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the beatitudesWhat do you think of when you think of the Beatitudes?  Until last Sunday, I tended to think of them as a soothing set of passages meant to reassure us. “Now, now.  Don’t worry.  Life may not be what you want right now, but God will make things all better in Heaven.”

Admittedly, I never knew exactly what to think when I got to verses 11 and 12 which say. . .

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Did this mean that Christ’s followers could expect poverty?  That they should be continually meek?

Last Sunday, Pastor Carol challenged us to think of the Beatitudes as a cup of fast food coffee.  Look out, this can burn!  Why?  The Beatitudes aren’t meant simply to comfort the have-nots.  They are a challenge for the haves.

Christ had a nasty habit of calling us to action.  Sure, he also patted his followers on the back and told them things would get better, but often he told us how to make things better and it meant being His Hands on Earth.  Think about that and look at the Beatitudes again.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for the will be comforted” becomes “Bless those who mourn.  Comfort them.”  As in, do it, don’t just wait for it to happen in heaven. Look at the list of those who are meant to serve and you will see that the Beatitudes are a call for social justice.

With that in mind, the last two verses make sense.  Why?  Those who have a lot to lose may not be happy when we work for those who have nothing to lose.

–SueBE

Mathew 5:1-12
1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
The Beatitudes
He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Our church women’s circle is studying the Beatitudes. Last night, we discussed:

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Luke 6:21a
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Luke 6:25a
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Margaret Aymer, author of our text, Confessing the Beatitudes, explained that Christ wasn’t talking about the hungry, but the famished. As a part of Rome, various Palestinian foodstuffs were taken away to feed this booming metropolis. With the best food funneled away to Rome, what remained became even more precious, far beyond what these people could afford. These hungry were on the brink of starvation.

And the well-fed in Luke 25? These weren’t simply people with enough food on their plates. These were the people who took from those who couldn’t afford to give. These were the people who were never satisfied no matter how much they possessed. The gluttons.

When we learned this, you could see shoulders sag with relief. We aren’t guilty because we have enough to eat. We aren’t gluttons.

Or are we?

In a world where so many have so little, the US consumes 49% of the world’s resources. Think we might be just a wee tiny bit justified? Think again. We make up only 4% of the world’s population. Four percent consuming forty-nine percent. If that isn’t gluttony on a national scale, what is it?

What can we do about it? My family focuses on the fact that pulling new resources from our Earth potentially damages the Earth and also takes these resources away from someone else, someone who may have a need greater than ours. To address this, we avoids spending on new items when we can get something used. This means checking Salvation Army, Goodwill and Value Village whenever possible. But before we do that? We post a message on Freecycle to see if someone has what we need and wants to get rid of it. It doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve been able to find science books, picture frames, candle sticks and food storage containers. We’ve given away a refrigerator, a wading pool, two bicycles and scads of toys.

What suggestions do YOU have? One step at a time, we can move back toward God’s path.

–SueBE

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude
17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, 18 as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. 19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healedthem all.

The Beatitudes

20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

“ Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

Jesus Pronounces Woes

24 “ But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

 

The Beatitudes

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

When  I taught a Bible study this summer, I was amazed at how it deepened my understanding of various passages.  Things that I had always understood at a superficial level became more meaningful.  I jumped at the opportunity to study the Beatitudes with my church’s women’s circle.

The topic for the most recent class was “Blessed are those who mourn/weep,” Matthew 5:4 and Luke 6:21b. We started out considering why people mourn.  The obvious answer is loss – the death of a loved one.  But, as I learned this summer while studying parables, Christ always had a deeper meaning.  It just takes a little more work, and often a knowledge of history, to reach it.

When Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount, Rome occupied Palestine.  Palestinian food crops were shipped out to feed the people of Rome, making food in Palestine more expensive.  But Rome also taxed farm land heavily.  If you couldn’t pay the taxes, you lost the land generally to someone who was already wealthy.

Loss of land.  Loss of homes.  Food prices rising.  If you’re up on current events, you know this leads to hunger, illness, and death.

Then the study guide (Confessing the Beatitudes by Margaret Aymer) brought in the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  Lazarus begs at a rich man’s gate.  The rich man takes no notice of Lazarus even as the poor man sickens and dies.  When the rich man dies, he winds up in hell while Lazarus is among the blessed in heaven.  When the rich man asks if he can return to Earth to warn his brothers what fate awaits them, he is told no. They have the prophets but they choose not to listen.

Again, the simple interpretation would be that Lazarus was blessed because he had already suffered poverty while the rich man lived a life of luxury and excess, ignoring the need sitting at his gate.  But I suspect that Jesus was telling us something more.

Blessed are the mourners for they are the messengers.  Who are the mourners in the world today? They have tried to warn us even as they mourn a child who dies from hunger or as the result of a beating.  They have called attention to the troubles of our society, even as they ask for coins to buy a cup of coffee.

They let us know all is not well if only we will open our eyes and unstop our ears.

–SueBE

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