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      A sermon on the beatitudes February 1, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
      Filed Under:
      Pr. Sebastian

      What kind of God do we have? 

      What do we know about God?

      What is your image of God? 

      Is he a stern santa on a cloud?

      The Beatitudes are that section from our Gospel reading that begins: 

      Blessed are the poor in spirit…

      I believe that

      The Beatitudes are at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

      The Beatitudes are at the core of what we understand God to be.

      The Beatitudes teach us about discipleship,

      what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

      The Beatitudes teach us about God’s promise.

      The Beatitudes are about real religion. 

      A religion that is about loving yourself, your neighbor and God, 

      and doing something to make this world a better place for more people.

      The Beatitudes answer the question: 

      What is God concerned about?

      I think the core of God’s concern is social justice. 

      God is concerned about those at the bottom of the pecking order.

      God is concerned about the marginalized and the oppressed,

      the forgotten, and the voiceless.

      The beatitudes paint a picture of what we can be a part of. 

      A better world, where people are merciful to one another, 

      are gentle with one another, 

      a place where they aren’t proud and self-centered. 

      The Beatitudes paint a picture of a place where people love one another, where people make peace with one another, 

      where they comfort one another.

      Where these things happen, that is where we have a culture of God, 

      a reign of God.

      The sermon on the mount is gospel. It’s good news.

      The Beatitudes, 

      the blessed be’s. 

      There are between 8 to 10 of them, 

      depending on how you count them. 

      They are poetic, easy to memorize.

      What does “blessed” mean anyway? 

      Another word for “blessed” is perhaps, 

      fortunate, or happy.

      Blessed be, we hear that in the address by the angel Gabriel to Mary, 

      when she is told she will give birth to Jesus: 

      Blessed art thou among women., Gabriel says.

      Who are people who are fortunate, who are happy, 

      in everyday life?

      Perhaps a mother cradling her healthy newborn. 

      She’s happy.

      Perhaps a surgeon performing a life-saving transplant surgery. 

      She’s happy.

      I think definitely a vocation (not necessarily a job), 

      where you can share and serve:

      that’s pretty fulfilling and happy, and blessed. 

      (I think I’m pretty blessed, for example, to be working as a pastor.)

      I don’t believe the Beatitudes are about commands…

      you must do this or that.

      The Beatitudes exude hope.

      The Beatitudes are promises of the reign of God, 

      the culture of God, the dominion of God

      The beatitudes are comforting.

      Those at the bottom will be on top. 

      Those whom the world despises, and ridicules, 

      they will be praised and admired.

      The context of the Beatitudes is that:

      Jesus has recently called his disciples, his followers

      and he is proclaiming the culture of god, by teaching, 

      preaching and healing.

      News spreads throughout the lands, to far-off Syria, 

      and the sick, and those imperfect people like you and me 

      are drawn to Jesus’ healing powers. 

      The broken people need Jesus, 

      whether they look distraught and haggard, 

      or whether they look like the photo-shopped cover model of a magazine.

      Large crowds press in from different villages, 

      towns and countrysides to see and hear Jesus.

      And Jesus in turn sees the crowds, 

      feels compassion and wants to help them. 

      He is a Rabbi, a teacher, so he sits down on a hill, 

      somewhere in Galilee and teaches.

      Blessed are the POOR in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

      He proclaims.

      Who are the poor in spirit?

      They are the despised, the oppressed, the marginalized.

      The depressed, the broken in spirit.

      Their spirit is afflicted.

      Blessed are the refugees

      Blessed are the panhandlers

      Blessed are the forgotten

      Blessed are the unemployed.

      The poor in spirit are willing to learn and to grow.

      They are content with simplicity. 

      They can say with conviction: 

      “Live simply that others may simply live”.

      The poor in spirit are those who, when oppressed, 

      still take God’s course, and walk on God’s path.

      Pride is the root of all sin,

      so being humble and poor in spirit is a good way to avoid pride, 

      and other sin as well.

      Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be comforted.

      they will be comforted by the Messiah

      It really is a paradox though

      grief is not blessed, it’s very painful. It saps you of energy.

      Those who mourn who are blessed, are perhaps those who accept their sorrow, who are willing to take their pain and learn from it

      Those who mourn and are blessed are those willing to share others’ pain.

      Those who mourn and are fortunate 

      are those who can mourn for their own sins, 

      for the sins of others and the sins of society.

      Blessed are the MEEK, for they will inherit the earth.

      The meek are the powerless and humble

      being meek is not being spineless 

      and a wishy-washy rag doll in the wind.

      being meek is being gentle, not aggressive, 

      When you’re meek you don’t take advantage of others.

      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, 

      for they will be filled.

      These people face persecution and ridicule

      they strive to be upright

      they depend upon God

      they desire justice with a passion that cannot be extinguished.

      Blessed are the MERCIFUL, 

      for they will be shown mercy.

      DO unto others as you would have done unto you. 

      In other words.

      like the Good Samaritan

      Blessed are the ICU nurses

      Blessed are the hockey coaches of disadvantaged youth

      Blessed are the Good samaritans who help a stranded motorist 

      and offer them refuge in their car on a cold winter’s night.

      Blessed are the PURE IN HEART, for they will see God.

      Those who are pure in heart have a harmony between their inward thoughts and their outward deeds. They aren’t hypocritical.

      Their heart is strong through the fulfilling of the law

      they are right with God

      and they will see God, in the age to come, face to face.

      Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they will be called children of God

      Peace in the Hebrew sense is more 

      than just an absence of strife or violence

      it is shalom, a personal and social wellbeing, 

      in trust, love and obedience to God,

      When one strives for such a peace, a shalom, one seeks the betterment of all God’s children.

      Overall, The Beatitudes are blessings that are only partially fulfilled now, 

      but will be completely fulfilled at the last day. 

      We must look forward to the end of time in some way to understand them.

      There is a present and a future element to each of these blessings.

      The beatitudes paint a picture of what we can be a part of. 

      A better world, where people are merciful to one another, 

      are gentle with one another, a place where they aren’t proud or self-centered. 

      Where people love one another. 

      Where people make peace with one another, 

      where they comfort one another.

      Where these things happen, 

      that is where we have a culture of God, a reign of God.

      In a recent study in the USA, 

      Non-Christians were asked about their views of Christians.  

      The results were sobering.

      The most important category of how non-Christians saw Christians was that they were seen as self-righteous, hypocritical and judgemental.

      I think the Beatitudes really speak to this viewpoint. 

      If Christians lived the Beatitude way, 

      if we walked the Beatitude walk..

      who knows what would happen? 

      Perhaps we would then have a Christianity that attracts, 

      rather then a Christianity that keeps people away.

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