Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Eight-fold Blessing

The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon ever preached. The opening words of that sermon are known as the Beatitudes. They are the greatest part of the greatest sermon.

Last Sunday I preached a message on all eight of the beatitudes. Due to time constraints, my treatment of them was necessarily sparse. They deserve a much closer examination.

So I thought I would devote a blog post to each beatitude. Just so we know what scripture we are talking about, here is a link to a translation of the beatitudes. They are found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five.
The blessedness, which Jesus is referring to, is the Kingdom of Heaven. Other gospels call it the Kingdom of God. This is not a future existence in a heavenly realm; it is the present awareness of God now. It is Kingdom Consciousness. It is the awareness of the Presence of God.

The first one reads: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I am not going to weigh interpretations of this beatitude offered by sages and scholars over the ages. I will just give you my own. Jesus is talking about spiritual poverty.

It has nothing to do with being materially rich or poor. It is not about being spiritually rich – either in spiritual gifts or in spiritual qualities. Just the opposite. Jesus is saying that one must give up everything - even spiritual things - and become spiritually poor.

Jesus is not offering a trade – giving up material things in exchange for spiritual rewards. He is talking about giving up all rewards, even spiritual rewards. Francis of Assisi once said that he was willing to give up heaven for the love of God. He was poor in spirit.

The apostle Paul says that Jesus “emptied himself” and “made himself nothing.” Paul said this was what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Religious people are looking for something. They are looking for salvation. They want meaning and purpose in life. Spiritual seekers are seeking something - enlightenment, liberation, peace, an end to suffering. People are willing to give up a lot in exchange for spiritual riches.

Jesus tells us to give up the search for spiritual riches too. We must be poor in spirit. We give it all up. We even give up ourselves. That is what the Cross represents – the death of everything. We hear this poverty in Jesus cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Only when we give up all, does the blessing come. The Kingdom of Heaven appears, and it is ours! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Art is Sermon on the Mount by Laura James

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