(You can watch video of the sermon here.)
Well, it has been a wild week, with a lot of uncertainty and change.
I think it’s as important as ever for all of us to just stay rooted in what we most deeply know is good and true and right and just.
Jesus’s beatitudes are holy words that help a lot of us do this, to stay rooted. These words are words of comfort, but also words of challenging.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – “poor in spirit” means “humble” in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. Not having and inflated ego that gets in the way of God and grace.
“Blessed are those who mourn” – who grieve, who know and feel the pain of loss. The Aramaic here also carries a sense of deep yearning.
“Blessed are the meek” – this can also mean “gentle,” “blessed are the gentle.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice” – often this is translated “righteousness.” But for us “righteousness” can have this sense of being morally superior to others. That’s not what is meant. What Jesus means here and the way the prophets have used this word, is more like “justice” – a good and right way of people living together. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for right relations.” The images of hunger and thirst are very real. To “hunger and thirst” for justice is to feel the lack in our bodies, a basic human need that urges us to fulfill the need.
“Blessed are the merciful” – the word here in Aramaic, and in Greek, is also very visceral. The Aramiac word is tied to the word for “womb.” The Greek word is tied to the word for “guts.” Feeling that urge to care in your core, putting ghte passion in compassion.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” – a heart that is uncluttered and uncomplicated, pure and simple, healthy, strong, reliable.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” Those who make peace. The word for “making” Jesus uses is about work, farm-work in particular. You don’t just make peace once and for all, it takes steady labor and attention through the seasons.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” – “righteousness” here, again, is more like “right-relations”, a just and right way of behaving and being with others. The word for persecution has the sense of the opposite of that. Like how Dr. King taught that nonviolent struggle against racism and violence actually draws out and exposes the sinfulness of society, as that lashes out. Blessed are those who have the courage to risk suffering that sin lashing out against them.
What Jesus is teaching is that there are blessings in these ways of being. There’s this rhythm reciprocity – giving and receiving “Those who give mercy receive mercy, so they are blessed.” “Those who are humble inherit the earth.” Give yourself away and you will receive in return the whole world.
The blessing here is also the blessing of receiving that for which we yearn most deeply. Those who hunger and thirst for justice will be nourished. This yearning is blessed because it is yearning for the Divine, a yearning that cleanses us and calls us into our roles within the realm of heaven on earth as children of the living God.
So bless you all, in your yearning. Bless you all in your grief and your compassion. Bless you in your gentleness and mercy and your courageous and steady work on behalf a more just and peaceful world.
Thanks be to God.