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January 29, 2023. The beatitudes are blessings. Not payment, bribery, or compensation, but the promise of a God who loves us simply because we are children of God. In this sermon, Pastor Meagan preaches on what the beatitudes have to tell us today.


Readings: Micah 6:1-8, Matthew 5:1-12


*** Transcript ***


Often, the first thing that we say to someone when we greet them after we say hello is, “How are you?” And the responses are often as predictable as the question itself. “Fine, how are you?” “I’m alright.” “Busy.” “Tired.” But Jean was different. Whenever I would visit with Jean and ask how she was, she would claim the promise of our gospel today. “How are you, Jean?” “I am blessed.” And the thing is, her situation was not such that one would think of her as blessed — dealing with many health issues, raising her grandchildren, struggling often to make ends meet. But still, there it was, every single time. “How are you, Jean?” “I am blessed.” How foolish does that sound, to a world that values money, property, and prestige?


Today we hear that word “blessed” many times in our gospel. And it’s easy for us to hear the beatitudes as a list of the people who are blessed, with those not named left out. But today, as we head into our annual meeting, it is the perfect time to reflect on this passage in which Jesus offers his followers then and us today not a checklist or a measuring stick, but wisdom for the journey of discipleship. So, what do the beatitudes have to tell us who gather this morning?


So let’s start with what the beatitudes are not. The beatitudes are not a Hallmark greeting card, sweet but shallow phrases meant to make us feel good, but often not much going on below the surface. The beatitudes don’t lull us into comfort and complacency, but wake us up to the promises of God, and give us energy and drive to embody those promises in the world. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be filled.


The beatitudes are not a to-do list. Tempted as we may be to read it this way, this is not a list of things to accomplish or be so that God will love us. God already loves us! So if you are reading this and trying to figure out if you are included here… yes, I see you! You are blessed!


The beatitudes are not meant to shame us. They’re not a message to us who are privileged that we are not worthy of these promises. God is never about shame or exclusion.


The beatitudes are also not permission to be passive. These verses have been used this way, sometimes quite intentionally, to tell people who are poor, enslaved, oppressed, abused, that they should accept their lot in life, be meek and peaceful in the face of violence. We know from so many other passages in scripture that this is not what Jesus was about. So the beatitudes are not an excuse for we who have privilege to allow the injustices and pain of the world to continue unaddressed because someday things will get better. As we hear the news of the tragic death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. The untold damage being done to trans people, including trans children, in our own state legislature in just the last two weeks. Gun violence taking more lives. We are called not to passivity, but to holy action. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


The beatitudes are not a pie in the sky vision of a better day to come, without concern for what is happening to us today. God is always concerned about what is happening now, not just about what will happen in the future. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.


So what do the beatitudes have to tell us today? The beatitudes are blessings — not payment, bribery, or compensation, but the promise of a God who loves us simply because we are children of God. We are not loved because we follow God. We follow what God calls us to, doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly as Micah tells us today, because we are blessed and we can’t help but share it. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.


The beatitudes are reversals of all that we’ve been taught to expect in this world. The world tells us that the poor, the hungry, the weak are worth less than others whose gifts to the world are more obvious. But God always goes straight to the margins, to those who are suffering or in need. God is always closest to those that need God the most. And so we, disciples of Jesus at Christ Lutheran, welcome and serve as Jesus did, where it is needed most.


We are blessed, and we see that most clearly when we know at the core of our being that we need God. We see that most clearly when we embody the promise, and in so doing open our hearts to those who have the most to teach us about God’s love. And our most profound teachers are often those we would least expect. God’s promises turn our world upside down, opening our hearts to promises beyond our comprehension. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.


The beatitudes are vocation. We miss the point if we take these words out of context, and forget how Jesus lived his life — embodying God’s strength where there is weakness, God’s abundance where there is hunger and poverty, God’s justice where there is oppression. This is what we, followers of Jesus on the way, are created for. This is our call for today. Micah proclaims God’s call to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Blessing and justice intertwine in the beatitudes just as in Micah. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.


And this, family of Christ Lutheran, is our call as we gather in a few minutes in our annual meeting to reflect on our ministry together, and envision the year ahead. We gather to remember that we are blessed. We gather to remember that we are blessed to be a blessing to others. We gather to claim that the blessings of the beatitudes are for here and now, for all people, not just for ourselves. We gather to better live into this sometimes foolish call, to welcome and serve expecting nothing in return. We gather to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God — not just someday, but today. We are blessed, formed and sent to embody God’s blessing in this world. And today we ask that it roll down like streams of water. That is good news.


Thanks be to God.


*** Keywords ***


2023, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Meagan McLaughlin, Micah 6:1-8, Matthew 5:1-12, beatitudes, Tyre Nicols, Memphis