Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Great Sermon

The Beatitudes

He said:
“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 be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

                                                                                      Matthew 5:3-11

Several years ago I, along with a group of friends, embarked on a journey through what few followers of Jesus would dispute is the greatest sermon ever delivered.  At first, the plan was just to cover the so-called "beatitudes."  After spending several weeks in the beatitudes however, the foundation having been laid, I think most of us felt compelled to forge ahead.  It was almost as if we had no real choice in the matter.  So, forge ahead we did.

Over the next nearly eighteen months we battled through some of the most difficult passages in all the Bible.  I use words like "battle" and "difficult" not because the language Jesus used is difficult to comprehend, but rather because his words are so difficult to accept -- much less live out. 

Unlike most Sunday messages we hear today, there is little between Matthew Chapter 5, verse 1 and Matthew Chapter 7, verse 29, that is all that uplifting.  There is little that, even abandoning all pretense of intellectual honesty, we could twist or contort into promises of prosperity and a good life. 

Jesus does tell us not to worry and that our Father in heaven will take care of our basic needs.  Matthew 5:25-34.  He also tells us essentially that our prayers will be answered (although in my opinion these verses are often taken wildly out of context).  Matthew 7:7-12.  But most of the sermon leaves you not only scratching your head, but often wondering if Jesus is really serious.  When he says things like "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," what does he actually mean?  For that matter, what does it really mean to "love your enemies"?

While I can't speak for anyone else, I can say that for me at least our time on the mountain was one of the most, if not the most, transforming events in my spiritual life.  I will never be the same.

It is my hope, over the next year or so, to retrace some of our steps from that journey through this blog and other writing.  In the meantime, if you haven't read the Sermon on the Mount for a while it might be a good time to do so.  Take your time.  Let it sink in. 


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