Blessed Are We – January 25, 2015 – Matthew 5: 1 – 20

When I went to Israel and Palestine 7 years ago, we went to a chapel on a mountain that is believed to have been the mountain where Jesus delivered this Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes. The mountain was nothing really special. The chapel on top of that mountain was nothing really special.

When you visit someplace in the Holy Land, there is typically a chapel or church built on the site where something significant in Jesus’ ministry is believed to have happened. On the mount where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, the chapel is less grand than other chapels we visited. It was more like a rest stop than a chapel. It was a white round building with bathrooms.

The inside of the chapel was plain. It has stained glass windows around the base of the rotunda. The windows are white with the beatitudes in red letters. No statue of Jesus. No big furniture or large paintings. No communion table. Just an open room with stained glass windows. More like a rest stop than a chapel. Nothing special.

Perhaps that nothing special chapel is fitting for a place to mark the mountain where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about why Jesus chose this mountain because it wasn’t special. It was in the middle of nowhere. He obviously stopped as He and the crowd following Him were traveling from one place to the next along the sea of Galilee.

There is nothing special about the mountain where Jesus stopped and there wasn’t anything special about the people He spoke to. The Bible, in Chapter 4 of Matthew, tells us that after Jesus’ baptism He began His ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. Jesus called His first Disciples and Jesus, His first Disciples and a large crowd began to travel from town to town.

Chapter 4 verse 25 says that the crowd included people from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan. There is nothing notable about the people. We should only know that Jesus was gathering a large following from all over the region. And, this large crowd He stops to teach them about who receives God’s favor.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are those who mourn,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are the pure in heart,
Blessed are the peacemakers,
Blessed are those who are persecuted.

Let’s read them in the Message version of the Bible. I think it gives us a better understanding of the state of one’s spirit who is blessed.

Blessed are those who are at the end of their rope,
Blessed are those who have lost someone dear to you,
Blessed are those who are content with life,
Blessed are those who have a good appetite for God,
Blessed are those who care,
Blessed are those who have their inside world in order,
Blessed are those who cooperate instead of fight,
Blessed are those who are committed to God.

If you read just the first 2, you may not want to be on that list of those who receive God’s blessing. I don’t want to be at the end of my rope to receive God’s blessing. I don’t want to lose someone close to me to receive God’s blessing. I think there is something radical about Jesus saying the people who are at the end of their rope or grieving are blessed. We, as a society, seem to give attention to those mourning or going through a tough time.

We want to provide comfort or help…for a time. But, after awhile, we move on. We forget that someone may be grieving their husband still a year later like she lost him yesterday. We forget that it takes awhile to work through difficulties that have turned our life upside down. At some point, we assume that everything is fine, when it is not. We think a mourning period is over because the flowers from the funeral have died and the casseroles from neighbors and friends have all been eaten. We think that because someone got a new job or a new house or whatever seems to be a solution to the problem that things are once again right in the world.

When we have stopped thinking about someone’s loss or difficulty, Jesus tells us that they are blessed because God is still thinking of them. The Message says: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope, because we are more willing to let God work in our lives. You’re blessed when you’ve lost what is most dear to you, because you can be embraced by God who is most dear.

If I have to be in the depths of grief or despair to receive God’s blessing, maybe I don’t want to be blessed. But, Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus gives us other examples of when we are blessed.

Blessed are those who are content with life,
Blessed are those who have a good appetite for God,
Blessed are those who care,
Blessed are those who have their inside world in order,
Blessed are those who cooperate instead of fight,
Blessed are those who are committed to God.

I kinda like that list. I can seek God’s blessing in that list. I’d say we all recognize that life ain’t so bad. We’re not caught with the woe is me attitudes or self-centeredness. We seek God. We are committed to God. Having a life focused on God we’re less prone to the devil’s temptations and we can focus on the things that matter in life. We care for our friends, family, church and neighbors and that feels good. We’re a blessed group.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount doesn’t stop with the Beatitudes. He goes on to teach the crowd about the Law, almsgiving, prayer, fasting, money and a number of other things that I’ll preach about in coming weeks. Between the Beatitudes and these other teachings, Jesus gives us 3 verses about why all of this is important. It’s because we’re supposed to be different. If we’re going to be the people that God blesses, we’re going to need to be salt and light. Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I like the idea of being light. Jesus says we are not to be hidden. We are to shine to glorify God that others may see God through us.

There is a quote I always think of when I read that we are the light of the world. The quote is by Marianne Williamson from her book “A Return to Love.” She writes:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I think Marianne Williamson captures the human feeling of unworthiness. Many people, especially women, especially young women, compare themselves to others and think that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, just generally not enough and so we hide ourselves. When we hide and feel unworthy, we don’t let our lights shine.

Girls on the Run is starting soon. One of the things we teach the girls is about their inner light. We teach them that there are things in life that try to cast a shadow on their lights. They learn that within themselves they have the power to push aside that cloud and let their light shine. When I was their age, I wish someone had taught me about my light and my power.

I think no matter how old we are we need to be reminded that we have light within us that we can shine. The light was placed within us when we were born and we spend our entire life, our entire faith journey, learning to let it shine for the world to see. When we let our light shine, we give permission to others to see within themselves their light and let it shine. If only we will let our light shine, we empower others to embrace the light within themselves and see themselves as beloved children of God. Blessed are we and blessed are others when we let our light shine.

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