Today’s text comes from Matthew 5:3-12:
- Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
- Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
- Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
- Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
- Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
- Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
- Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
- Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
- Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
I formatted it as a dot list so you can see (in a contemporary way) the kind of impact it is supposed to have.
I said this past Sunday that the words of The Sermon on the Mount are fire. From the beginning, Jesus speaks revolution: the world is upside-down, and God is going to turn it right-side-up. It is not the winners who are blessed: the confident, the happy, the alpha dogs, the satisfied, the privileged. No, the blessed are those who are poor (or poor in spirit), those who mourn, those who are starving for justice. The blessed are those who are persecuted for seeking peace and justice and righteousness.
Which is what you will be, if you follow the words of this sermon: both persecuted and blessed. You will be persecuted and blessed because you will be a prophet in a community of prophets, and prophets are always persecuted. (That’s what “people harassed the prophets who came before you” means—you, too, are in the company of prophets.)
By your light, Jesus says, others will see reality, the way the world really is. Your light is not something to stare at—it’s meant to give light “to all in the house,” so that they can see.
All of this is just the prologue. Jesus spends 15 verses telling us who to aspire to be as individuals and as a community before he ever says anything about himself.
I gave our church some homework: read the Sermon on the Mount over the next few weeks. Read it, or part of it, every day. See how it changes you.
Twice a week (usually Tuesday and Thursday) I do a short reflection on a Bible verse from a devotional and social justice perspective. You can sign up to get a prompt via SMS here:
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