The Beatitudes, the end.
Well, here we are at the end of the Beatitudes series! So what have we learned?
In this sermon, Jesus is not just giving us some wise words to live by; instead he is offering his audience a prophetic vision of the world. By that I don’t mean that he’s trying to predict the future but that, in the tradition of the ancient Jewish prophets, he is offering a different vision of reality… with the belief that this vision of reality can profoundly reshape how we live in the world.
He proclaims that although you might have been told life is about power, wealth, status, religious purity, etc… the kingdom of God is upside down.
Donald Kraybill coined the term the “upside-down kingdom of God” in the 1970s as a way of trying to describe how Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God is about “a way of life that challenges the prevailing social order.”
And I think our challenge, as we consider Jesus’ words nearly 2000 years later, is to ask: in what way does Jesus’ prophetic call challenge our prevailing social order. And I don’t just mean, out there in “the world,” but for all of us and the way we live every day.
I’ve had a go at putting these beatitudes into my own words – not because the words as we have them don’t matter, but because sometimes we get so used to them that they roll off our tongue and they become too familiar:
God is with those who are down-and-out and who don’t have it all
God is with those who are in deep grief, a grief that makes them unable
to participate fully in the so-called successful strategies of everyday
God is with those who do not use power and strength over others in
order to make their way in the world.
God is with those who desire that things would be put right and that the
unjust systems of the world would be dismantled.
God is with those who show mercy and forgiveness to one another,
rather than seeking retribution for the ways in which they feel they
have been wronged.
God is with those who recognise that it is the heart that matters, not just
the external indicators of approved behaviour.
God is with those who resist ways of violence and oppression in the
world, and instead seek to become agents of peace and reconciliation
between those who do not yet understand or love one another.
God is with those who, because they seek to live in this kind of reality,
encounter the oppression and disdain of those with power, wealth,
The kingdom of God is upside-down.
And as the church community, this becomes our vocation.
Not to tick off each of these as a kind of spiritual checklist, but to allow this vision of the kingdom of God to transform us.
We gather together in community, and we sing together about a God who calls us to imagine a different way of being in the world. We gather around the story of Jesus who prophetically challenges us to imagine a different way of being in the world. We build community with one another in which we are given the opportunity to enter into to this new imagination.