What is the First Thing Jesus Teaches (according to Matthew’s Gospel)?
How to Recognize Blessedness!!
Not how to become blessed, or even to bless each other, but rather to recognize who is already blessed by God. And the import of all this is: it’s not who we necessarily think are blessed.
In our world, when we think of someone who is blessed, we most often think of someone who is powerful or famous or successful or beautiful or enviable.
But Jesus teaches us to see how God calls blessed those who are down and out, those who are distressed by their circumstances, or those who are passionate about promoting righteousness and working for peace, or those persecuted for doing the right yet unpopular thing.
Jesus urges his disciples – then and now – to look at those around us differently than the culture does. Rather than measure persons by their possessions, we are invited – nay, commanded – to see their character. Rather than merely take pity on their losses, we are invited to enter into them. Rather than judge their failings, we are invited to forgive and remind them that they are blessed by God and born for more than they’ve settled for. And rather than despise weakness, we are invited to see in it the truest point of meeting between God’s children. For God reveals God’s self to us most clearly and consistently at our places of deepest need.
God always comes where we least expect God to be in order to bless that which the world refuses to bless, to love what the world calls unlovable, and to redeem that which the world does not believe merits saving. What would it be like if we left church with new eyes, able to perceive in the needs of a neighbor not a nuisance or even something to be pitied, but rather those marks of blessedness to which we are privileged to attend?
I think if that happened, Dear Partner, our congregations would be more like the discipleship community Jesus founded all those centuries ago, fashioned by God’s grace.to be different from the world around us, to be places of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and goodness. And I think we might find others attracted to join us. Not all, mind you. There will always be folks who have a hard time recognizing that freedom comes from letting go, that strength shows itself in vulnerability, and that safety comes through trust and mutual regard.
Jesus points us to recognize that God’s kingdom isn’t a place far away but is found whenever we honor each other as God’s children, bear each other’s burdens, bind each other’s wounds, and meet each other’s needs. To be human is to be inescapably fragile and vulnerable, and it turns out that the surprising character of God isn’t to reject these things but rather to gather them all into a divine embrace.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: those who mourn, the meek, the pure in heart, as well as those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and who are persecuted on Christ’s behalf. It’s quite a list. And blessed are those, we might add, who see the blessings of God in their neighbor’s need and give thanks they were privileged to meet them.
Not initially an easy word to accept, but ultimately a true word that has the capacity to transform, create, and grant new life.