Street Level Faith

by Rev. Margaret Smart-Wheaton

God bless you. When we “count our blessings” we usually name the good and pleasant things of our lives one by one. But the Bible tells us something very different about what it means to be “blessed.” It says, ““Blessed are the poor in spirit Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” These statements are commonly called “The beatitudes.” Together, they form a sermon preached by Jesus that is moving, humble, profoundly spiritual and quite frankly very difficult to live with.

The language we usually use about blessings does not sound much like the beatitudes. Often we hear or say things like “I have the blessing of a great job, a good husband, food on the table!” When we win we count them as blessings – the heavens are aligned in our favor and we got the good stuff – the blessing. I don’t mean to quibble with those who want to give glory to God for the good things that come into their lives. An attitude of thanksgiving is essential to our life of faith. But I do want to ask, “Is this really what it means to be blessed?” After all the beatitudes are the beginning of the longest and most significant sermon that Jesus ever preached. In it he presents a pretty clear case for what it really means to be blessed. If to be blessed is to be poor, grieving, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, peacemaking and persecuted then there is a question which begs to be asked and a challenge to consider.

First the question: “Why?” Why is it that Jesus says the poor, grieving, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, peacemaking and persecuted are truly the blessed ones?” When these are the people that we consider the losers, the lost, the least in our world, why would Jesus hold them up and say that they are the ones that are blessed?

I don’t believe that God wants us to go seeking after misery in life. But what I do think we need to ask is, “if these are the folks that Jesus says are blessed then what do they have that the comfortable, happy, full, and satisfied don’t have?” We don’t have to go far for the answers, Jesus gives them. It is the losers, the lost, the least who will be comforted, filled, shown mercy, given the Kingdom of heaven and “they will see God… they will be called sons of God… theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

I was recently watching the movie “The Hiding Place.” It is the story of Cory Tenboom and her sister who were captured and sent to a concentration camp because of their role in hiding and smuggling Jews to safety. At one point the sisters are in a terrible flea ridden death trap of a place and one states, “There is no pit so deep that God is not there.” I believe that Jesus is saying that being blessed is not about the stuff we think God gives us. It is not even about the good stuff that we have. Being blessed is about seeing God.

To be blessed is to live every day in a relationship with God. To be blessed is to know that no matter what else comes into life there is a deep and abiding assurance that no darkness or brokenness or want is so great that that God is not present. There is no situation that is greater than God’s power to heal and redeem. It is this deep awareness of God’s hand on you and God’s love for you that is at the core of being blessed. To be aware that life is not about what we can do but what God is doing every day for us and in us and through us. To know that is to be blessed.

The challenge comes when we read the beatitudes and they don’t sound like us and they sure don’t sound like what we want to be – then we need to be challenged to come alongside those it does describe. Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of heaven then for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. There is nothing more threatening to our spiritual life and spiritual growth then to be able to say that we are comfortable, that we have a good husband, a good home, a good job and a good life. If that describes us then we don’t have to try and mess up our lives but we do need to get with people who remember that they need God.

If we are too safe and too comfortable to need God then Jesus showed us where to find God… go to the people who have nothing else to rely on and they will show us the way beyond ourselves and into the Kingdom of God. We need to reach out to people who are hurting, we need to worship with people who don’t like what we like, we need to be intentional about getting uncomfortable enough to remember that we are not at the center of the world and all that is good – God is.

Jesus told us what it looks like to be blessed. It doesn’t look safe, and it doesn’t look easy, and it doesn’t look like a lot of stuff. But what it does look like is being in a place where we can see the face of God, where there is room for God to move and work beyond our own understanding, where there is opportunity for the Kingdom of God to break in beyond the limitations and promises of the world.

God bless you.

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