Thursday 30 January 2020

Begin With Blessing

You are blessed. You, a child of God, are blessed. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not. You are.

Not just because I say so. Jesus says so. I think that’s part of what that passage in Matthew we call The Beatitudes is all about.

Matthew says that a crowd had gathered and Jesus goes up a mountain and begins teaching. The geography could be just about finding higher ground in order to be heard better, but mountains are big in the bible. Think Moses and Sinai. God lived on the mountain.

So, from a vantage point for authority and hearing, Jesus begins a lengthy teaching about many things. What we call the Sermon on the Mount goes on for quite some time in Matthew, the longest discourse from Jesus in the Bible.

And where does he begin? You are blessed. All the teaching comes after that. You are blessed. You weak and poor in spirit and in life, you grieving, you shy and meek, you hungry, you kind and caring, you who make peace with cooperation and sharing, you who engage others and look to do good no matter the cost, you are all blessed. And when people put you down, say mean things or lie about you, don’t be afraid, because you’re blessed.

I paraphrased that, sure, but you get the point. Jesus begins by saying that all the people most likely to think they’re anything but blessed are, in fact, just that. Not that you will be if you assume that attitude or you should want to be because there’s rewards ahead. No, simply, you are blessed.

This might be the moment that well-meaning pastors and others remind you of the context in which Jesus says this. 2,000 year ago, long in the distant past, people believed that if you did well in life, attained  high social standing, became rich or lived long, that was a sign of God’s blessing. If you were sick, poor, of low social standing, disabled or struggled in life, that was a sign of God’s punishment for some sin in you. Here’s Jesus saying no, that’s not right. You’re blessed. Period. People back in those days needed that reminder.

Sure, but we still do. Don’t let this be another way to distance ourselves from Jesus, he’s right here, right now. 

Maybe if he said blessed are those who struggle with feeling good enough when they don’t look like the latest “it” person, can’t afford the latest fashions or just don’t seem to “fit in.” Blessed are those who do their best and feel like it’s still not enough. Blessed are those who feel like a failure because they lost their job and are struggling to find one. Blessed are those who work two or three jobs and have trouble making ends meet. Blessed are those who feel ignored and unheard, like no one is paying attention to them. Blessed are those who struggle with mental health. Blessed are those who feel abandoned and lost in a complicated world. Blessed are the vulnerable, the gentle, the kind - all those whom society labels weak, you are stronger than you know. You are blessed.

It’s just as radical today as it was then, and just as urgently needed. Stuff doesn’t make you blessed. Power doesn’t make you blessed. Nor does status, culture or religious beliefs. You are blessed because you are of God, made of love, part of the energy, power or spirit of all that is. Whatever language you need to use to understand, embrace and engage it, being vulnerable is what opens us to that great connection. Open your heart. You are blessed.