In Christ, God disrupts the way things are going on in our world and transforms them to the way things are to be in God’s world.
a few blessings from Matthew 5:1-12
For the last ten weeks or so I’ve been writing in this gratitude journal that was given to me by my dear friend Darlene. I’ll admit, when she gave it to me I didn’t really know what to make of it…other than I loved the title. "Okay Fine! I'm Grateful!"
But once I started writing in it, things began to change. Taking a few moments in the morning to jot down the things I’m grateful for has helped to switch my default position of griping and complaining to one of being mindful and present in all of life.
This simple daily practice has also opened my eyes to see all that God is doing in my life. In Christ, I have access to all the abundance of everything ever created. For many, this can be hard to understand muchless see. That’s why living in gratitude is important. It keeps us always on the lookout to what God is revealing to us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...who are meek...who hunger and thirst for righteousness...who are the merciful...pure in heart... peacemakers,...Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Read Matthew 5:1-12
The beatitudes, as they are commonly known in the church, are tiny, two-part affirmations that sum up something evveryone knows about living the good life. "Blessed are those who floss, for they will have good teeth.” But up here, on this mountainside, Jesus does something different. His blessings are equated with things people worked hard to avoid – poverty, suffering, hunger, and persecution. I imagine those who listened, did so in shock as their world was turned upside down.
As far as we’re taught, blessings given are to those who succeed. To be poor in spirit or meek will get you nowhere in a culture that is grounded in competition and fear. But to Jesus, who sees the world with God’s eyes and loves others with God’s heart, he blesses those who know what it’s like to be excluded and the ones who don’t make it to the top of the ladder. His blessings may shock some, yet they give hope to all. For the way things are…is not the way they will always be.
Barbara Brown Taylor describes it like a Ferris Wheel, where “those who are swaying at the top, with the wind in their hair and all the world’s lights at their feet, will have their turn at the bottom, …while those who are down there right now, where all they can see are candy wrappers in the sawdust, will have their chance to touch the stars…This is simply the truth about the way things work, pronounced by someone who loves everyone on that wheel.”
I am grateful to know that no matter how far I stray from doing what God has called me to do, I’m never beyond the boundaries of God’s love for me in Christ. I believe the same is true about whatever mess you find yourself in. No matter how many times the world drags you down, God always draws you up?
Let us count it a blessing that God sees our real worth no matter how much money we make or how far down the ladder we have fallen. God does not focus on our poverty or deficiencies but on the wealth we produce loving and caring for one another. Blessed are you who takes the time to be present when a friend really needs you to be there; or you who stands up for someone being picked on at school, for you are worth your salt in the kingdom of heaven.
I count it a blessing that God sees through the costumes and masks we think we have to wear to make it in this world. I am grateful that God loves me just as God made me. Real. Divine. True. We can lie to ourselves and try to fool the world, but we cannot hide or conceal ourselves from God who knows the secrets of the heart. And loves us anyway.
So blessed are you who strive to do good, you who seek to cooperate instead of compete or fight, for you will be called first to sit on the lap of God in heaven.
So how blessed are we? Very blessed said Jesus, who reveals our future to us by giving us a foretaste of it today; blessing us so that we can go and bless others in his name.
Why is this important? Because the world blesses those who build their fortune and fame on the back and expense of others. The world idolizes power and strength, it loves to flex its muscle with acts of aggression, war and violence. It promises salvation through favoritism and consumerism, bought by those who can afford it. Enslaving others who cannot.
In Christ, God disrupts the way things are going on in our world and transforms them to the way things are to be in God’s world. Those who are last will be first. Those who hunger will feast. Those who are persecuted will live forever in the kingdom of heaven. That’s how it’s done by the God who has loved us and blessed us from all eternity.
In Christ, God reveals the truth about who God is, and who we are in God’s eyes and heart. Through him, God turns our world upside down to help us see the world and ourselves differently so that we might know wherever hunger is, wherever pain or injustice is inflicted, or tears are shed, God is there…making some kind of blessing.
So let us count it a blessing that our God saves us when this world fails us? And that God loves us enough never to give up on us? Blessed are those who understand this and invest their life in imitation of Christ, for they will be worth more than any earthly treasure.
I invite you to take the time each day to count your blessings. Write down in a journal or note pad all that God is doing for you, out of great love for you. It might be something as simple as a good night sleep, or to have a great cup of coffee to wake up to. It might gravity, puppies, health insurance, comfortable shoes, or a Super Bowl championship. The more you practice living in gratitude, the more you realize it’s easier to count your blessings than it is to resist them.
I know there will be things that happen that will make it seemingly impossible to be grateful for. It would be remiss of me not to address the tragic death of Kobe and Gigi Bryant, and the seven others onboard that helicopter which crashed a few miles away from here. Where is the silver lining in that?
During an interview at Friday’s Laker game, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers said something to the affect that Kobe had a special way of uniting different races, ethnicities, and social classes. He did it by giving us hope when things seemed hopeless. In a single game Kobe could transform enemies into friends, and bring us together as one family. “Even in his passing,” Flea said, “Kobe continues to unite us.” I was grateful to hear that, and to see the truth in his words.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I believe this to be true.
“The way things are… is not the way they will always be, and no one gets to stay at the top of the wheel forever,” writes Barbara Brown Taylor. “What goes round, comes round. Neither the going up nor the coming down is under our control as far as I know, but wherever we happen to be the promise is the same. Blessed are you who lose your grip on the way things are, for God shall lead you in the things that shall be.”
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Home By Another Way. (Lanham: Cowley, 1999) pp. 51-56.