“The Lord Bless You and Keep You”

Jun 26, 2022

The Scripture

Matthew 5:1-12

5 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘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.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

The Sermon

This morning we turn to another chapter of Kate Bowler’s book, Good Enough to the chapter titled: “Blessed”. You won’t be surprised to see that the very title of her chapter leads us to the Sermon of the Mound in the book of Matthew. Now this image doesn’t look like much of a mound, but I liked this picture of the image of Jesus. Anyway, the sermon of the mound is a series of teachings that expand through three Chapters in Matthew, chapters 5,6, and 7. In a general sense these sermons are known as moral teachings, you know what I mean here basically it’s about how to live your life as a Christian. And this is the thing that is interesting, and we must not miss this point…all of the teachings that are contained in the Sermon on the Mound, teachings such as being the salt and light in the world and the fulfillment of the law, the discourse about murder, adultery, on and on and on. Of all the teachings, Jesus begins by talking about being blessed! Let’s hear now from Matthew 5:1-12 which is titled “The Beatitudes” or blessedness!

Now I can easily say there are eleven sermons packed into these twelve verses. Each verse has so much to say. But instead of focusing on each way we are blessed; I’m going to take Kate Bowler’s lead and talk more generally about being blessed and what that meant for the disciples and the people gathered around Jesus hearing these words for the first time, and for us today.

I want to begin by looking from Kate Bowler’s perspective, she starts out by making this bold statement, “We don’t live in a culture of blessings. We live in a culture of #Blessed.” Interesting, isn’t it? We find ourselves again, yes, we find ourselves back to social media and the internet. For those of us who still are trying to figure out what this hashtag thing means (and I’m still working on it), it is a way to use one word and in this case the word blessed and connect it to anyone else who has used that word in a posting or who is searching for that word. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to think about how often and in what ways this #blessed is used.

Kate Bowler then makes a dramatic twist in her view when she says  “…perhaps, that Jesus turned the idea of what makes us blessed upside down.” She’s got something here. Let’s explore what these words meant to those hearing it for the first time, and why we might be seeing #blessed in an upside-down way. William Barclay’s commentary helps us greatly here. He says “the beatitudes (blessings) are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but vague prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is. The blessedness which belongs to Christians is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exist here and now. It is not something into which Christians will enter it is something into which they have entered.” Do you hear what he is saying here? These people he is speaking to are blessed with anything and everything they bring with them to this very moment, standing or sitting before Jesus. So, let’s connect this to our everyday lives right now.

Kate Bowler helps us connect to this upside-down message from Jesus by saying, “blessed are you when you are at the end of your rope. When you are exhausted and despairing. When tears are your food, morning, and night. When your stomach grumbles and your mouth is dry. Blessed are you who forgives the person who never said sorry and who definitely didn’t deserve your forgiveness. You who are ridiculed and humiliated, left out and left behind. The timid and the soft-spoken. The one who works toward peace instead of the easy road of vengeance.” I love what she says after this litany of blessings, and maybe some of you relate to one or more of these situations. If you are like me, you don’t always feel very blessed! And I think that is why Kate Bowler says, these beatitudes should make us feel uncomfortable! Why, you might ask? Because God is celebrating who we try so hard not to be. Dependent. Needy. Desperate.

You see, it doesn’t feel so good to be dependent, needy or desperate. But this is the gem of this passage; being dependent, needy or desperate means we need someone else to help us, to join with us in life, to lift us up when we sink down. Kate says it more eloquently by saying this, Jesus was looking into the eyes of those who felt like the misfits. And then used the everyday experiences of weeping, hungering, thirsting, and suffering as a badge of belonging. And if we are thinking about this past week and all the angst we are feeling, Jesus is still looking into the eyes of so many people who are suffering. Women who are facing unwanted pregnancies, women who are lost and don’t know what to do. Men who turn away from children they have fathered, poverty, lack of medical care. Jesus is in the weeds with us. He’s not standing afar pointing a finger in judgment. Remember Jesus is always, always about love. So, I ask you, who do we belong to?  Yes, we belong to Jesus Christ! William Barclay sums it all up by saying, “the world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys.  A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ.”  Let me end my reading Kate Bowler’s blessing…. Amen