With the "foolishness of the cross" in God's upside down kingdom still ringing in our ears from yesterday's reading, we now hear Jesus begin his Sermon on the Mount with a list of "blessings," or beatitudes, that can be at once unsettling and grace-filled. Unsettling if we read them as imperatives: "Try to be poor in spirit; try to be meek; be thirsty for righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, and be a peacemaker." All are worthy imperatives, but when we see how far we fall short of these ideals, the blessed beatitudes become burdensome.
But the word of grace is that these blessings are a surprising glimpse of the kingdom of heaven; they are, says Mary Hinkle Shore, "a statement of the world turned upside down, where those who mourn are comforted rather than abandoned or merely pitied, where those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are satisfied, not ignored or shouted down, where the meek inherit the earth rather than being ground into the dust."
That may be great news for some and troubling news for others. Being poor of spirit may sound pitiful to those puffed up by their own knowledge. Being merciful might sound horribly weak to those bent on revenge. But for those who mourn, the promise of God's comfort is an oasis of peace. For those who are pure of heart, God will surely be near.
Make us instruments of your mercy and peace, O God. Make us thirsty for your righteousness and hungry for your kingdom. Where people mourn, help us to bring comfort in your name. Amen.
Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 "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.