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Sweet baby Jesus, the Beatitudes are HARD. By Rev. Jenna Morrison

We hope you have enjoyed our month looking at the Beatitudes, I want to thank all three of our contributors,  Rev. Jerry Herships, Christy-Anna and our final contributor for this series Rev. Jenna Morrison


I am a workaholic.

A self-professed, time-tested, and experience-proven workaholic (so what if I maybe just made up a couple of words? You get the idea.).

I work to make a living (also: shoes). I work so I can tithe. I work so I can spoil my dog-child. I work so I can keep a roof over my head and sometimes afford organic produce like a full-fledged adult. I work so I can afford the new washing machine that was delivered to my house this morning. These are all honorable-ish reasons to work, I think.

I also work to give my life meaning. I work so I have a place to ground my sense of self and root it in something bigger than my own little life. Who doesn’t also love a good pat on the back every now and then for a job well done? I work so I can feel like I’m playing a tiny little part in the world. I have a tendency to forget that my part is tiny and that I’m not in center stage, but that’s a problem for another day. It’s a part nonetheless.

As a pastor, this usually works out pretty well for me. I somehow have convinced people in my community that I am worthy of being invited into some of their most vulnerable, sacred moments. I get asked to pray, a lot. I also get asked to speak for big groups and small groups about grace and mercy and love and forgiveness and hospitality and faithful living in the world. I have stacks of big, fancy-titled books and a beautifully framed (expensive) diploma stating that I have the proper education to lead people to Jesus (aside: is that even really a thing?).

These things are generally good for self-esteem, it turns out.

It also turns out that pastors are easily swept up into the world of paperwork and meetings and trying to force a budget to balance. I am easily distracted by endless lists of things to do and people to see. The urge to cross things off of that list is almost debilitating to me (ok, ok, it also gives me great, great joy, which may or may not also be a larger problem). I believe that putting out a good product is really important, so I spend countless hours editing and formatting brochures and bulletins and handouts.

Because, you know, the church with the best handouts will inherit the earth.

Ugh.

When I was asked to write a little diddy about the Beatitudes, I groaned, out loud. Thankfully the invitation was over the interwebs so no one knew my exuberant “YES!” was partially forced.

The Beatitudes are HARD.

I mean, can we just talk frankly about this for a second?

Sure, the Beatitudes read like poetry. Yeah, the imagery is lovely.

In fact, they sound like wonderful aspirations and dreams to accomplish in order to inherit the earth, to be fed, to be made glad, to receive mercy and see God.

Sweet baby Jesus, I even have the propensity to turn Scripture into a to-do list.

But the Beatitudes are anything but a list; these aren’t things that we can necessarily achieve and cross off. They aren’t characteristics that we can fake or force, and if we’re really being honest, these are not things that we would want to aspire to (yes, please. I would like to grieve more. In fact, let’s go straight for hopelessness. That sounds like a good one today.).

I think we often do this with Scripture—especially Matthew 5—as a way to swallow the bold pronunciations that Jesus makes in his Sermon on the Mount; we turn these prophetic declarations made by the Son of God into a list of practical advice. We assume that these statements by Jesus are common-sense accounts about Christianity instead of a topsy-turvy blessing on the authentic body of Christian community.

If the Beatitudes aren’t a list of things to aspire to, and they aren’t common sense, and they aren’t even really for an individual consideration at all, what the eff am I supposed to do with them?!

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that, while the mystery of Scripture maintains that we can never know with full certainty what exactly is meant, the Beatitudes are a message to me about my work. Not just the whole pastor thing, but a message about the way that I work and the things that give my work and life meaning.

Here’s where this all gets super complicated, even (especially?!) for a pastor: the Beatitudes make it clear that the important things in life—the things that will ultimately bring us peace and fulfillment and mercy and comfort—have very little with our vocations. It doesn’t matter if I’m a pastor, teacher, stay at home mom/dad, janitor, business professional, CEO, or if I have no official employment. It doesn’t matter how much money I make, how many shoes I have, or even ultimately if I buy organic or not (blasphemy!).

Jesus makes it clear that for the gathered faithful to enter into the Kingdom of God in the future and now, on earth, we don’t have to cross everything off our lists or achieve anything of note, according to the world. We simply have to gather together with the meek, the grieving, the hopeless, the hurting, the peacemakers, the ministers of mercy; the Beatitudes are not addressed to me, but to us. They are addressed to all of us who proclaim Christ as Lord so that together, we can experience the kingdom of God now, and forever.

It will not reduce our stress or shrink our waistlines. It will not save us from illness or cause us to advance in our careers, necessarily. Our faith—our witness—and our hope in Christ will instead lead us together into a life where righteousness and peace will prevail, and God’s future will be one of mercy for all of us.


