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Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)
- Hymn CW 562:1-3 “Jesus Paid It All”
- Jubilate Choir “Come, Christians, Join to Sing”
- Hymn CW 690 “Blest Are They”
- Hymn CW 813 “He Will Hold Me Fast”
- Hymn CW 923:1,3 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
Do you know what that little symbol is before the word “blessed” on the screen? It’s not a pound symbol anymore. It hasn’t been that for a long while. Today that venerable symbol on your old landline phone is now called a hashtag. You can use it to draw attention to a comment you make on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It can be kind of fun to jump on your Twitter account and search for a hashtag, and one of the more common hashtags is this one. #blessed. But there’s a problem with it. Check out the pictures I grabbed yesterday. (picture of a beach, college acceptance, grandkids). Do you notice something? Everyone says they’re blessed when they’re getting good things in life. It even works that way for you and me as Christians. Check this one out even quoting a Bible verse. (Wishing you a super #blessed day with no sorrow and no sadness.) You never see someone say, “I have cancer. #blessed!” Or, “I just lost my job. My family thinks I’m stupid because I go to church. I’m broke. There’s no way this wheelie is going to work out how I thought it would. #blessed!”
The world needs a realignment in the way it thinks about who is blessed and who isn’t. So Jesus begins his famous Sermon on the Mount with exactly the kind of wisdom that turns the world on its head. The Beatitudes are a series of statements that Jesus made about how to find blessedness or true happiness. It’s important to note that Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to disciples – people who already knew that the way to heaven is through faith in him. In other words the Beatitudes don’t teach us how to be saved but how the saved are to be. That’s why one pastor friend of mine calls them the “how-to- be attitudes.” As we continue to see Jesus revealed to us in this Epiphany season, we’ll find that our Savior’s sermon on the Mount reveals much about us in the process. Today we look at the beginning of that sermon, and find that blessings can be curses, and those who are #blessed, might often be seen as #cursed instead.
So who are the #blessed according to Jesus? Well, in verse four Jesus says blessed, or happy, are they who mourn. But how can you be happy if you’re mourning? Why would Jesus want to take something away from us? Think on this, what would Jesus want us lose? I think the mourning he means is mourning over ourselves. Over our sins. Jesus doesn’t want us to make excuses for the time we rolled our eyes when our parents asked for help again. Jesus doesn’t want us to laugh at the good joke we made to put down a coworker. No, those who are happy are often happy for the wrong reasons. But those who mourn over sins like these, realizing their sin and their need to be forgiven for those sins, those are the truly #blessed. Those are the ones who have what we truly need.
I like this interpretation of the blessedness of mourning, because verse four comes after verse three. Before he calls mourners blessed, Jesus said in verse three, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The picture behind the word “poor” in Greek is to “crouch” the way a beggar does. A disciple of Jesus doesn’t stand tall before God and point proudly to all the money he gives to God’s work or to all the time he gives to serve at church and in the community. No, a Christian crouches before Jesus the way the woman in this picture does. Humbly, with head bowed, empty of any pride in ourselves. The faithful disciple of Jesus realizes he could never deserve a place in a perfect heaven. And that humility before God is exactly the attitude of faith that turns us away from our natural self-righteousness and places our hope in Christ alone. And we know that it is those humble who will find their place in heavenly glory, not the proud. #blessed!
We don’t enjoy hearing about our sins but it does lead to a desire for something better. That helps us make sense of what Jesus means when he says in verse six, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” If we want lasting happiness, we find it only after emptying ourselves of pride and conceit and turning to Jesus to be filled with his forgiveness and his righteousness.
Let me give you one more word picture from the Greek here. The word Jesus used for “fill” is one you’d expect to hear at the feedlot. Cattle filled with so much feed that they are fattened, not just fed. I know this is photoshopped but this is how full Jesus says those who hunger and thirst for righteousness in him will be. So full that there are no more righteous acts we need to make for God to see us as worthy. So covered with Christ’s life that no sacrifice for sins could even be made. Seen as so perfect by Christ’s righteousness over us that we couldn’t possible want or need anything more.
We’re halfway done and I haven’t covered anywhere near just the introduction of our Savior’s sermon. But do you see why he started this way? The forgiveness Jesus offers is no use to us if we don’t think we really need it in the first place. So if you want a lasting gladness, start by mourning over your sins – not just today but tomorrow as well. Jesus speaks in the present tense here. Continue every day to hunger and thirst for the righteousness Jesus provides and you will be filled. Even if all you have is a bowl of soup and some crusty bread. #blessed indeed.
Now being filled with good food usually makes a person want to take a nap. That’s the temptation too with being filled with Jesus’ righteousness. We breathe a big sigh of relief and think now our faith can curl up in a corner somewhere and take a spiritual nap until next Sunday. But that’s not what leads to lasting happiness according to our Savior’s sermon. He tells us that those who have been filled with Jesus’ love actively share that love with others. We do this, Jesus explains in verses 5 and 7, by being “meek” and “merciful.” He says in verse 9, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Now, I don’t think it’s that difficult to step in and broker a peace between two people who are arguing with each other. But God calls you to be a peacemaker even when the arguing
is aimed at you. When the hurt has been yours. The meek and merciful peacemaker brushes off the insult with forgiveness rather than firing back with a tirade of their own. The disciple of Jesus is willing to be insulted and mocked. #blessed.
But maybe you’re thinking to yourself that if we do this we’ll become a doormat for everyone else to walk all over. Don’t worry. Jesus makes it clear that the meek are not weak; for he promises that “the meek will inherit the earth.” I’m sure Jesus had in mind the new earth that he will usher in on the Last Day, but perhaps he also had in mind this earth right now. Do you realize you have already inherited this earth? It’s true! You are a favored citizen of this place because Jesus promised to work out everything out for your good. He rules this world for the benefit of his people! For you! That’s why we can afford to let others cut in front of us at the checkout line and why we don’t have to insist on getting the biggest piece of pie. God sees what’s going on and will give us what we need. So if you must have the last word in an argument, let it be: “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” That is an attitude that leads to lasting happiness. Jesus guarantees it. #blessed!
Still, Jesus warns us that it won’t be easy for his meek disciples. Jesus says in verses 10 and 11 that we will be persecuted. That people will insult us and say all kinds of evil things against us. When that happens, what does Jesus tell us to do? Fight back? Become depressed? Despair? No, Jesus urges us to rejoice when we have to suffer for his sake because it shows that we’re on the same track as the believers in the Bible who made it to heaven, for they too suffered and were delivered. Just as our Savior suffered and was delivered.
So maybe right now that track is potholed and bumpy. Maybe there are some boulders on the path and obstacles in your way. Perhaps your life right now isn’t of the sort that you’re going to take a picture, share it with the world and call it #blessed. But if you’re persecuted for faith, consider the blessing of faith that brought the persecution on. If you’re insulted, falsely accused, or harassed as a follower of Christ realize how blessed you are to be a follower of Christ. The world doesn’t see it but our Savior does. We do. #blessed.
So this morning as you hear your Savior’s sermon and look at your life, how blessed are you? Happy are those who are sad and hungry…for Jesus fills us with forgiveness. Happy are the meek and merciful…for we will be shown mercy. And happy are they who suffer for Jesus’ sake…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And all this because we have a God who is great and gracious. So live your blessed life. Maybe it will never be Instagram worthy and maybe others just won’t understand. But we know what Jesus says. We know what Jesus did. We are the ones who are #blessed. Amen.