The Beatitudes: A Reflection by Rev. Jerry Herships

We have asked various people to reflect on the Sermon on the Mount. We are excited by all the post we have for this little series to share with you. Enjoy our first by Rev. Jerry Herships his is one of our friends in Denver doing great ministry. Check out his blog at  http://jerryherships.com/ 

Matthew 5:3-12

“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.

I have been asked to guest blog for my very hairy faced theological brother. I say this with a certain degree of envy because I, on the other hand, cannot grow a beard to save my life. Believe me, I’ve tried. I end up looking like the crazy old miner in a 1950’s western. Not necessarily a bad look, just not one I am going for.

My beard friend asked me to write on the Sermon On The Mount but that is WAY too big an undertaking for 500-1000 words. I’m gonna stick to Jesus’ opener, the beatitudes.

I will steal from commentaries and others that have written on the beatitudes and put my spin on it. After 20+ years of doing stand up and a decade now of preaching, I think it is rare to have a truly original thought, but I do think everyone has a unique perspective and a unique voice. For the next 500-1000 words, you are stuck with mine.

So what do we know? (although, who’s kidding who, we don’t really KNOW anything, but we have some strong educated ideas).

Some would call this Jesus first sermon, granted, it is widely thought that it is likely an amalgam of Jesus’ saying…but let’s for the sake of argument, call it his first sermon.

I wish my first sermon sounded this good. Mine sucked.

Regardless, what came out of Jesus’ mouth probably meant a lot to him with this being the very beginning of his public ministry. He wasn’t going to lead with something that wasn’t on his top ten list.

I see a couple of things that I think, if Jesus had a power point, would be worthy of a screen shot.

One, Jesus is putting a lot of focus on the folks on the edges; the poor, those who mourn, the meek (which some versions translate to “homeless”). the ones who have gotten the crappy end of the stick. The ones who are powerless and often denied basic human needs…like health care for example. 🙂

Jesus makes it clear his concern is for them. The first four blessings are for them. Not as an afterthought, but Jesus leads with it. If we are to be like Jesus (which I think is the point of this whole Christianity gig), we are to put those same folks first. It is not something we do after we have picked the hymns, had a meeting with the finance chair and written the newsletter. It is a biblical imperative. We care about helping those on the margins, because that’s who was forefront in Jesus’ own mind. And when we help them, we are showing our love for God (Matthew 25 reminds us of this later in the same gospel.)

Two, when Jesus goes on to talk about who else is blessed in the next four blessings, it is the people that do the good stuff: show mercy, have a pure heart, fight for peace and justice. It makes no mention of bible classes, going to church and attending Christmas concerts. Those things are all awesome…they’re just secondary.

Also I thought it was killer that, when it comes to the good stuff…mercy leads.

AfterHours has been dinged more than once for being a faith community of people doing “mercy ministry”. We wear that title proudly. We value social justice and believe that doing the work of social justice is how we can go about changing the world. We call our councilpersons, attend hearings, and sign petitions to get laws changed. We also know that until folks look the poor in the eye, hug them, get to know them and straight up one-on-one love on them, the folks on the margins just stay “an issue” and not actual people. Without having the person-to-person contact I think the burn out rate in social justice goes thru the roof.

Thomas Merton wrote a prayer that I believe talked about just this thing. He talks about just how HARD fighting for “righteousness’ sake” can be. He says this:

Do not depend on the HOPE OF RESULTS.

When you are doing this sort of work you may have to face the fact that your work will be APPRENTLY WORTHLESS AND ACHIEVE NO RESULT AT ALL,

If not results opposite of what you expect.

As you get use to the idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but ON THE VALUE, THE RIGHTNESS, THE TRUTH, OF THE WORK ITSELF.

And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you STRUGGLE LESS AND LESS FOR AN IDEA AND MORE AND MORE FOR SPECIFIC PEOPLE. 

The range tends to narrow down, but it gets more real.

In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything. Amen.

Dig that prayer like a ditch.

Lastly, I believe that one of the important take always for me is the reminder that if you choose to fight for those who can’t lift their arms…if you choose to be a voice for those who have had their jaws broke and can’t speak…if you choose to cry for those that have no tear left, then know this: You WILL get knocked on your ass. people WILL “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus’ account.” That is a given. It’s a package deal.

Know it.

And? …you will be blessed.

Not in some far away land on a cloud playing a harp. Nope. For Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven comes to US, not the other way around.

If we want heaven, WE need to bring it HERE.

Now more than ever.

Here’s to getting knocked on our ass.


jerry

Rev. Jerry Herships is the founder of AfterHours Denver, a faith & action community in Denver Colorado. He is an author, former stand-up and certified sommelier. You can learn more about his weird life at www.jerryherships.com

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