IMG_4969.JPGRev. Jenna Morrison is the is currently serving as the Associate Pastor at First UMC Rockwall. She is awesome. She watched our kids one night on our vacation so we could have just time with adults. This is the only picture we had from our trip to the GYPLCA in 2014. This is what happens when we have to write bios.
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Confessions of a Control Freak In a World of Chaos. by Christy-Anna

When we created the Bearded Theologians we wanted to be able to provide space for people to have a place to write blog post but not want to maintain a blog. We met Christy-Anna at the World Methodist Conference last August. She is our first international blogger and we welcome her and her perspective.

It’s not easy trying to control absolutely everything in your life, but try telling that to my brain. Because I sure do try. I’s kind of like I want to consider every single possibility for every situation so that nothing ever comes as a surprise and therefore I’m never in a situation that I haven’t pre-planned for.

Like playing a constant game of metaphorical chess in my head.

If you’re also a planner, you’ll totally understand what I mean. The feeling of having everything organized and perfectly in place gives you a sense of peace and preparedness that is calming. You like lists, diaries, calendars. Or even if you don’t like them you find they bring order into your life-when you use them that is. I mean take this blog post- It was 11 days late being finished because I tried to keep the plan in my head and didn’t properly record it in my diary… thereby reinforcing my internal need to be organized!

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t plan and doesn’t see the need to, I can pretty much guarantee there are people like me who consider you with a mixture of awe and confusion. How can you possibly wake up at the beginning of the week not knowing what you’re doing and when?!

But you probably look at people like me and wonder how on earth anyone can be so uptight.

And to be completely honest- I’m pretty sure this is a lesson God has been trying to teach me for a while. I’ve been reading Matthew 6: 25-34 almost daily for the past few months to constantly remind myself to stop worrying so much, so when I was asked to write a post on what the Sermon on the Mount means to me- I had to laugh.  It’s so easy to worry when there are so many things that could go wrong. I’m a student. I have 2 children who depend on me. Finances are tight and not always assured. But God is trying to drive the point home to me that it’s not me, with all my careful planning and thinking ahead, who is driving my life forward and making sure I have everything I need- but God.

Because even with the best planning in the world, unexpected things happen.

In the middle of October, I was told there’d been a mistake with my childcare grant. I was going to be worse off by a lot of money for the year- which meant not being able to afford childcare and not being able to attend classes. I panicked. Had visions of dropping out of uni and having to scrape by on state benefits and going without basics to feed my children. But God provided a solution that I never saw coming. A part-time, flexible job for 8 weeks which is exciting, brilliant experience for me and which will pay me enough to make sure I can afford the childcare I need.  A similar situation occurred 2 years ago, and back then God provided an equally unexpected solution.

And there are so many other situations I’ve faced over the past couple of years. Something seemingly impossible, insurmountable, that leaves me with no choice but to pray and to trust that it’s God, and not myself, in control.

Because the need to try to control everything comes from a place of fear.

My daughter and I have recently been working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook. I’m very familiar with these stories but the other night, when listening to Prince Caspian, a quote from Aslan speaking to Susan struck me for the first time,

“”You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

When we listen to fears, it takes away our courage and stops us from listening to God. We end up thinking we are the ones in control. And ironically, that just seems to invite more fear, because what happens if you fail?

And the danger here is that we not only try to control our own lives, but the lives of others around us.

In this passage, Jesus specifically warms against us judging others, and also from seeking retaliation against them or even focusing on their sins when there is work to do in our own hearts. Accepting that God is in control also means trusting that he is working his purpose out in the lives of others- without us needing to worry about them.

There’s so much that can be unpacked from the Sermon on the Mount, but for me, the overwhelming message is to trust God.

Trust God by giving up on the need to control,

Trust God by not giving in to fear,

Trust God by following his way and believing that he will bring all things in line with his plan.

It’s easy to become so scared that other people might do something wrong that we seek to place restrictions on them or to police their behaviour.  But I don’t believe that this comes from a place of love, but from a place of fear.

And when we listen to fears, we start thinking we have to be the ones to control everything and we stop trusting that God is the one in ultimate control.

The challenge then, for me, is to learn to give control back to God so we can stop worrying. And be brave again.

 


christy ann.jpgChristy-Anna is a lone parent from Dorset, England. Formerly British Methodist Youth President 2010-2011 and Chair of Youth and Young Adult Committee for the World Methodist Council 2011-2016, she is now a full-time Sociology and Anthropology student and Trustee of international development charity, All We Can.

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Beardcast for 2.9.17 Happy Are Those Who…

This week for our Beardcast we reflect upon Matthew 5:2-12. Check us out.

You can also listen to it here on

Also check out our Zazzle Store to pick up some sweet gear: http://www.zazzle.com/beardedtheologians

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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