Mathew 5: 1-12
May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Recently whenever I get a few minutes to relax in front of the television there always seems to be a program on about food. But if you are like me trying to loose a bit of the Christmas added poundage this isn’t what you want to se. The rest of my family love to watch them all, from ‘Come dine with me’ to ‘Ready steady cook’ There are dozens of celebrity chefs from the rather lovely Nigella Lawson to grumpy Gordon Ramsey, but if I had to choose one to watch then my favourite would have to be Jamie Oliver. I love the almost evangelical sense of missionary zeal which he brings to the kitchen in his efforts to reform our culinary habits and in particular the importance he places on using the right ingredients to get the result we are looking for.
But just think back to that wonderful passage from the gospel of Mathew that we have just heard, we know the passage as the ‘Beatitudes’ and they come right at the start of the most famous sermon of all, the ‘Sermon on the mount’, and what Jesus seems to be doing is giving the ingredients, not to make a meal, but to make a perfect Christian. The Beatitudes aren’t a set of instructions or rules such as the ‘Ten Commandments’ but they describe the necessary ingredients that go into creating every Christian and as such we need to look at them very carefully, and try and put them in today’s context. The modern translation in our weekly sheet uses the word ‘happy’ but I prefer the more traditional word of ‘blessed’ as the descriptive word.
So let’s examine the Beatitudes one by one:
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I don’t think Jesus was saying you have to be depressed to get into heaven and I don’t think he was saying rich people can’t get into heaven either. Perhaps what Jesus is saying when he says; you have to be poor in spirit, is that you have to be poor as a state of mind, not seeking wealth and power for their own sake but to be content with the gifts that God has given you, and realise that all that you have, you have by the Grace of God, and be grateful to him for what you have and for whom you are. Today we might say: Happy are the people who know they need God, they will go to heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. There is no doubt in my mind that God comforts the bereaved, but you could hardly call them happy. Perhaps what Jesus is saying is more to do with those who grieve over the state of the World, and the sinfulness of the people in it. Today we might say: Happy are those who worry about the state of the world; God will comfort them.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. If the ‘Age of Empires’ has taught us anything it’s that mighty empires built on bloodshed pass away and are forgotten, but the ordinary people are left to continue what they have always done raise and feed families and get along with their neighbours in peace and prosperity. Today we might say: Happy are those that are humble; God will give them what he has promised.
Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Righteousness is upright behaviour; living the way God wants us to’ and God is telling us it is as important to us as food and drink. Today we might say: Happy are those who want to please God; God will give them all they need.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. This is aimed at those of us who allow ourselves to bear a grudge. Today we might say: Happy are those who forgive others; God will forgive them.
Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. The Jews at the time thought the liver was the seat of our emotions, and the heart was the location of our will, therefore Jesus is asking us to be single minded in our quest for salvation. Today we might say: Happy are those who do not stray from the path; they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. This simply means the same today as it did then. Down the centuries, the teaching of Jesus has rebuked those who resort to violent solutions to solve their problems. Today we might say: Happy are those that work for peace; God will call them his children.
Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The message is to disregard all those who would try to lead you from the narrow path; do good at all costs. Today we might say: Happy are those who are attacked for doing good; they too will go to heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. The way to happiness is not to avoid trouble, when people mock or sneer at you for being a Christian, ignore them, don’t let them get to you; they are actually doing you a huge favour! Today we might say: Happy are you, when people make fun of you and tell lies about you because you try to live like Jesus has told you to; be very happy when this happens, you will be richly rewarded in heaven.
So here we have, then, the ingredients to make the perfect Christian. Take time to examine the recipe that you are made from, but bear in mind the opposite of being ‘Blessed’ is to be ‘Cursed’.
Christianity is not a scheme to reduce stress, lose weight, advance one’s career, or preserve one from illness. Christian faith is a way of living based on our belief that meekness is the way of God, that righteousness and peace will finally prevail, and that God’s future will be a time of mercy and not cruelty. So blessed are you who live this life now, even when such a life leads to ridicule, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.