It’s funny you know, when someone asks on Boxing Day if you’ve had a good Christmas. It’s funny because Christmas is really just starting, it’s hardly over.
I say this because today’s Gospel reading is known as the Beatitudes and forms a kind of introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are not the Sermon on the Mount, as many think, just the beginning. The Sermon is one of the earliest collected portions of Matthew’s Gospels. These verses are vitally important to our understanding of Jesus and what he means to us and the world.
As we muddle through the next several Sundays of Gospel readings from Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount we will be both enlightened and challenged. Today, however, we focus on the introduction of the Sermon, as Jesus lays out his point of view in what is his first major public teaching.
Jesus says, blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted. I had a professor who asked, what’s so blessed about being in any of these groups?
That’s a difficult question because when we start to rationalize these statements we get into all sorts of tangled logic that fails to withstand the simplest of critique.
The point, I think Jesus is making, is that there is nothing in this world about these things that is blessed. But, in the kingdom of heaven, in God’s realm the people who are outsiders, perhaps even reviled and persecuted are loved and accepted.
So, do I want to spend my life having you all think nice thoughts about me? Or, do I want to spend eternity with the loving Creator? “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven….”