Bless You Jan 29, 2017 Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which starts with the beatitudes. We started with verse 2 of Matthew 5, but let’s back up to the first verse – it sets the scene for the beatitudes and makes them even more […]
Jan 29, 2017
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount which starts with the beatitudes. We started with verse 2 of Matthew 5, but let’s back up to the first verse – it sets the scene for the beatitudes and makes them even more relevant for us today.
Matthew 5 begins:
(1) When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
(2) He began to teach, them, saying…
(3) Blessed are the poor in spirit…
(4) Blessed are those who mourn…
And so on.
But before the blessings, we hear: “Jesus saw the crowds…”
He saw the people who gathered in desperation for a word of hope.
He saw people hurting and afraid.
He saw wounded people, marginalized people, people society had forgotten, or demonized.
He saw the poor, and the rejected, and the hard workers barely getting by.
He saw people who had lost their families, their dreams, their sense of self.
He saw refugees, and people who had been exploited, people who were different, despised, queer.
He saw people from various places, who worshiped in various ways, who had been treated as if they weren’t really human.
Before Jesus said anything, he SAW the people…he saw their pain, he saw their fear, he saw their need for encouragement.
Once he saw the people, Jesus then went up the mountain. In ancient literature mountain tops are the dwelling places of the gods. To go up a mountain is to enter into communion with the divine.
Once Jesus saw the hurting people, he had to take his awareness of their pain to the sacred altar of consciousness; he had to take what he saw into his heart, the dwelling place of the Most High.
He didn’t judge the people, or express fear of them or disdain for them, he saw them and then he WENT to the mountain; he went into communion with divine Love.
Once you really see pain it will break your heart and you will by necessity take that pain, other people’s and your own, into prayer, or however you commune with your fondest hopes and highest ideals.
Jesus saw the people’s pain and went into prayer.
And then he sat down.
When you speak to someone who is sitting and can’t stand, or when you visit someone who is lying down and can’t get up…you kneel down or bend down or sit nearby. You don’t tend to hover over those you care about and wish to comfort. You come down to them to share their experience, to let them know you are with them and your love for them is fully present.
Jesus saw. He went. He sat. And then he began to teach…he went to work offering comfort and encouragement and solidarity.
Jesus said some nice things in verses 3-12, but he didn’t say anything until he saw, and prayed, and got down on the level of people’s fears and hurts, and then he began doing what he could to help the people take heart.
He had to see them, care about them, and sit among them before he could help them.
That’s when he started calling out various conditions, and telling the people that their conditions didn’t define them. He told them they had sacred value that injustice and pain and cruelty could never take away.
And so he said…bless you who are poor in spirit, who feel as if even the energy of life is being stingy with you, who feel weighed down, broken down, overwhelmed, discarded, and unappreciated, you who feel not only poor in resources or poor in friendships or poor in opportunities but who feel as if your very existence is lacking…who are experiencing lack and want and destitution so gravely that it has infected your spirit…I declare that the kin-dom of God, the blessed community, the interconnected web of existence, the love that holds the universe together is YOURS. You’ve been called everything but a miracle, but I say you are blessed, the kin-dom of God is yours, I say you are God’s miracle and NOT God’s mistake!
And you who have experienced loss…loss of dignity, loss of loved ones, loss of home, loss of status, loss of security, loss of recognition as a beloved child of God…I affirm that you are blessed! You are grieving but there is comfort for you. The kin-dom of God is yours and in the kin-dom of God, you are never alone.
Bless you who feel meek and weak – you are stronger than you know!
Those of you who ache for justice, who have been denied equal opportunity and equal protection, who have been abused and vilified because of your race or ethnicity or nationality or religion or gender identity or sexual orientation…those of you who desire and deserve, who long for, who ache for justice, justice is on the way.
It may take a while, it make take a great deal of effort, it may involve some sacrifice, there may be setbacks, justice may be denied for a time but not for all time. To quote one who would come centuries after Jesus, the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice!
Oh, bless you who are merciful; you will see God’s face in your own mirror.
Bless you who work for peace; you are doing God’s own work!
Bless the justice seekers and justice workers who are persecuted for daring to take a stand for fairness; you are the very fabric of the kin-dom of God.
And those who dare to embrace and try to live into this message, you may become targets. Prophetic communities have always been targeted, those who challenge injustice have always been attacked, but you are on the side of righteousness, you are on the side of love, you are on the side of the ancestors who challenged kings and conquerors, you stand in the tradition of those who stood up to oppressive forces and cried out, “Let my people go!”
Today, the great liberators would say, “Let my people in.” Well, in fact, Jesus did say that in Matthew 11.28, “Come unto me ALL who labor and are heavy burdened and I will refresh you.”
We who dare to claim the banner of Christ must never blaspheme the name of Christ with indifference or intolerance toward the suffering children of God…no matter what they look like, who they love, or how they worship. Come unto me all…all…
My dear friends, let us be among the blessed who show mercy, who work for justice, who work for peace…let us endeavor to follow the example of the one who saw people’s pain, who took their pain into prayer, who chose to sit among them in their pain, and who began to do what he could to make a difference.
And to the hurting, the disenfranchised, wherever you are…we are sending you this message as a beacon of hope. We see you. We care. We are praying for you. And the Sunshine Cathedral is one place where you will always be welcomed with the love of God…if nowhere else, then here. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017
I am blessed!
I will share my blessings to help others.
May I be a conduit through which God’s healing love flows.