Almighty and most merciful God, we call to mind before you all whom it is easy to forget: those who are homeless, destitute, sick, isolated, and all who have no one to care for them. May we bring help and healing to those who are broken in body or spirit, that they may have comfort in sorrow, company in loneliness, and a place of safety and warmth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Foundation for Jesus’ Mission to Love and Bless the World
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a foundation for his followers which helps them to get a more complete picture of his mission to love and bless the world. Jesus’ shares his perspective on faith and life. He offers his understanding of Jewish law, endorses love, not hate, as the proper response to conflict and promotes generosity, compassion, humility and selfless behavior. (Mt 5:17-48) Jesus lays out a template for prayer for his disciples (Matt 6:9-15), warns them of the seductive nature of wealth and fame and makes it clear that God’s love endures far beyond the things of this world. (Mt 6:16-24) Jesus tells his followers that God will be present with them and assures them of a future with God (Mt 6:25-34). Jesus warms them of the perils of becoming self-righteous and hypocritical if their words fail to match their actions (Mt 7:1-5) and Jesus instructs them to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Mt 7:12)
It’s a remarkable guiding vision for a ministry that will take Jesus and the disciples from relative obscurity to Jerusalem and it all begins with a most unexpected word of blessing for those that the world typically considers cursed.
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of 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.” (Matthew 5:1-12)
So What Does this Mean? Unexpected Blessings
Even given all the disciples had undoubtedly seen and heard in those early days of Jesus’ ministry, these words must have been a surprise. Everyone assumed that the poor in spirit, those filled with doubts and questions about God, were on the outside looking in, but Jesus sees things differently. Those with doubts and questions will be a part of the kingdom of God –
Everyone assumed that the meek would always be the subjects of the strong, the powerful, would be run over by those with power and influence, but Jesus sees things differently. The meek, the lowly, the outcast, the unwanted will know God’s love and will inherit God’s kingdom.
Everyone assumed that the merciful and the peacemakers were simply unwilling or unable to assert their dominance over others to take what they wanted, but Jesus sees things differently. Jesus sees the merciful, those who show compassion to their neighbors, the peacemakers, those who are willing to seek cooperation not retribution, who are looking for a way forward for everyone, not simply those in power, as faithful children of God who are embracing God’s teachings and putting them into action in the world.
Everyone assumed that the persecuted and the reviled were abandoned by God, because if they weren’t why would have those struggles, but Jesus sees things differently. Those people who are looked down upon, who are pushed aside will know God’s love, they will not be abandoned.
With these opening words of blessing, Jesus turns the world upside down pushing aside the notion that only the rich, the powerful, the strong and the wealthy were blessed by God.
With these opening words of blessing, Jesus turns the world upside down extending God’s love and favor to those that the world had typically labeled as worthless and abandoned.
With these opening words of blessing, Jesus turns the world upside down setting an inclusive tone for his ministry that will open the door for all of God’s people to be welcomed into God’s kingdom.
Please answer these questions in the comment section below.
1. Which of the Beatitudes do you find the most surprising and why?
2. In today’s world, what does it mean to be a peacemaker?
O God of all, with wonderful diversity of languages and cultures you created all people in your image. Free us from prejudice and fear, that we may see your face in the faces of people around the world; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers adapted from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.