Thursday 23 March 2023

Are You Talking to Me?

I’ve been talking about the Beatitudes for a few weeks now and other parts of the Sermon on the Mount in the weeks before that. There’s sure lots to talk about there, but I feel like I’ve been repeating myself a fair bit. 

It might seem like I’m doing that again, but, please, stick with me. It’s all connected.

Of course it’s all connected, you might say. Whether you believe that the thing we call the Sermon on the Mount was one hugely long oration or that the author of Matthew’s gospel collected selected preachings together and repackaged them that way, it makes sense as a unit. A long one, for sure, but it makes sense. Particularly if you are the view that, from the very start, Jesus was clear who he was talking to: you. You are blessed, you are salt and light, you can live into the heart of the law and here’s how you do it. It’s about you, not some generic crowd in the ancient past, but you.

And that’s how it’s all connected, right from the start.

Right from the start, I imagined Jesus approaching the crowd and seeing them. I mean, really seeing them. I imagine Jesus looked in their faces that day, saw where they were at, and began by telling them the most important thing they needed to know: you are blessed. I imagine he looked each one right in the eyes and he said you who are poor are blessed, just as you are. And he looked at the broken and the grieving, the meek, the merciful, and so many others and, as he moved through the crowd, he told each and every one that they are blessed, just as they are.

In other words, this wasn’t just a generic sermon that he posted later as a blog, it was personal. I think we tend to hear much of Jesus’ teaching, preaching and healing as stories about Jesus rather than stories about how Jesus speaks to us. That way, we can keep it less personal. But that’s just it: I think Jesus meant to be personal. That’s why he didn’t begin with “all lives are blessed,” he began with naming how we might be feeling in our lives.

Imagine you’re any of the people Jesus addresses here. It’s not hard, because we will be among theses people somewhere. Imagine Jesus is speaking to you. You are blessed.

It’s not that simple, though, is it? As Jesus moves through the crowd, everyone will hear how each is blessed. And that might be easier to hear for some than others. Imagine, for example, that Jesus looks at someone and says blessed are the peacemakers and that someone is a Roman soldier. What makes them a peacemaker is their self, not their title or place in society. Remember the story of the faith-filled centurion?

And what about those who are poor in spirit when they hear Jesus tell those who are so strong in spirit and in following Jesus that they will be persecuted for it, that they are blessed? To both he says, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

I think there’d be some discussion about that, and I think Jesus would say that heaven isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s the journey of our life. That’s why Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is near. When we authentically live out the blessing we are, the good from which we come, we connect with God’s love and grace that’s in each of us. That’s what Jesus is all about. Wherever we are on our journey, we are blessed and that blessing connects us with God, in ourselves, in each other and in creation.