Christ brought with him a message of hope, a message of salvation and a message that turned how we see the world upside down. He showed us how God sees this world through human eyes. This God with us.
So, how is it that God sees this world? And what is his message of hope……..Last week I talked about how Christ called his first disciples and they joined him with nothing more than the invitation of, “Follow me.”
Follow me. Peter, Andrew, James and John did just that. As Christ traveled throughout Galilee teaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, crowds of people gathered to listen to him preach and cure people of sickness and disease.
I’ve have talked before about the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. Life was hard. The taxes were oppressive, it was all some could do just to exist. Many were forced to sell their children and themselves into slavery.
Here comes this guy they call Jesus, bringing a message unlike anything they’d ever heard. Crowds gathered and as this particular group gathered, Christ went up on the side of the mountain and preaches about the kingdom of heaven.
Eight statements, eight blessings, eight beatitudes. Eight statements that turn the world as we know it on end. The great paradox of Christian life – in order to be first, you have to be last. The humble will be exalted and the exalted will be humbled. Where one has to be born again.
In the book of Matthew, the beatitudes take place early in Christ’s ministry – it is his first recorded sermon. His message of hope. In the children’s time message I attempted show how things are when they are inverted.
Christ spoke about seeing the world as he sees it, how God sees it. Not from the vantage point of standing on your head, but of leaving the accumulation of wealth, possessions and other obstacles that get placed between us and our God.
To meet and minister to people where they are and for who they are – children of God, as one who bears the image of the Creator, just as each of us do. He blesses those afflicted, not based on anything they can do, but simply because they are.
Christ starts this message of hope with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”……I have read that each of these statements build on the previous one and none of them are possible without this one, the first one.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will see the kingdom of heaven. Poverty of spirit is the beginning of discipleship. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have spirituality. It means that those poor in spirit are not full of themselves.
They understand their own brokenness, have been convicted of sin and put Christ, the cross and faith at the center of their lives….Those poor in spirit know how destructive sin is, they’ve seen it firsthand. They know that sin causes them to stray from God, even if only for a short time.
….Well Pastor, I’ve gone to church since I was a child, I haven’t strayed from God….I don’t know every intricate detail about everyone’s life. But I would contend that we have all strayed at some point in our life, if only for a short time.
The power of sin is great. God’s power, grace, mercy and love are greater….Coming before God with open minds, grateful hearts and empty hands. Knowing that money, power, titles, land, riches and possessions won’t save us and they certainly should not define us.
This message of hope – blessed are they that know of their need for God. Christ continued with these petitions. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Do you ever watch the new and some of the stories they report on almost make you sick? So much suffering, too many evil acts and loss of life. Blessed are those that mourn over the brokenness of this world.
For lives that end prematurely, for children that go hungry, neglected or abused. For people in countries torn apart by war and are displaced. For those that dead the pain and emptiness in their own life with things like alcohol and drugs.
We mourn for things that we don’t fully understand because they seem so distant or foreign to us….Those that see with eyes and hearts of faith feel the pain of those that suffer. It is only by the grace of God that we don’t suffer through the same circumstances.
This sermon, not mine – Christ’s beatitudes were taken to heart by many of the saints and they did their best to live out these petitions, as difficult as that may seem. I’ve talked about Mother Teresa’s example before.
She had been called by God to work with the poor in India. She sensed that God was calling her to work with the poorest of the poor. She left behind the work she had done for years and off she went. She to one of the poorest slums, gathered some children and began teaching them the alphabet….using a stick to draw in the dirt with.
A ministry that would be known around the world, she would become a household name and she started with nothing other than who she was and the message that burnt within her. Her own message of hope.
That is essentially what ministry is. Each of us has a message that burns within us, each of us has a story written on each of our hearts – it exists, it is there waiting for that fire to be lit and that song to be sung.
As with the parables that Christ spoke of this scripture, these blessings that Christ bestows call for more than a quick passing over, they have to be studied and wrestled with. Christ continued, “Blessed are the meek, for they will be filled.”
God blesses those who are humble and gentle, for the whole earth will belong to them. Those that submit to God in patience and humility. What is the opposite of humility………pride, arrogance. Those things are dangerous.
Pride and arrogance blind us to our own weaknesses while amplifying those of others. If you are like me, pride can come quickly, seemingly out of nowhere. It can be easy to take credit for the talent and skills that we have that God granted us.
Blessed are those who do not return evil for evil, an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Who are slow to anger, abundantly patient and wise.
Christ continues this message of hope when he blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Thank God for those who seek justice that believe in the right to be treated fairly.
The road to seek out fairness, equality and justice is not a short one and seems to be the road less traveled.
We thank God for those that seek out righteousness, who strive for holiness and seek out their God. Treating all of God’s creation and people with the respect and value they deserve. There is holiness that lives within each of us. It cries out to be joined with the one that placed it there.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” God has given us this treasure of grace, it is only right that we extend it to others. We should not judge, label or put down others. We are called to be merciful and love one another unconditionally.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Christ’s message of hope.
We should be reminded of God’s mercy and grace every day and extend it to others.
This scripture, these eight statements, the Beatitudes, show us how our God sees the world. It is a message of hope.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete