Original Posting At http://thenakedalien.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-beatitude-attitude.html
“There is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s Justice, which is more than Liberty.”
(Frederick W. Faber)
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America)
What is Justice? Can we understand true Justice without glimpsing the heart of God? Can we understand anything of God’s heart, without at least trying to know Jesus (God incarnate)? We can’t even begin to understand Christ Emanuel without first listening to his words to us. Blessed Spirit within and around us, give us ears and an open mind to hear!
A preamble is not just a mere introduction, a preface, a table of contents – it contains the guiding principles which shape the following document, and all subsequent amendments. The Blessings, what we often refer to as the “Beatitudes”, form the preamble of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
This is the longest recorded sermon of our Lord and Master that has been handed down to us by our Church Mothers and Fathers. Although it is the most famous collection of his teachings left to us, few of us these days are intimately familiar with either his preamble or the rest of the Sermon, and most of us do not have them imprinted on our hearts, our minds, and our souls. As I was working on this sermon, my wife mentioned to me that as a youth, she had memorized the Beatitudes! Do our youth know them that well? I know I don’t!
Ronald Stone said in John Wesley’s Life & Ethics, “The clearest detailed statement of the divine will is for Wesley in the sermon on the Mount.” John Wesley preached from the Sermon on the Mount at least 100 times! Clearly, Jesus’ message on living the life God intended for us here on Earth was transformative in his thoughts and theology, and critical in his molding of a Methodist movement; becoming for us a blueprint for the Church, and a new set of commandments today.
Let’s look then at Matthew’s Beatitudes from the NRSV together:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew the Tax Collector’s version tells us about those of us who are “poor in spirit” – spiritually destitute, experiencing a dark night of the soul, who have hit rock-bottom. The physician Luke in his lesser known second hand version of the Beatitudes refers to those who are financially poor. You may have noticed that the Common English Bible says “happy are” rather than “blessed are”. Wesley in his notes on these verses frequently used that phrase too.
From Wesley’s notes on Chapter 5, Verse 3, we see that he described the “poor in spirit” as; “They who are unfeignedly penitent, they who are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness, guiltiness, helplessness.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Those who mourn, said Wesley “Either for their own sins, or for other men’s, and are steadily and habitually serious.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Wesley wrote: “They that hold their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness. They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here, and shall hereafter posses the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Again, Luke being a physician, refers to physical hunger of the flesh-and-blood body, while Matthew looks at the spiritual side of the equation. The word translated in most Bibles as “righteousness” is “dikaiosyne”: a condition acceptable to God; Justice.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Wesley described the merciful as “The tenderhearted: they who love all men as themselves.” Or as we say today: “bleeding-hearts.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
In his notes on Verse 8, Wesley spoke of “The sanctified: they who love God with all their hearts. They shall see God in all things here.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Not the peaceful, but the peace-MAKERS. To Wesley, peacemakers would be “They that out of love to God and man do all possible good to all men.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
To Wesley, the “righteous” live out the Beatitudes in their daily lives in the present, not as some perfected future saints in heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Wesley warned people that there would be resistance by some to Methodists having a Beatitude Attitude, out there for everyone to see: people will revile you to your face; and speak evil of you behind your back!
I can understand this. While I have not been reviled to my face, I have been criticized online. I have been called: a bleeding-heart liberal; a “libtard”; a lefty, a socialist, or a communist; a snowflake; and probably worse things. Some have said that I write and prophesy too much about the Love, and the Grace, and the Mercy of our awesome God Jehovah as revealed to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, and not enough about the coming Day of Judgment. I so confess. Others have told me that I preach and teach too much from the Prophets and the Son, and not enough from the Patriarchs and Moses the Lawgiver. Again, I so confess.
I have been challenged for not condemning homosexuality, or those who’ve had an abortion, or people of other religions. In my defense, I also do not condemn those who: are divorced; play the lottery; have piercings and tattoos; wear blended-fabrics; or eat cheeseburgers – and I certainly don’t condemn those who partake of bacon! I have been rightfully accused of being both not judgmental enough, and of being too judgmental.
I’ve been told by well-meaning “advisors” on social-media that I need to boldly share the unadulterated “Word” of God (which they probably mean as the Bible, but which I understand to be Jesus). I need to warn people of the coming Wrath like John the Baptist they say, so people may repent. What I need to do, if I call myself a preacher, I’ve been told, is to roll up my sleeves, and smack people upside the head with the Gospel truth…
Let me then bring to your attention Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. In his preamble in Chapter 6, Verses 24 – 26, not only does he have “blessed-ares”, but also “woe-tos”. They say people need to hear more about God’s heavy-hand than about His/Her bleeding-heart during scary times such as these? Well then, buckle-up, here we go…
Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your treasure.
Woe to you who are fat and comfortable now, for you will be hungry and afraid.
Woe to you who are laughing at others now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone praises you for your religiousness, for that is what our ancestors did to the false prophets.
In our society these days, aren’t we like the Prodigal Son; more worried about getting what’s ours as soon as possible? If I’m happy now, what do I care about tomorrow; tomorrow may never come – YOLO y’all! If I use up all the Earth’s resources, at least I had a good time while it lasted! If others lack because of my prosperity, why should I be punished for being more successful than they are? Let’s ask ourselves, what would happen if a large number of people in any nation think this way?
Many Bible versions refer to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats as the “Judgment of the Nations”. Christ warns all the nations of the world of the consequences of not having a Beatitude Attitude: “Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:44-46; NRSV)
Seriously? We will be punished for things we didn’t even do? Is that fair? No, but it is just. What more does God expect from us? As we consider the Messiah’s New Commandments for the New Life of the New Testament, I unapologetically have to go back to one of my beloved Prophets for a summary: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; NRSV)
Jesus’ sermon ends with a discussion of engineering: “‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’ Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:24-29; NRSV)
As we worship together this morning, here in God’s House, do we worry about underlying sediment? Or, have we built our Church on the Rock of the Mount?
Yes… our human nature urges us all to be Prodigal Daughters and Prodigal Sons. The Good News of the Gospel therefor, is that we have a Prodigal Father! Can I have an amen?
“All worldly joys are less than
that one joy of doing kindness.”