“Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” The prophet Micah, as I suggested yesterday, gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God’s desire for discipleship. Of course, to think that this is the fullness of God’s dream for the Kingdom would be foolishness. Because the concept of justice is so widely contested, there are any number of ways that one can live out these three basic tenants of discipleship. We need something else, something deeper, to help open our eyes to the specific ways in which God would have us live into the Kingdom. We need a 102 course.
Which brings us to Sunday’s Gospel lesson and the opening verses of Jesus’ three chapter long Sermon on the Mount. We will spend the next four Sundays in the fifth chapter of Matthew, hearing things about salt and light, difficult teaching on anger and divorce, and the admonition to love our enemies. There are any number of ways that Jesus could have started his public ministry, and yet, he chose the most challenging. He laid out, from the very beginning, what discipleship would look like, and it all starts with the nine beatitudes that turn the world’s understanding of power upside-down.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of 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.”
You could spend your whole life trying to wrap your mind around these blessings, but the real power in them comes when they are lived out. It is only when you find yourself being comforted in your mourning that you’ll realize the blessing it contains. It is when you feel that insatiable pull toward righteousness that you’ll understand the blessing that comes from seeking justice for every human being. It is when you are mocked and reviled for standing up against fear mongers, war makers, and power brokers that you’ll come to know the blessing that is God walking alongside.
None of these things are easy, which is precisely why they are blessings. When we get out of God’s way and take part in the hard work of the Kingdom, blessings flow like a mighty river, sustaining us for journey ahead.