Blessed are they who have lost something or someone.
You know, if we’ve heard this passage many, many times -- as many of us have -- the gift of it is that we can hear different emphases each time, depending on where we are in our lives.
I think, that in this, Jesus’ Inaugural Address (he’s only said about 5 one liners up to this point, but now he’s about to go on for 2 chapters). A few short verses before this, and we see that he has indeed begun his ministry -- he’s called his disciples and he’s begun healing multitudes of people and casting out demons. But now he stops that, climbs up a mountain side so that everyone can see and hear him, and he begins preaching. And in this, Jesus’ State of the Union Address, he is drawing the whole community of disciples together through a common experience of loss, it seems to me. Everyone has experienced grief and loss at some level.
Blessed are those who have lost something, those who mourn: he flat out says it too.
But those who are poor in spirit, they’ve lost something too. They’ve lost hope, they’ve lost that spark, they’ve lost the twinkle in their eye and the pep in their step. I saw ‘Selma’ this week on MLK Day in fact, and I was reminded again of the hundreds of thousands of African Americans who had been beaten down by racism for so long that that spirit -- if it’s not lost altogether -- is certainly
(It’s amazing to pause for a moment and consider this sermon of Jesus inspired so many through the Civil Rights era, and many other critical moments in history, right up to today...)
Do you ever feel poor in spirit? Are you ever feeling washed up and out of hope? Jesus calls you blest, even in your state of loss and grief. Blessed are those who have lost their spirit, their joy, their imagination and their dream. Christ has a word for you!
Those who are meek, have lost something too. They’ve lost power. They’ve lost their place in line. They’ve lost their seat and their say at the table. Perhaps they never had it. But they are blessed, according to Jesus. Those who are at the margins have Christ at their side. Those who are on the edge of poverty, living paycheck to paycheck, no time to even get their voice into the mix because they’re just trying to pay the rent, feed their kids, help them with homework, and then collapse to bed in order to do it all over again the next day. Something has definitely been lost, and yet Christ calls them blessed.
And those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are longing for the world and for themselves too to synch up words and actions. That’s what righteousness is. When you say one thing and do another your heart is divided. But when you are righteous, when your words and actions line up and your heart is pure, God smiles and calls you blessed. But those who hunger and long for this state of things are called “blessed” as well! There is blessing simply in the “longing for”!
If you simply desire and pray for the world and for yourself to be pure heart, righteous, peaceful, you are called “blessed” by Jesus!
Let’s spend our time longing for peace, righteousness, mercy in our world and in our hearts! [pause]
The sermon goes on -- there are more who have experienced great loss -- those who are persecuted, those who are made fun of for their beliefs and their practices, those who go to church (like us), and those who don’t go to church -- those who are reviled. The losses here are immense. If you’ve ever been made fun of, you know the sense of loss that comes with it. Youth are terrified of this and driven almost completely by it. Rejection is an incredible loss. We all want so badly to be accepted at some level, into some kind of community. And there is deep, abiding pain, when we experience rejection, ridicule, peer pressure, bullying.
Well Jesus has a word -- and a community -- for those who get made fun of in the cafeteria line, in the locker room, on the bus, and into adulthood -- Jesus calls them blessed, even in the loss they’ve experienced.
This in itself is profound -- that God would name us blessed in those moments that the world only sees a loser. [slowly] This in itself is enough to carry us through our darkest days. This in itself is enough -- this strong word of God -- carried those marchers from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. Over the bridges of hatred and discrimination and violent abuse. This strong word of God -- “You are mine; and you are blessed” -- is in itself enough to bring us through our troubled times.
But I want to connect this word “blessed” back to the Old Testament: You remember God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah? “I will bless you to be a blessing.” Do you remember that?
And we saw a few months ago, when we read this text, that blessing is not associated with the world’s view of success -- Abraham and Sarah, we learned were doing pretty well in the world’s eyes -- they had lands and cattle and employees and businesses. But God didn’t name them as blessed until after they gave up their faith in all that, and went to a new land.
Blessing doesn’t have to do with wealth and prestige, it has to do with being in a relationship -- a right relationship with God and a right relationship with the world.
So when Jesus calls us blessed, when we’re down and out, when we’ve lost, Jesus is inviting us to connect, to build community with those around us, who are hurting as well. (I think this theme of community is so deeply imbedded in Matthew’s gospel. What it means to be church.)
I heard a funny story again recently about this wacky “rabbi” living in Jerusalem who likes to have people over to his home and teach them, and who believes -- flat out -- that he has all the answers to life’s problems. One of his answers is this though -- “If you’re feeling sad and hopeless about your life, look around and find someone else who’s in a tough spot. Help them out. And I promise you, I promise you, I promise you, you’ll feel better.” [pause and repeat (?)]
Blessed...to be a blessing. Blessed are the poor in spirit...to be a blessing for others who are poor in spirit. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...to be a blessing for others who hunger and thirst for righteousness. [pause] We are lost looking at others who are lost. Broken to be with others who are broken. Hopeless but sitting right next to others who feel hopeless.
In our wounded-ness we find healing, in our sorrow--when we look around and open our eyes and our ears--we find joy...through Jesus Christ, who invites all the downtrodden into lives of discipleship and service -- which is always wrapped up in community. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are you when something that matters in your life is lost. God is with you through it all, and not everything is lost...for in your darkest, saddest, most depressing moments, Christ is handing you the kingdom! Christ is offering you the hope of the ages, the life of the universe, the joy of Lord. You are blessed too. AMEN.