When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
"You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
"You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
"You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
"You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
"You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
My mum proudly states that she was declared a heretic. The accusation came at the Anglican Synod, after she claimed that there was biblical evidence that Jesus favoured the poor. I’ll go into those examples another day, but Jesus does call us to care for the poor and needy – and it’s part of why I love the Salvos so much. They are so focussed on working with the needy and forgotten in our society, to make sure they are looked after.
This reading – the Beatitudes – is one that I find incredibly encouraging for all people. I love the way Eugene Peterson has written this passage. When we’re at the end of our rope, where the only hope we have is in God, it’s then that we have completely removed ourselves and allow God to fully control our lives. When we have lost that which we care about most (the NIV translates it as “those who mourn”), it is then that the one who will always care for us is known. When you are not building yourself up, boasting or bragging, but are content with who you are, you will receive “everything that can’t be bought”. Personally, I prefer the NIV translation of the next verse: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When you desire equity, goodness, honour, integrity, morality and justice as much as food and drink, it is then that we shall see that which we desire.
I could go on, but I think I might save it for a sermon one day. Goal for today: read the Beatitudes, and reflect on which one you might be needing to hear today.