The Beatitudes are a prophetic utterance. They claim and
proclaim God’s favor in places and for people for whom it is
not yet apparent. They point the disciples and us to the culmination
of God’s work—the new creation, when the blessing will
be apparent to all. They also claim that the blessing is now—
blessed are you, now, not just in the time to come.
The disciples come to Jesus as he withdraws on the mountain,
away from the crowds. We overhear his instruction. Jesus
directs this message to the people who already follow him,
those who have heard him preaching and seen him healing
throughout Galilee. Jesus attempts to shift their gaze from the
crowds and the action to the characteristics of the community
that he desires to call forth.
Again, as with other lists in our readings this week, the
Beatitudes are not a checklist of the present yearnings and struggles
that entitle the listeners to eventual blessing. Nor are they
an inventory of the kinds of people who will gain entrance to
God’s kingdom. Further, this pronouncement of blessing is not
a charm against trouble, not a signal or a promise of temporal
well-being, nor is it a reason to accept the suffering of ourselves
and others passively. Rather, Jesus casts the vision of “kindom”
values on which we must act.
We need not forget that we are blessed. Even when we
experience the limits of our own faithfulness and desperately
yearn for righteousness, we are blessed. Even when others
resist and disparage us, we are blessed. Even when our work
for justice seems fruitless and endless, we are blessed. We are
blessed, and because we are blessed, we are called to live our
yes to those values now.
Gracious God, kindle in me such confidence in your present blessing that I will be able to walk in your way today. Amen.
The four texts for this Sunday join in warning the people of God that they should not be confused or intimidated by appearances or by how the larger society values this or that. A faithful hearing and responsiveness to the God of the Bible may not fare so well or look so good in terms of the world’s standards of judgment. But what is required and blessed is a community ordered according to the covenantal commitments, shaped by God’s gracious promises, and attuned to what Paul called the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God.
• Read Micah 6:1-8. When have you sensed God’s anguish over human injustice?
• Read Psalm 15. Where do you need to speak truth from the heart, do what is right, be without blame, or be reconciled?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. How have my limited expecta- tions of how God works caused me to miss God’s action in my life or the lives of others?
• Read Matthew 5:1-12. Which of the Beatitudes do you feel most blessed by? Which best describes your life of faith?
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