Sermon: Upside-down blessings

Matthew 5:1-12

These Beatitudes seem really upside down , don’t they?

How can someone be considered blessed, when they are poor in spirit, or mourning, or meek? These are the people the world ignores, those who are too quiet to make a wave, known only to God.

Some of the other ones are more obvious – Blessed are the peacemakers. Yes, that makes sense. And we certainly could do with many more of these peacemakers, in the middle east and in governments all  around the world.

Blessed are the merciful – yes that makes sense too according to what we know about Jesus. Forgiveness and mercy are part of Jesus’ teaching, and we also see them in the Old Testament – surely Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, as it says in Psalm 23.

But Blessed are the poor in spirit? That’s a  tricky one, and I was forced to do a bit of digging into various commentaries to see what other people have come up with. It seems to be that poor in spirit means humble, not proud or haughty. Not arrogant or thinking of themselves as above everyone else. Yes, that makes sense. Blessed are humble  people who are not arrogant.

There was a cartoon in the local paper yesterday about one of the Labour party politicians vying for the leadership job. The reporter was trying to interview him, but all you could see was a  high pedestal with a pair of legs going up. The cartoonist was saying that this particular candidate was arrogant, lacking in humility. He was not poor in spirit.

‘Blessed are those who mourn’ brought up some interesting ideas. Most of us will have mourned for lost ones in the past, and it’s painful. But mourning in this context uses a Greek word which means mourning openly, obviously, letting your emotions show and flow freely. It can be applied to mourning for the state of the world, or anything else that causes pain. If we show our brokenheartedness openly about what is affecting us deeply, this scripture would say that we will be comforted. That can give us a way forward. Instead of trying to hide the despair we can feel as we hear the news reports, we can be open about it. And the most important thing is to pray –How about mourning together ? Praying with those whose hearts are breaking over the same things yours are, is a  sure-fire way to attract God’s attention. And in these times the more prayer the better.

When we take communion to one of our ladies here, she always asks for prayer for this troubled world. She never asks for prayer for herself. She is mourning in this way, and God will bless her.

I pray that God will bless all of you, and that you, in humility, openly express those things that trouble you, and pray about them.

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