For the past month I've been working my way through a series of sermons on Jesus’ beatitudes. I began it when I returned from my summer sabbatical, and I was motivated from a preaching conference I attended a couple years ago where Brian McLaren shared a message that called for a renewed emphasis on the beatitudes. Here are some of his insights…
1. The modern church is going through a time of tremendous change.
2. Times of upheaval always raise the question: What will be kept and what will be lost?
3. We make strong efforts to preserve other things, as with monuments of the Ten Commandments. Why not devote that kind of energy to the beatitudes?
4. When people come to church they come to be blessed. They need hope and a reason to hold on.
5. We are in a contest over who gets to define what is a blessing, and who is blessed.
6. What you consider to be blessed will determine your ethos, your ethics, and your future.
7. To be blessed in the best sense of the word is “aliveness” – to be fully alive.
With #5 on this list, he elaborated by giving some contrasting beatitudes that the modern world easily goes along with…
· Blessed are the bold and vengeful, for they will be feared.
· Blessed are the pleasure-seekers, for they will see envy in the eyes of their neighbors.
· Blessed are those who launch pre-emptive attacks, because they will never be bored or caught off-guard.
· Blessed are those who persecute others for righteousness’ sake, for they have a great future in talk radio – religious or secular.
· And blessed are you when people honor you and flatter you and give you all kinds of extra compensation on my account.
· Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great right now in the religious industrial complex, and in the same way they celebrated the inquisitors before you.
Compare this list with the actual beatitudes that I’m preaching on. Jesus gave them in Matthew 5:3-12 as part of the Sermon on the Mount…
· Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
· Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
· Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
· Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
· Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
· Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
· Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
· Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
· Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There’s also a similar corresponding list from Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain, in Luke 6:20-26. Join us as we continue to engage this core of Jesus’ teaching. And may God richly bless you!
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.