Blessed

Matthew 4:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
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 those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 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. 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.

“Have a blessed day,”
says the cashier at my neighborhood grocery
and I smile at her
“You too!”

Blessed

As I walk out into the heat
of the South Florida day
I pass a fancy new car
parked next to mine
with an “I’m blessed” sticker
pressed onto the shiny bumper

Blessed

On my Facebook feed
I see posts
from friends, acquaintances, family,
excited about the blessings in their lives
new baby
new home
new job
new car

happiness
pleasure
contentment
good fortune

Blessed

Become a Better You
the book cover tells us
in the self improvement section

Your Best Life Now
we’re promised
for just $25.99

Five easy steps
to a profitable life
a prosperous life
a blessed life

And yet

Jesus stands on hill
overlooking the Sea of Galilee
he stretches out his arms
to the crowd standing below

who have come
looking for healing
searching for hope
praying for blessing

And Jesus offers them
a word
a word of blessing

Makarioi, he says
in the Greek
Blessed are…

Makarioi, he says
Fortunate are…

Makarioi, he says
To be envied are…

Makarioi, he says
Happy are…

But the words we expect to follow
makarioi
aren’t the words we hear
from Jesus’ lips

Blessed are those
whose health is secure
whose bank account is stuffed
whose marriage is solid
whose job is safe

Blessed are those
whose position is powerful
whose reputation pristine
whose appearance pretty
whose career prospering

No

Makarioi, Jesus says
Blessed are…

The poor in spirit
he says

and the people below
furrow their brows
turning to their neighbors
with a quizzical look

“Did he just say
what I think he said?”

Poor in spirit
he says
and not just poor
not just struggling,
but crouching, cowering
like a fear-filled beggar
Destitute
No resources
No prospects
No hope

Blessed?

Makarioi, he says
Blessed are…

Those who mourn
he says

and the people below
start to lean forward in disbelief
staring up at this man
who obviously
does not understand
the words he is using

The mourning
the grieving
the torn-in-pieces hearts
broken dreams
shattered lives
painfully relinquished hopes

Blessed he says
are those whose
hearts are blown open
as they grieve the loss
of someone in their life
who understood them
loved them
cared for them
supported them

Blessed?

Makarioi, he says
Blessed are…

The meek
he says
those who are mild
and gentle
and kind

And those listening below
start to laugh
“The meek!” they say
in a stage whisper
heard by all those around them

“The meek!
You mean the ones
who get walked on
the doormats
the pushovers
the spineless soft touches
who never get anywhere in this world?”

Blessed?

Makarioi, Jesus says
Blessed are…

Those who
hunger and thirst
for righteousness
he says

“Oh man,” they say,
“this guy’s off his rocker!
Hungering
and thirsting
yearning for justice?
That’s been us for years!

Trodden down
abused
oppressed
by this Roman government
that couldn’t care less about us
Are we blessed?
Is he crazy?”

Blessed?

Makarioi, he keeps saying
Digging himself even deeper
Blessed are…

The merciful
he says

People so full
of compassion and care
that they reach out in love
to those who are hurting
expecting nothing
nothing in return

This…
this gives the crowd pause
as they remember the times
they received mercy
unlooked for forgiveness
a healing word
a hand that lifted them up

And…
remembered the times
they gave mercy
and felt their own spirits
buoyed by the giving

But… blessed?

Being merciful
they think
doesn’t mean you’ll be treated
with mercy

And where
after all
is the blessing in that?

Makarioi, he continues on
Blessed are…

The pure in heart
he says
unmixed, unseparated
clean and spotless

Ah, finally, the crowd breathes out
finally, this makes sense
in a world defined by Jewish purity
a heart free from contamination of sin
that, the crowd says,
that is a blessing

But…
as these words sink into their ears
into their spirits
they become angry again.

Because
who can be that pure?
And if not that pure
then
who can be blessed?

This unattainable goal
This unachievable standard
This ridiculous, absurd, irrational
level of perfection

Blessed?

Makarioi,
he doesn’t give up
Blessed are…

The peacemakers
he says

The pacifists
the peace-lovers
those who seek harmony
who compromise
who avoid conflict
who shun battle

“The cowards”
the crowd gasps
“he calls the cowards blessed”

Then he goes even further
Makarioi, he says
Blessed are…

The persecuted
he says
Those who have been put to flight
who are being chased
hunted down
relentlessly pursued

Makarioi
he says
Blessed are those
who are disgraced
reviled
insulted
destroyed

Makarioi
he says

Blessed

“Bless you!”
we exclaim
when someone nearby sneezes

After all these years
has that blessing we’ve offered
really been a curse
all along?

Bless you!
May you be
a destitute soul
a broken heart
viewed as weak by the world
trampled by those who could care less
mocked
laughed at
as weak and spineless
and absurd

Bless you!

Blessed

In the famous words
of Inigo Montoya
“You keep using that word.
But I do not think it means
what you think it means.”

Jesus takes this word
and turns it upside down
Telling me that
sadness and weakness
and grief and insults
are a blessing

Who has the right to speak
such nonsense into my life?

Who has the right to speak
such nonsense into my life?
Such non-sense,
such anti-sense,
such gibberish
foolishness
junk

because
anyone can see that
that kind of “blessed”

it ain’t blessed

Not the way we think about
blessed

Who has the right to speak
such nonsense into my life?

Jesus stands on a hillside
overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Knowing…

Knowing
that he will soon
stand in front of

not crowds
looking for healing
searching for hope
praying for blessing

but a tribunal of judges

Knowing…

Knowing that soon he
would be lifted up on a cross

This Jesus

who left behind the glory of heaven
to become poor
with us
Living a human life
Walking our roads
Dying our death

This Jesus

who mourned our state
who cried with the bereaved
who wept over our future
even as he faced his own

This Jesus

who humbled himself
The Son of God
who became the definition
of meek
not even seeking
to save himself

This Jesus

fully divine
and fully human
who hungered and thirsted
for justice for his people
who hungered and thirsted
in his body on the cross

This Jesus

merciful and pure
who on the cross
of his agony
called out
for us to be forgiven

This Jesus

whose entire life
was one of making peace
of making wholeness
out of brokenness

This Jesus

who was reviled and pursued
betrayed and persecuted

And killed

Who has the right to speak
such nonsense into my life?

This Jesus

Makarioi
he said

Blessed

Blessed are we
when we know
that our poverty
poverty
in our wallets
poverty
in our spirits
is not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
that our grief
that our losses
that our torn-apart hearts
are not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
that our challenges
that our difficulties
are not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
that injustice and oppression
that intolerance and persecution
are not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
that our sins
that our impurity
our imperfections
are not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
that we are understood
and forgiven
by the God who
is merciful
by the God who is
the peacemaker

Blessed are we
when we know
that even our death
is not the end of the story

Blessed are we
when we know
the end of the story

When we know
that God’s love
overcomes all

Because our God
gave all
to overcome
for us

Blessed are we
when that knowledge
seeps and sinks
into every part
of who we are

Blessed are we
when that knowledge
so permeates our lives

that when we walk out
into the world
where Jesus’ words sound
like nonsense

that our lives would be
a breathing testament
to the love of God

Jesus stands on hill
overlooking the Sea of Galilee
he stretches out his arms
to the crowd standing below

who
like us
have come
looking for healing
searching for hope
praying for blessing

And Jesus offers us
a word…

Blessed

This entry was posted in Lent and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Blessed

  1. BRENT JETT says:

    Dear Pastor Hedy,  This message gave me the feeling of hope.  Thank you for helping to find a new meaning of the word, Blessed.  Be safe, happy and healthy.  JVJ

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