the right thing, are we drawn to the eternal reward part of blessing?

Are we focused on the prophets putting up with the lies that people spread, the gossip, the murderous, character assassination that’s tossed around with no regard for your reputation?

We want it to stop, and we want the liar’s punishment to be swift, severe, and almost over reactive. But reality is, our reward for our faith-filled beliefs and actions and behavior will not be rewarded until we enter into eternity with Christ.

We want justice! Often with no mercy for those who persecute us, right? But those who suffer, who are persecuted for right beliefs, lied about, who remain faithful, WILL be rewarded in heaven.

Jesus institutes these reversals of future at the onset of his ministry. These blessings name the consequences of living under Roman occupation, yet promise God’s victory over it. And we may want blessing now. We are in distress, or struggle, or persecution, and we want relief. Now.

It’s difficult to think of FUTURE when we are in the middle of crisis. I don’t think for us as modern day Christians, it’s much of a stretch for us to understand we are in a similar boat.

Verses 7-12, these five Beatitudes or blessings, bless the social actions of the Christian community of disciples that manifests God’s empire. Not the Roman or American empire, but God’s empire.

Any challenge to the power status quo always elicits some type of war of words, lies, false accusations on many fronts. When you buck the way it is always done in business, politics, school, or social organizations, expect persecution and attack. Just watch the nightly news.

But hear the Good News, God rewards our faithfulness. Oh really, Pastor Jerry? I spoke out against the stuff going on at work and got fired.

I have been faithful in my life, and I constantly struggle to live above poverty. When do I get rewarded for not cutting corners, for not sliding down the slippery slope?

That is the hard portion of blessing.

These beatitudes are not about emotions. Blessed, not happy is the correct translation. Happy is a loose, poor translation. The opposite of blessed is not “unhappy” but cursed.

When we’re in the midst of life challenges Jesus lists, we may feel anything but blessed. We may feel cursed.

Jesus addressed the disciples, the gathered listeners, and to each of you today. He reiterates “blessed are.” Present tense, moving to the future tense.

Jesus says we who follow him are blessed. Of course not every member of our congregation can claim to be meek, merciful, or pure in heart, but the Beatitudes are addressed not to individuals, but to the entire faith community as a whole.

In every Christian congregation are found persons of meekness, ministers of mercy, and workers for justice and peace.

Their presence and activity among us and with us, is sign of God’s blessing, and a call to us to follow the connectedness of our faith life, moving us into the Kingdom living we desire.

Reality is life of the kingdom in some instances, must wait for validation until God finishes the new creation. And that is still a work in progress.

Christianity is not a scheme to get us to be calm and accept tough situations without raising a voice, or asking questions. Christianity isn’t about reducing stress, losing weight, getting promoted, or being illness free.

Our Christian faith is about living based on the sure and firm hope that meekness, IS the way of God that righteousness and peace will finally prevail, and that God’s future will be a time of mercy and not cruelty.

Blessed are those who live now, even when life seems foolish, for they will in the end, be vindicated by God. In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 
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