Sunday, February 2, 2014

To Be or Not To Be . . . Blessed (Matthew 5:1-12)

I have been broke . . . poor . . . and, I found no blessing in it.  I have experienced the death of people who I loved deeply . . . I have mourned . . . and, I found no blessing in it.  I have been endured situations in which I was scared . . . fearful . . . threatened . . . or even meek . . . and, there was no blessing in that.  I have been hungry and thirsty . . . scape the bottom of the peanut butter jar hungry . . . and, I did not feel blessed.  What is this blessedness that Jesus speaks about?

In my life I have tried to practice the act of mercy . . . the act of forgiveness . . . only to be taken advantaged of and hurt by those I have shown mercy towards.  Where was the blessing in that?  I have tried to be pure in heart . . . to trust others . . . to love completely and with no strings attached, only to have my heart stepped on, mauled, and generally abused.  This is blessing?  I have tried to be a peacemaker . . . to work for justice . . . to seek reconciliation . . . and, I have been attacked, called names, and ridiculed.  Where is the blessing in this?  I have known persecution . . . felt the sting of revenge . . . been slandered . . . this is not a blessing.  What is this blessedness that Jesus speaks of?

What is this blessedness that Jesus speaks of in our scripture reading this morning?  I do not think that I am the only one who goes down this list of “blessings”, scratching my head, and wondering what in the world does Jesus mean when he calls these blessings.  Apparently Jesus has a whole different understanding of blessing than most of us do.

When I think of being blessed . . . well, I think of things that make me feel good . . . things that make me feel happy . . . things that make me feel appreciated and wanted.  When I think of being blessed I think about receiving something that I really wanted . . . or of having great luck . . . of having things go my way.  I think of blessing as being a positive that makes me feel good, not something negative that seems to make me suffer.  As I listen to the things of blessing in Jesus’ words, I do not hear a whole bunch of feel good sort of things.

 Lately we have been in the award season on television.  There have been the Golden Globe awards . . . the Grammys . . . the People Choice awards . . . the Country Music awards . . . and, soon, the Oscars.  And, with the awards circuit we have been able to witness a whole bunch of people of all walks of life in the entertainment industry stand before us and proclaim how thankful they are that God has blessed them . . . blessed them with talent, good looks, money, beautiful spouses and, great lives.  Who among us would not agree that this truly sounds more like “blessing” than what Jesus is talking about.  Isn’t that what we think about when we think of “blessing”?

Sure it is!  But, you know what?  Jesus is right.  Jesus is not speaking about happiness . . . he is not speaking about people, places, or things that make us happy.  Blessing does not come from emotional bliss or good fortune . . . even though those are nice things to have in one’s life.  Those are not the marks of blessings . . . shoot, even bad people . . . evil people . . . have those things.  No, blessing is something deeper . . . something more intimate . . . and, something that we can choose to have in our own lives if we want it.  Blessing comes from being in an intimate relationship with God.

Jesus tells us that we are to have a relationship with God . . . to love the Lord, our God, completely.  That is our first charge . . . to know and love the Lord completely.  To realize that we need God.  To trust God . . . that God will take care of all of our needs . . . and, to know that God desires us to be who God created us to be.  Out of this intimate relationship with God we want to please God by doing God’s will . . . we want to love . . . love God and beyond to others.  In that relationship with God we find blessing.

 When I was poor . . . I still had my relationship with God.  When I was mourning . . . I still had God in my sorrow.  When I was meek . . . God was still there.  When I was hungry . . . God was there.  When I practiced mercy, peacemaking, and purity . . . when I was persecuted for doing so . . . I still had my relationship with God.  True, life sucked . . . life was hard . . . and, who do you think caught all of my complaining, whining, and pity?  God . . . God did because we have a relationship . . . through thick and thin, God stuck with me.  God did not abandoned me like so many others do when things start to get rough or go bad.  God loved me no matter what . . . and, I was blessed.

And, I am blessed.

Because I am blessed I cannot help but to be blessing to others.  That is what Jesus also told us that we were to be about if we were going to be his followers.  Jesus expects us to love others because we experience the grace and love of an intimate relationship with God.  We love because we are loved.  Thus we are to go out into the world and be those “blessings” that Jesus is speaking about . . . we are to be merciful even though the world around us doesn’t care one iota about mercy . . . we are to be pure in heart even though the world seems to mock purity . . . we are to be peacemakers even though the world has no room for peace . . . and, we are to expect that we will be persecuted in following the example of Jesus.  We are to stand by others, just as God has stood by us.  It is in the relationship that the “blessing” is found.

 Unfortunately we get our understandings of “blessing” mixed up and confused.  I am blessed not because of the house I live in . . . not because of the money I have in the bank . . . not because of all the toys I own.  I blessed because of the relationships I have in which I am loved for who I am by another.  The blessing comes in the relationship.

Jesus was and is always about the relationship . . . relationship with God . . . relationship with others.  When it is about the relationship it does not matter if you are wealthy or poor, stuffed to the gills with food or hungry . . . God will stick by you through thick and thin.  God will stick by you because God loves you for who you were created to be . . . God’s child.  Nothing you can do can ever separate you from the love of God.  Once you enter into that relationship with God you are blessed and will always be blessed.

But . . . and in this there is always a “but” . . . it is always up to us as individuals.  To be or not to be blessed . . . that is up to us.  Amen.

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