St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-29-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-29-2017

Blessed Are You

Micah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today we begin our journey through Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount which is a lengthy, uninterrupted message directly from the mouth of Christ beginning here and continuing all the way through to the end of Chapter 7.

Today’s reading from the very beginning of this sermon is regularly called the “Beatitudes”, meaning simply “blessed” as each of the 9 proclamations begin with the word “blessed”.

They are, of course, quite popular; In fact they’re included in our Hymnal right along with the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed. And, just like the Commandments, the Prayer, and the Creed, a great part of their beauty is in their simplicity and brevity. And the simplicity and brevity are a big reason that many Christians have them committed to memory. In my personal experience, I know that I had to memorize all 4 of the above at one time or another throughout my early Christian education.

Yet, also just like the other three, when viewed with thoughtfulness we find that the small number of words does not diminish the vastness of meaning that is to be found in them. That is what was missing in my early education; I could recite the Beatitudes but I did not see the breadth and depth of them. So, today, I would like us, together, to pause with each one and consider just how much they have to offer us.

First, before we start into the sayings, a little lesson in language is required. Not as clear in the English translation but obvious in the original Greek, all 9 of the Beatitudes are in, what is called in the scholarly world, “unconditional performative” language; that’s a fancy way of saying they’re NOT commands, but simple statements of fact; with a promise attached. Using for example the first one, it isn’t telling us to become poor in spirit and we will be blessed; rather, it states emphatically, you who are poor in spirit are blessed; with the promise, “Yours is the kingdom of heaven”.

So let’s get started…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

Right off the bat we find difficulty in understanding what Christ is telling us. Blessed are the poor in spirit… aren’t we supposed to be full of the Spirit? Of course we are, of the Holy Spirit, that is.

This is one of those pesky translation problems. The “spirit” Jesus is talking about is what we would call “ego” and self reliance. Blessed are those who know that they are nothing and have nothing without the grace of God; they will enter the Kingdom!

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.

This one seems pretty clear. But in it we can expand our perception of “mourning” from the loss of a loved one through death to the loss of anything that diminishes fullness of life. We can mourn loss of love itself; loss of economic security; loss of health and so on. Blessed are those who suffer loss, there is comfort for them!

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.

Being meek in this case is similar to being poor in spirit but rather than raising thoughts of humbleness, it lifts the spirit of being well satisfied with having the simple needs of life. Being meek is not having a plan for worldly success; not considering deceit and violence as an option for achieving self gain; and desiring peace on earth over personal wealth and pleasure. Blessed are those who are happy with having just enough now, they will have everything!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”.

Those who desire righteousness, in this case, are not focused on self righteousness, rather they are those who hold hope for God’s will for justice and peace in the world to become the reality of the world and are working for the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Their longing is not empty hope, it will come. Blessed are those who long for the world to be a better place for all people, it will be so!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy”.

This may be the clearest statement in the Beatitudes; mercy is easy to understand. But, again, we have to remember that these aren’t commands, they are statements of fact; promises from Christ. With that in mind we have to consider “grace” and “mercy” as going hand-in-hand. Mercy is not something we give with expectation of something in return, it’s given freely as God’s mercy is given to us. Blessed are those who bless all others for they too are blessed!

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”.

This is certainly not the clearest statement in the Beatitudes. Purity in heart often raises thoughts of clearing away impure thoughts. That may well be included here, but considering Matthew’s writing later in the Gospel, we need to recognize it as single-mindedness also; as a sole focus on one God and that one God’s will. “A servant cannot serve two masters”, “one thing I do”, “one thing is needed” Blessed are those who are seeking only God, they will see God!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

Our thoughts, here, must go beyond peace as the absence of international armed conflict. That it is, but it also applies to peaceful relations among individuals, varying religious groups, races, and ethnicities. Also, notice, it is stated as an active attribute; “peace-maker” which is not the same as the passive “peaceful” or “peaceable”. Blessed are those who work for peace, they will be equal to Angels in God’s sight!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

This connects to the first Beatitude “the poor in spirit” and the fourth “who hunger and thirst for righteousness”, but it doesn’t speak of being persecuted unjustly as much as it speaks of one’s commitment and dedication to doing the work of bringing God’s right will into a greater level of importance than the ways of the world as it was then and is today. Blessed are those who do the work of God in the face of oppression, they will live in the Kingdom they help create!

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

Now, this is a tough one. Not in understanding but in enacting. It’s hard to take oppression and ridicule much less false accusations in life, even when (or especially when) it’s over something you hold so dearly in your heart, in your mind and in your soul. And as far as rejoicing in such hurtfulness, well, that might seem impossible. But the Kingdom of God is much about bringing what seems impossible into reality. And, for encouragement, Jesus offers the proof of the Prophets of old who were treated poorly in their time but are now revered. Blessed are you who don’t lose faith for the sake of being in step with this world, you are in perfect step for God’s world and the reward of entering the Kingdom is far greater than any reward this world can offer!

Again, these are not commands and they are not conditional; Jesus isn’t telling us that we will be blessed if we are X,Y, or Z. He is telling us we are already blessed because we are X,Y, or Z! And they are God’spromises made to us through Christ! Hold on to the promises, doing God’s will in this world, even when it seems fruitless, pointless, and foolish; you are already blessed because, in the end, you will be vindicated by God!



Matthew 5:1-12
5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Micah 6:1-8
6:1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
6:2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.
6:3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
6:4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
6:5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.”
6:6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm 15
15:1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
15:2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
15:3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
15:4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
15:5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,
1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1:26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,
1:29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
1:31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”