July 12th 2020

Our reflection today is based on Matthew 5:1-12.

Listening on the Mount to Jesus as he presents ‘The Beatitudes’ must have been as much of a problem for the gathered crows as it is today for us trying make sense of it in our time. 

In the Jewish influenced society of the day, however, the people listening would not have had any problem with the notion of what it means to be ‘blessed’.  They would get the fact that what Jesus was referring to was not a state of happiness that is fleeting and fickle.  Instead, they would understand that his words indicated a description of the spiritual attitude and condition of people who are ‘right with God’.

The problem for the people listening, and for us today, is with the categories of people listed by Jesus as those who find it easiest to be ‘right with God’.  And this is where our difficulty lies today, for what we have before us is Jesus painting a picture that is paradox to our own way of assessing life.  We assume certain circumstances of life lead to a better experience of life and a greater sense of being blessed.  The beatitudes subvert these assumptions and make us ponder our aspirations, for there is nothing glamorous in Jesus’ list of circumstances within which a person is considered blessed.

It is good and encouraging that those who find themselves in these experiences can be made right with God and will know themselves blessed.  For these people we are grateful that Jesus comes with a Gospel of Good News.  For the majority of us though, whose experience of life from a worldly point of view is generally better than the experiences of the people referred to in the beatitudes, the problem is how easy is it for us to be made right with God?

In the context of what Jesus is saying, is it possible for a rich man, a bold person, a happily married woman, a soldier, or a well-liked person to be blessed, for the list of people mentioned in the sermon of Jesus doesn’t include such as those?

The easiest thing for us to do is to satisfy ourselves by saying Jesus only picked out a few groups for the inferred state of being blessed and to assure ourselves that there must be many more people and groups who will find themselves made right with God.  That’s the easy way, but nonetheless the text asks us not to accept an easy way of interpretation but to look further into is, to look deeper.  For nobody ever said that the study of scripture would be easy, or indeed comfortable.  As we ponder these things, I think we are meant to stretch our minds and assess our aspirations and assumptions about where blessing is to be found, and about what it takes for us to be made right with God.

During this time of lockdown, we have been given a precious and unique gift - the gift of time and the opportunity to reflect on what is important in our lives.  It is my prayer that the consideration of faith and its place in our lives has found its way on to that list of important things.  It seems to me that as a community of believers, God has blessed us richly by giving us the impetus to explore alternative ways of worship and means by which to express our faith in a way that is meaningful to folk far beyond our usual gatherings on a Sunday morning.

As lockdown measures ease the hope of being able to meet together in person has been restored, even though it may not be for some time, especially for those who have found themselves in the shielding group.  But we have learnt many lessons during this time of physical separation, many of which we will carry on into the future including once we return to whatever our new normal is going to be.

May God then continue the work he has begun in us that our fellowship would be further strengthened and God’s love for all be made manifest.

 

Prayer

Loving God, who sees us as we are, frail and flawed human beings, but also people who, inspired by your love have used this difficult time to reach out with compassionate service to those around us and beyond.  We thank you that physical separation has actually brought us closer together as your people. 

The gift of technology and the ability to use it has been precious.  However, whilst we give thanks for this, we cannot forget those for whom technology like computers, tablets and the access to the internet is either limited or just not possible.  May we keep seeking alternative means by which to support those who feel cut off from the rest of us, that they may know we hold them in our hearts and bring them to you always in our prayers.

As lockdown restrictions ease may we be mindful of all that you have taught us.  Protect us from the temptation of returning simply to our ways of old and instead encourage us to incorporate all that we have learnt into the way we ‘do’ church in the future.

As we face a new week with all it holds, may our desire be to follow and serve you as we are, wherever we are, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

If you would like to listen to ‘Before you I kneel’ with Keith and Kirsten Getty please click on the link below.

.Before you I Kneel