Reader: “One day as he saw the crowds gathering,”
Response: “Jesus began to teach them.”
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
“God blesses 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. 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.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Throughout the Bible, the word “righteous” or “righteousness” often appears. Some people view the word in a pejorative sense; he is such a righteous Joe! A few years back in the 1990’s, it also had another connotation in the phrase, “You are a righteous dude!” which meant you were really cool, with it, groovey, hip . . . oh what beautiful and thoughtful expressions of our language. We have such a profound way with words! In the passage you just read, Jesus has described righteousness in terms of a way to live, an attitude to embrace in terms of moral behavior, a mindset to adopt in terms of how we live and think in relation to others. Jesus’ half brother, James, works with this same idea in the New Testament book bearing his name. Paul works with righteousness in terms of God’s saving acts that put us in a right relationship to God. The righteousness here described by Jesus is the living out of the righteousness described by Paul. In summary, as described by Jesus: 1) The poor refers to the physically poor. They have recognized their wealth comes not from anything material, but in their trust in God making them very blessed. 2) The mourning can come from any number of sources. The comfort that results from God is not commanded by the mourner, but is the result of God’s promise to comfort. Again, this is a person living in relationship with God. 3) This quote of Jesus comes from the Old Testament. Israel was called upon to humble themselves and trust God in their desert journey and they would inherit the Promised Land. In our case, we are not to fight for ourselves but are to trust God and we will inherit the fulfillment of his promises to us. 4) The one hungering and thirsting for righteousness is that person is striving in their own life to obey God at every point. It can also refer to that individual whose desire it is to see justice for everyone and works toward that end wanting God’s will to be done. 5) When I show mercy toward another who owes me, it demonstrates that God is working in me. Showing mercy is a mark of godliness. 6) A transparent heart before God is essential if we are to see God and have open communication. A pure heart is one that has been “purified” by the blood of Christ. God doesn’t work well with insincere, natural hearts since they are in a state of sin. 7) Those working for peace are to work for peace with God for justice, reconciliation, and righteousness in the will of God, and not as they themselves determine what is peace, justice, and righteousness. Ultimately, the one in the dispute is the one who must come to peace. 8) The “doing right” in the case of persecution, is being identified with Christ in spite of any circumstance that might arise. Persecution happened to Jesus, to his disciples, to his followers through the centuries, and most certainly does happen to you and me. It’s part of living counter-culturally as believers in Jesus Christ.
Music: “The Beatitudes” Arvo Pärt This is a little different, but beautiful!
O Thou who dwellest in our poor and shabby human life, lifting it now and then above the dominance of animal passion and greed, allowing it to shine with the borrowed lights of love and joy and peace, and making it a mirror of the beauties of a world unseen, grant that my part in the world’s life today may not be to obscure the splendour of Thy presence but rather to make it more plainly visible to the eyes of my fellow men. Let me stand today―for whatever is pure and true and just and good: for the advancement of science and education and true learning: for the redemption of daily business from the blight of self-seeking: for the rights of the weak and the oppressed: for industrial cooperation and mutual help: for the conservation of the rich traditions of the past: for the recognition of new workings of Thy Spirit in the minds of the men of my own time: for the hope of yet more glorious days to come. Today, O Lord―let me put right before interest: let me put others before self: let me put the things of the spirit before the things of the body: let me put the attainment of nobel ends above the enjoyment of present pleasures: let me put principle above reputation: let me put Thee before all else. O Thou the reflection of whose transcendent glory did once appear unbroken in the face of Jesus Christ, give me today a heart like His―a brave heart, a true heart, a tender heart, a heart with great room in it, a heart fixed on Thyself: for his name’s sake. Amen.
―from a Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, p.61