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Matthew 5: 1-12

Blessed Are You


Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

We know that whenever Jesus goes up on a mountain, that divine revelation is about to happen. “When he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach.” And, since He was teaching, not preaching, giving God’s promise to us, we need to hear what He’s saying as a promise-moment. This is Jesus teaching us how to live happily and be set free from whatever it is that may be holding us back. This is God’s promise to each one of us.

In the New Testament, with the Beatitudes, instead of a list of “Thou shalt not(s),” we see Jesus speaking love, peace and blessing to the people He encounters. Instead of saying “Thou shalt not,” Jesus gives to us His promises through the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a roadmap to both liberty and freedom, so we must pay attention to what God is speaking to us. These are the very heartbeat of Jesus.

Just for a moment, let’s go all the way back to Exodus 20, and contrast the New Testament Beatitudes with the Old Testament Commandments. As I have already said, in the Old Testament we see God working through a series of “Thou Shalt nots”: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” “Thou shalt not make for yourself an idol.” "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” "Thou shalt not murder. "Thou shalt not commit adultery. "Thou shalt not steal. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.” "Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's house; Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Like a marriage covenant, these are Minimum Standards given to the Israelites by God that reflect God’s desire for the Jews to “Be Holy, for I AM holy.”

In the Greek, the word for “blessed” is “makarios,” which also means “happy.” So, we can also read the Beatitudes in this way: “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, etc.” The life we live, that is to say the road of life that we’re all on, includes vision, direction, different lifestyles, and the variety of individual paths that are before us, right now. Jesus came to teach us that the blessed promise we receive from Him is that He came to set us free from enslavement and help us find our happiness, or our blessing, in the lives that we lead. 20th century American mythologist, writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell, when asked to sum it all up, said, "Follow your bliss!" I think he meant that we should seek after the deepest meaning and purpose for our lives, and follow our dreams, our vision, and desires for our lives, and set goals for ourselves that are attainable goals. So, when we hear Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” we must de-code this. Poor in spirit means the one who has put their complete dependence on God. Poor in spirit, here, means psychological, emotional and spiritual dependence on nothing but God. We are fully dependent on God because we have placed our spiritual core in our faith in God. This was the lesson of the Israelites from wandering in the desert for forty years; to be completely dependent on God. And God didn’t disappoint. There are many doors into a life of blessedness. It doesn’t depend on outward possessions, such as worldly goods or high birth. All of us may suddenly step into this life of beatitude and begin to drink of the river that makes glad the city of God. Our Lord lived this life before He described it, and He has opened the doors for each of us who hunger and thirst.

On the flip side, does our super-ego, which projects us as the center of the universe, and our arrogance and other negatives allow the Dark Side to rule us and our spiritual core? You know, “The fool has said in his heart,

“There is no God.” We may be full of vanity and self-interest, or ego-driven, arrogant, and angry, or we may be easily offended, and hurt. Or we may cry out in legitimate pain, because of some spiritual, physical or psychological wound or abuse that we may have suffered. Jesus comes to set us free from pain and abuse, which can include our own sins and arrogance, so that we might find “makarios, that is, "true happiness” through Him. We can, again, become like little children; renewing our innocence through the spilled blood of Jesus Christ, the blood that cleanses us of all sin. Jesus brings to us the blessing at whatever spiritual level it is that we meet Him: with our pain, and our need for true love, salvation, forgiveness and healing. Jesus meets us at whatever level it is that we choose to seek Him. The resurrection of Jesus Christ promises us forgiveness and our innocence restored, so that we can live in true freedom, without the fear of judgment. We can stand in wonder; free of what stands in our way—free to become our true self, re-birthed by letting the Holy Spirit clean our spiritual house. “Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

We all make mistakes, don’t we? By recognizing our sins, or in the Greek “Hamartia”, our missing of the mark, we can name our mistakes, face them, and ask God for forgiveness and then move into new and happy life. As spiritual people, we want to do the right thing, and be loving, good and forgiving, even when we do the wrong thing. Jesus says, blessed are you if you mourn over your losses and your sins, and then try to do better. If God is the God of love, we hurt God's heart when we do wrong. In Jeremiah 29, God speaks to us and says, “I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for happiness and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

The gift of tears, tears for how we've hurt ourselves and others, brings release from our regrets and then great joy in the morning. Our earthly failures can lead to anger, revenge, and death, so seek after God first and your soul will be able to live in joy and happiness! The Holy Spirit will fill you, and your spiritual core will have a kingdom-relationship with God-Spirit. THAT is true liberty and freedom. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; blessed are those who seek to be fed spiritual food, who hunger for God more than they do food. He who comes to me will never go hungry and will be satisfied with the things that, if we keep seeking, we will find.” Are you hungry for the spirit-food that God’s offering to you, right now?

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Being merciful, being able to forgive and be forgiven, is Christ’s calling to us. Mercy is our being forgiven by God for our “Hamartia”, or the missing of the mark, so that we may then forgive others. Mercy, love and forgiveness changes relationships, and in fact can change the whole world. If we look at ourselves as others might see us, it will hopefully melt the hard heart that we may have toward others, and open our heart, soul, mind, body and spirit to the love of others. To love others, we must first be able to love ourselves with a healthy love based on the un-merited grace of God; not the ego-centered selfish, arrogant love that always leads to a dead end. You know, like all of us, I've been there: and I understand that healthy, God-centered love is the direction to the road of happiness. “Happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” God loves and remembers us every day, so let’s love and remember God every day. Praying is the way we can be in God’s presence without being consumed! God refines and rakes off the dirt of sin that we carry in our stressful anxiety of our trying to make it in the world. The Holy Spirit will make peace IN yourself; and will overcome the contradictions in yourself; and clean your spiritual house so you can bring your spiritual peace to others. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” AND "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

So, beware the Dark Side that would seduce you, and destroy you. When this happens, remember that Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” So: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” In the life of every congregation, God finds a few people

who will follow Him, who just want to be near Him, just to dwell in His presence. So, tell yourself: I will pray and let God know that I seek to just dwell in God’s presence, to be near Him, not so much for teaching or a message, but just for God. It may be that the longing of the human heart to be loved for itself will be a great blessing to God’s own Great Divine Heart. Happy are those who bless God’s divine heart.

To be poor in spirit, that is, to be lowly in one’s self-estimate; to be meek, not always interested in one’s rights; to mourn for the evils of one’s own heart and for the sin and sorrow around us; to hunger and thirst after Jesus Christ, the Righteous One: these inclinations can’t buy blessedness, but to nurture them is to be blessed. On the positive side are mercy, purity, peace and willingness to suffer all things for Christ. Here, then, is Christ anticipated! Here, then, is Jesus Christ, Himself! Let Us Pray:

Jan Ekstedt MDiv.

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