Sermon: Blessed

October 29, 2017: All Saints Sunday
Matthew 5:1-12

I’ve had a set of teary moments this week. The first came on Tuesday, when Momi gave me a couple of envelopes which people had left to sponsor me in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser (see news coverage here). I was so moved by the generosity.

And the envelopes, with their checks or cash donations, kept coming. Each one brought another tear to my eyes. So yesterday I went out to walk, wearing a pair of bright yellow strap-backed shoes with block heels, incredibly moved by the generosity of this church.

Friends, we got a trophy. We brought in the largest dollar amount for an individual walker.

So I’m tearing up again right now.

Blessed are those who make their pastor cry. For the right reasons, anyway.

Jesus didn’t include that one among his beatitudes, but I think he might approve.

But let’s think some about what it means to be “blessed,” here at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Because some of these blessings seem very strange.

More than one person at our Bible Studies this week noticed that the very first one is rather odd. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Doesn’t that mean that they’re weak in faith? Why would Jesus, who encouraged a strong faith, want to praise those whose faith was poor?

But is blessing the same as praise?

We tend to speak as if it is. “I am blessed,” we say, when something good has happened to us. We get a new job, and “I am blessed. We make a new relationship, or have a new baby, or the grandchildren come to visit, and “I am blessed.” We look up into the clear blue sky and sigh with wonder and say, “I am blessed.”

And we are. In that moment, in that sentence, we truly appreciate the wonders of God.

Jesus, however, had something a little different in mind. Blessing, here, refers to the active intervention of God because of the situation the people are in. When your spirit is filled, God is there, for certain – but God does not have to do anything to fill it up. You are already filled.

When your spirit is empty, when you are in the depths of sorrow, when your humility comes from others’ disregard, when you look for fair treatment and it doesn’t come to you: that is when God comes to comfort you. To strengthen you. To promise you a better future. To bless you.

Lance Pape writes, “Jesus is not insisting that we become people who starve to see justice done (v. 6) – I suppose you either do or you don’t. What he is saying is that such people are blessed of God. God looks upon such people with favor. God’s eye is on them; they will be happy in the end. This, says Jesus, is the way things are.”

With these beatitudes, Jesus rejected a common idea of his time (and ours), that God’s favor can be discerned in worldly success. Those with wealth, power, and high regard might be particularly blessed – but not necessarily. The people God cares for the most are the people most in need of God’s care.

The people God cares for the most are the people most in need of God’s care.

The beatitudes do not give us a blueprint for how to live as blessed people. While some do offer some guidance for our lives and behavior as Christians – humility, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking are certainly virtues to strive for – mostly, these are descriptive. They come to us as comfort. These virtues came with small rewards in Jesus’ day, and it’s not much different in ours. Acclaim goes to the proud. Mercy comes from the merciful, but there’s no assurance they’ll receive it back. The pure in heart may be scorned. The peacemakers are derided, and the warmongers praised.

Jesus says that God is with you, and will be with you, and God’s purpose is to reverse the world.

Further, says Jesus, the blessings of God are with you at your worst, in your deepest need. When your soul is depressed, when your sadness overwhelms, when you can’t get a break, when your faith or fairness or generosity are met with hatred, then God is with you.

And God will reverse the world.

Today we remember those who lived the best they knew, who loved the best they could, and who know now the fullness of the blessings of God, how the world is truly reversed. In our sorrow, know that God is comforting and blessing us. And in our sorrow, know that God’s love is so great as to receive all into the realm of heaven.


Listen to the Recorded Sermon

The recorded sermon will vary to some degree from the prepared text. 

Photo credit: The prize for most donations through an individual participating in the YWCA’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. Photo by Eric Anderson.

Categories Sermons | Tags: , , , | Posted on October 29, 2017

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