Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
Read Matthew 5:1-12 on biblegateway.com
Chapter 5When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Verse 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Verse 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Verse 4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Verse 5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Verse 6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Verse 7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Verse 8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Verse 9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Verse 10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Verse 11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Verse 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Beatitudes are one of those Bible passages that are so familiar to us that they are easy to dismiss even if we do not entirely understand them. That misunderstanding may not reach the level of the Monty Python lampoon in The Life of Brian — "He said, 'Blessed are the cheesemakers.' No, he means all producers of dairy products." — but the effectiveness of the comedy suggests that I am not alone in my uncertainty.
For example, what does Jesus mean by "blessed"? Or what does it mean to be "meek"? Perhaps "humble," "gentle," or "powerless" might be more accurate words to describe those who receive the blessings of God's kingdom. Or how is one "poor in spirit"? Wouldn't "broken spiritually" in order to be healed, or "empty" in order to receive Christ's teaching, seem clearer? Certainly "pure in heart" refers to the heart's location as the center of thought, intention, or the moral center.
As we have seen throughout this week, God does not expect the extraordinary from God's people. What God seeks is simply an openness to the gift of God's presence, love, and guidance.
Lord, thank you for coming to us, and bringing your kingdom with you. Be patient with us, and help us when we don't quite understand or grasp the blessings you offer. Amen.