This Sunday our text is the Beatitudes. While they are familiar–these brief blessings over unlikely characters–the church hasn’t known what to do with them across the centuries.
Some see the Beatitudes as virtues and remake them into rules. But that doesn’t work. I mean, how can one try to be meek or mournful, for example? These are not things you aspire to. You either are or aren’t. Then other preachers have explained them as idealistic commandments, reserved for the super-religious, not you and me. I mean, most of us are never “persecuted for righteousness sake.” Yes, this is equally unsatisfactory. Jesus addressed the masses, the common people, as he gave the Sermon on the Mount.
Maybe we need to relax a bit and listen more closely to the gift Jesus is trying to give us. This Sunday I will take an alternative approach. One focusing more on Jesus as Teacher than this poetic keynote entry into the Sermon on the Mount as a wise ethical teaching.
As is true generally with the Bible, so it is also true of the Beatitudes: it’s not about what we do with them, it’s more about what they will do with us—if we would only let them have their way with us. The Beatitudes let us see the world as God sees rather than as we see.
This is important because we carry with us false ideas of failure, false ideas of success. Who are the winners? Who are the losers? Jesus would turn our heads around on this.
Prof. Richard Lischer argues that the Beatitudes are not virtues to be lifted up or rules to be obey but “a few snapshots of what God’s new world looks like.” The Beatitudes are Jesus’ attempt, with visionary images, to bring closer the reign of God found within us.
Of course, the world is not yet close to being the world God would have it be, so Jesus pulls the curtain back to give us glimpses, pictures of the life God wants for is in Christ.
I hope you can be with us. And don’t forget your food offerings for Soup-or Bowl Sunday.