At Renew on Sundays, we’ve been exploring part of Jesus’ most famous sermon on the mountain, commonly called “The Beatitudes.” They’re profound… they’re counterintuitive… they’re perplexing… and they’re life-giving. If you missed any of our exploration, check them out here (hyper link to podcast page). As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, let’s consider how these profound proclamations of Jesus can unlock a door into a life of gratitude in any situation.
The Beatitudes are not prescriptive… they’re descriptive.
When Jesus declares, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” he is not suggesting that happy people should intentionally strive to make themselves more melancholy or sad. When he reassures, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he is not saying that people who are at the top of their game should sabotage their lives and bankrupt themselves emotionally and spiritually to somehow achieve a special gift from God.
These are not prescriptions.
Rather, they are descriptions of a life that is so safe, secure and stable in the embrace of God’s gracious, never-giving-up, faithful love that you have a new resilience in life’s most heavy and confusing seasons.
Even when you find yourself mourning and grieving a great loss (which if you haven’t yet, I have to warn you: you will if you live long enough), when the world around you seems to shout that you are all alone and there is no hope the future will be better than today… it is in that place that God’s faithful, powerful, loving presence will hold you and never let you go. Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
This is true when you are spiritually bankrupt and that nagging voice of the inner critic in your own mind chides you from within, reminding you of your failures; when the voices of others around you write you off or put you down… when the world around you says, “You’ve lost and you’re a loser.” It’s in that poverty of spirit that you can be open to a truth that is a much more stable, sturdy base to build your life upon.
The truth is that when the world says, “It’s game over;” God is saying, “We’re only just beginning.” Your value, lovability and acceptability are not based on past failures or future achievements, anyway. This was never true, and when we live as if it were, our sense of self-identity rises and falls like the stock market based on popular opinion. Jesus says, take my words and put them into practice: that is like building your life on a rock that will withstand the wind and waves of popular opinion and changing conditions.
Now, we can make the connection between The Beatitudes of Jesus and living a life of Thanksgiving. There are no conditions that can separate you from the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is why the early church leader, the Apostle Paul, could write (while chained in a Roman jail), “Rejoice! I will say it again… rejoice!”
Christians are not called to minimize our problems, ignore our pain, or simplify disappointment with the sentimentality of a Hallmark greeting card. Rather, we walk through it, together, remembering and reminding each other that even the moments that feel like dead ends are not the end for life with God, because resurrection is the true tune of the universe. With this in mind, we have a never-ending well of resources to live lives of gratitude and a buoyancy and resiliency that can withstand any season. Instead of becoming more cold, bitter and hard in seasons of difficulty, we have a new power to become more open, sweet, humble and hopeful as we journey on together.
Happy Thanksgiving. This month and every month!
Blessed are you…
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
Recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5: 1-12
1 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he began to speak and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.