Pastor Steve Mechem
Matthew 5:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I am honored to be the Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of St. Louis, Missouri. A great church with a great story.
And you are privileged to be members, or participants, or visitors of Second Baptist Church.
If you take a moment to look at the signage outside the building, you discover that this is not only Second Baptist Church, but this is The Sanctuary of the Beatitudes at Second Baptist Church.
The sanctuary of the Beatitudes was designed as a space of worship and contemplation. You walk through the doors and are immediately drawn to the cross that appears to hang in space. The simple design of the room leads your eyes from the cross to the windows. There is not a lot of stuff sitting around to draw your attention away the cross and the windows.
The first window is a welcome window in which a 45 five foot tall Jesus invites you to seek first the Kingdom of God.
The rest of the windows are based on Scripture texts lifted from the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, from the beatitudes. The verses are supplemented with art work that help interpret the meaning of the words of the text.
Now, as the pastor of the Sanctuary of the Beatitudes, and as members and participants in the Sanctuary of the Beatitudes, it probably makes sense for us to strive to understand the meaning of the verses in the windows.
What does “Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” even mean?
Or, what kind of logic is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted?” Think about it- Happy are you when you are sad for you will be happy again! Why not just skip the sad and stay happy all the time?
Or, how do the humble inherit the earth? The way the world seems to work, the meek are trampled by the narcissists and megalomaniacs.
And on and on it goes.
It behooves us to think about the words Jesus speaks and to strive to understand what they might mean for us.
Last night at the Talent Show, I asked you to tell me what you thought of the Beatitudes and you gave me some amazing insights.
You told me that the Beatitudes are a representation of God’s continuous shower of blessings.
And you told me that the Beatitudes provide guiding principles for life.
And you told me that the beatitudes are words of God which we should all follow so that we might be examples to one another.
You described each beatitude as a beautiful message from God that speaks hope, love, peace, grace into the world.
You told me that The Beatitudes are an insight into kingdom values and give examples of Kingdom living.
You suggested to me that in the Beatitudes, Jesus is re-imagining a new application of the Torah for his followers.
You said the Beatitudes represent attitudes which allow us to follow the path of Jesus.
You also said the Beatitudes are big-picture guidelines for how a society can experience peace and love.
You suggested that the Beatitudes are reminders of how to be my better self.
You hoped that the beatitudes carry God’s assurance of great rewards after the struggles here.
You described the beatitudes as a multi-dimensional compass for human north.
You said that the beatitudes call us to do what they say when we figure out what they mean
And you told me that the beatitudes mean there is a place for all of us.
Other folks have had plenty to say about the beatitudes.
Philip Yancey refers to the beatitudes as dangled promises.
Our friend Clarence Jordan says they are the stairway to the kingdom.
New Saint Oscar Romero declares that the church’s only option is the beatitudes.
And Freud, and others, say the beatitudes are evidence of Jesus’ imbalance. They are a recipe for masochism.
I have always thought of the Beatitudes as conditional- literal if, then sentences.
If I am hungry and thirsty for God, then I will be filled, therefore, I am blessed.
I have always thought of the Beatitudes as conditional, about conditions in our lives, poverty, mourning, timidity, yearning and how those conditions play out as we trust God.
Last spring, the Sunday School class I teach was looking at the book, The Day the Revolution Began by N.T. Wright. He wrote a couple of paragraphs about the Beatitudes that really struck me.
Wright suggests that the Beatitudes, rather than being about situations and circumstances are about personalities. He says, “these are the kind of people through whom the kingdom will be launched.”
Again, he writes, “When God wants to sort out the world God doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the broken, the justice hungry, the peacemakers, the pure-hearted and so on.”
The Kingdom is made up of folks who understand their spiritual need. They know they don't have it all together but they know they long for a kingdom of grace.
The Kingdom is made up of people who mourn- whose hearts break with the things that break the heart of God and find comfort in a God who delivers and redeems.
The Kingdom is for the humble, the controlled, those tamed by the spirit.
The Kingdom is filled with people who genuinely want to know God more fully and completely.
The Kingdom is populated with people who instinctively choose kindness.
The Kingdom is made up of those who are truly pure in their response to others. They are accepting, caring, welcoming, always willing to offer a hand up.
The Kingdom is full of people who desire peace and work for it.
The Kingdom is for the courageous, those so committed to God, to justice, to their fellow human being that they are willing to suffer for their convictions.
One of you told me that the beatitudes are reflections of how different people are put together into community.
Perhaps the words of Jesus aren’t so much about what happens to us or what we do, but about who we are:
We are not blessed because of our condition, we are blessed because of a decision we have made to follow Jesus.
The beatitudes are something we are, not something we do.
Pope Francis wisely said that to live the beatitudes is to go against the flow. I would only suggest that we don’t live the beatitudes, we strive to be the beatitudes.
From the Message Bible.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”