The Lectionary readings for Sunday, November 1, 2020
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Just about a year ago I wrote a post on The Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments in my series on Compassion. If you have time, I encourage you to read it here.
To live the beatitudes requires us to change our perspective – to see the world around us as God sees it, not transactional (doing something to earn or gain something) but relational. In giving us these wisdom statements, Jesus is giving us the perspective necessary to live as God intends for us to live on earth as it is in heaven. So, get your coffee ready and let’s look at them a bit closer.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
To be “poor in spirit” does not mean to be weak or timid. To be poor in spirit means to let go of our own egos so that God can refine our spirit into the image God created us all. Being poor in spirit means, with boldness and confidence, to follow Jesus in the Way of Love with the understanding that when we keep our focus on the greater good of all, everyone’s needs are fulfilled abundantly. We are so much more than a bunch of individuals, we are God’s Kingdom people.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
To mourn is to show great sadness because of a loss. God has never said we wouldn’t have pain but that God would be with us always to provide the strength and peace and comfort necessary to learn from the pain caused by our broken humanness. A key step in healing and growth from any loss is to spend time mourning and lamenting. If we are incapable of acknowledging the pain, there can be no healing from it. It is from our healed wounds that we provide comfort and help others heal.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
To be meek means to be gentle, to see others with the same eyes of compassion as Jesus does. Being meek means we live confidently with the wisdom that when others treat us badly it is because of their own unhealed woundedness. We forgo retaliation. We let go of the idea of “getting even.” And in seeing others as God sees everyone, we live on this earth as God intends for us to – as it is in heaven.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Being human requires that we nourish our body and soul; we are not fully human if we don’t acknowledge and care for our complete humanness. We nourish our bodies with food and water. Jesus tells us he is the bread of life and living water. Our souls are nourished by God when we follow Jesus in the Way of Love.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Mercy, by definition, is not earned. It is given freely, without condition. Only when we let go of the idea of being good enough to earn God’s favor can we fully receive the gift of God’s mercy so we are equipped to live mercifully toward others and the more mercy we offer to others the more we see fully the mercy God gives us.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
As John writes, when we put our hope in God’s way and follow Jesus, our hearts are “purified” – refined, transformed, and reshaped to reveal the divine image from which we are all created. When we live from the image of God in us, we see God in everyone. When we see God in others, we will interact with them with kindness and love as our brothers and sisters.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Peace making isn’t only about resolving conflict but living in the peace of God that comes from letting our hearts be transformed by following Jesus so that we are poor in spirit and meek, offering comfort and mercy to all, seeing each other as children of God. This is how we live Sunday School, participating with God in making life on earth as it is in heaven.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Living the Beatitudes is counter to how the world says we should live. The world says we need to be in for ourselves only, looking out for “number one”. When others hurt us, we need to hurt them back, and to prevent hurt, lump everyone else into labeled groups (by nationality, political party, skin color, etc.) so we don’t have to even consider that they are human. And when we go against all of this by refusing to dehumanize others, by showing mercy and compassion, by respecting the dignity of every human being, the world will tell us we are the ones doing it wrong. And we can stand strong and confident knowing we are already living in the Kingdom.
And so, Jesus summarizes how it will be living on earth as it is in heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Following Jesus is hard work with great blessing. When we choose to follow Jesus, we know the outcome: peace and comfort and strength and life lived fully as God intends us to live. Our reward is knowing confidently that God loves us, here and now, as we are, giving us life on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.