This morning, friends, you and I find ourselves in a season called “Ordinary Time”
That is the actual liturgical name for this time in the church year: Ordinary Time.
And so, last fall, we decided to spend this Ordinary Time – this season between Christmas and Epiphany on the one side and Lent on the other to explore a sermon about ordinary things given to ordinary people.
Last week, we talked briefly about the calling of a few of the disciples – ordinary people, fishermen – and how they brought others along to follow Jesus. And they followed Jesus all throughout Galilee, where he taught in synagogues and proclaimed the Kingdom of God and healed people along the way.
And the crowds kept growing and people kept talking and inviting and bringing their friends and neighbors and siblings.
And Jesus looks around at all of those ordinary people who were following him that day – at the crowds of ordinary people – and goes up the mountain just like Moses and sits down to teach them.
In what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about the faith of ordinary people. In the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7, we find Jesus using everyday, ordinary language to talk about how we should live out the laws of the Hebrew Scriptures, about how we should treat each other, about how we should share this good news we are finding. Over the course of these next few weeks, we might not always look at the sermon in the exact order Jesus did, but today we are going to start at the beginning.
And Jesus starts with what we have come to know as the Beatitudes.
A beatitude, a blessing, declares that certain people – based on their current circumstances, either are or will be blessed. Eugene Boring writes in his commentary on Matthew that “they do not merely describe something that already is, but bring into being the reality they declare.” (NIB, Vol 8, p 177) And these words are true not because of anything we have done to be in these circumstances, but because God is acting in the world, because Jesus has said it to be true. In fact, these are not even virtues or characteristics, like the fruits of the spirit, that we are supposed to strive towards or embody, they simply name the reality of real people.
Today, I want to lead you into a bit of reflection. I want to invite you, ordinary people, to find yourselves at the feet of Jesus hearing these words. I want to invite you to close your eyes and imagine yourself hearing that sermon for the first time. I want to invite you to ask where you are in this story. (NLT translation + “Blessed are”)
Blessed are those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
Blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
Where are you in these blessings?
Are you the poor? Are you mouring?
Are you the humble who are not only content with everything that you have but who are grateful for your abundance?
Are you someone who is hungering and thirsting for justice? Or the person who is showing mercy towards people who don’t deserve it?
Is your heart pure? Are you working for peace?
Are you someone who is living out your faith in such a way that people in this world turn against you because of that faith?
Then blessed are you. Blessed by God.
The question is, how are those blessings conveyed? How do we receive them?
Eugene Boring writes that these are both future promises, but they are also the lived realities of those who participate in the community of Christ. The mourning are comforted. Justice is realized. Those who seek peace find their place in the family of God.
And so we are invited not only to see ourselves as the ones who are poor or hungry for justice or mourning or merciful… as the people of God, as the Body of Christ, as the church that anticipates the Kingdom of God… we are also invited to see ourselves as ones who God uses to brings these blessings to others. This is what discipleship looks like… this is what the Kingdom looks like.
And this is why as we near the end of Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus, seated on the heavenly throne, ushering in the Kingdom of God. And he looks around at those crowds of people, those nations who are gathered once again at his feet. He looks around for the people who have done ordinary acts of faith and love and care. He looks around for the ones who have helped to usher in the Kingdom right here on earth.
Come, you that are blessed… for I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you cared for me, imprisoned and you visited me.
Church, this is our job. Our job is to be people who share God’s blessing with the world. Our job is to seek out those who are struggling and mourning, who are in pain and longing for justice. And we are to remind them they are not alone. We are to walk with them. We are to stand with them. We are to be the living embodiment of God’s will, a walking answer to the prayer that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. You and I, that is our job.
This morning, are you yearning for a blessing? Are you stuck and struggling and seeking God?
Then the good news is you are surrounded by people of faith, who are called by God to help bring about the kingdom. Thanks be to God. Amen.