Don’t you love it when there’s a simple set of instructions? Many of you know that I love to cook, the experimentation with flavors is great. But there are times when I love simply following the three easy step instructions of easy mac. Exact measurements of milk and butter. No need to be creative, just tell me what to do.
Wouldn’t it be great if all of life was like that? For example, wouldn’t it be great if there were “three simple rules to being a good ______” Fill in the blank: parent, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend. And the plethora of self-help books to the contrary, the truth of the matter is that they don’t really exist. They don’t exist even for the life of faith… and those would be really nice.
This desire to make this opening of Jesus’ sermon on the mount a today list. And then we take a look at it and realize that this is difficult. For example, if someone tries to complete the “blessed are those who mourn”, how much mourning is required? And not only that but even if the beatitudes were a list of instructions for how to be a good follower of Jesus, we’d have to be careful that we were not turning a vibrant, rich faith that is lived in response to God’s gracious actions towards us into a list of checkboxes that would amount to saying that our works are what saves us.
The beatitudes are not instructions and neither are they aspirations. These words of Jesus are descriptors of God’s KIngdom, they tell us how we act when we are living in God’s kingdom.
Blessed. When we use this term, we usually mean it to convey that we’re doing well or that we are lucky. Many times I hear people refer to being blessed as a way to convey that they are doing far better than they desire. But these mis the mark. Well, at least they miss the mark for the way blessed is used hear. For these beatitudes, to be blessed is not a temporal state of being, but to be blessed is to be deemed by God to be included in God’s kingdom.
So “blessed are those who mourn” is not an admonishment for a follower of Jesus to mourn for someone who has died. Rather, blessed are those who mourn tells us that we are living in God Kingdom and included in God’s kingdom when we look out and realize that we are still some distance away from the vision that God has for creation, and we mourn that distance. Blessed are the peacemakers means that we are not blessed when seek to end violence but that we are participating in God’s Kingdom as we seek to live out and proclaim in God’s peaceable kingdom.
This is a subtle but important distinction. We aren’t performing deeds so as to gain God’s favor but rather, we have received God’s grace and as a faithful response we seek to participate in what God’ is already doing.
What does that look like for us today?
With the snow storm that we all lived through this past week, there emerged a story about who to blame. Your response about who to blame for the inexcusable tragedy of people having to spend the night in their car when it was below freezing depended on, mostly, political party. Some wanted to blame the governor, others wanted to blame the mayor. And while there will be time to ascribe blame as well as figure out what to do so as this never happens again, another story emerged.
That story had to do with how people responded to crisis. I was overwhelmed as I sat there Tuesday night, the news on, my laptop in my lap and Facebook exploded. Individuals began posting things like, “My loved one is stuck in traffic on I-20, can anyone put her up?” or another would post “I live near the intersection of i-85 and Bever Ruin, I have an extra bedroom and plenty of food. If you need a place to stay, text me” And they left a phone number.
It is told that a pharmacist walked up and down the interstate with needles, insulin and test kits, knowing that there would be diabetics stuck in traffic, unable to get to life saving medication. And others tell that though they brought no provisions of their own, others who had plenty shared so that everyone in the surrounding cars had enough to eat.
These are signs of the in breaking of God’s kingdom. People did not do this so that they could tick a checkbox. People did these acts of mercy as a response and their compassion is a sign of God’s coming kingdom.
When we are “blessed” we are deemed to be part of God’s kingdom. We are included.
Isn’t that what this is really what its all about? Not simply “what happens to me when I die.” Well, yes, that but a much bigger question, “am I part and partial of God’s loving and gracious activity?” Not am I in but am I included? I’d have to say “yes” if reading these beatitudes resonates with part of how your life has been shaped as you have sought to life a faithful response to God’s love in Jesus in your life, then yes, you are included.
Yes, you are, indeed, blessed.