Across the Pastor’s Desk: Blessedness in the midst of struggle

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Josh Enderson

This past Sunday, my congregations read Matthew 5:1-11 for our gospel reading. This passage is known as the beatitudes, Jesus’ somewhat strange statements about who is “blessed” in God’s kingdom. We hear Jesus say things like: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Joshua Enderson

These statements are strange because they don’t seem to make sense to us. We see the word “blessed” and we get a particular image in our minds. To be “blessed” is to be rich, happy, to have no worries, a beautiful family, good health. And then, when we read this passage, and read the words that follow “blessed:” “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” “Blessed are those who mourn…” “Blessed are the meek…”

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Wait, what Jesus? Something is not lining up here.

In our minds, blessedness doesn’t mean poor, meek or hungry. And yet, that’s what Jesus calls us. He’s not commanding us to be meek or hungry, and then you’ll be blessed. He’s simply stating a fact about God’s people. You are blessed. That is who you are.

But then we look at our own world today, and blessedness is the last word we’d use to describe our lives. We hear stories all the time that make us sick. We turn on the news or open the newspaper and read about yet another mass shooting, this time in a church, a place of sanctuary. We watch senseless deaths occur close to home and around the world. We hear stories of abuse and neglect of the young and the old and others in between. We see the gap between rich and poor growing wider and wider every day. How on earth can we call ourselves blessed when we live in such a world?

When we see such things, we don’t say, “we are blessed.” I think the usual reaction is, “how much more of this do we have to endure, Lord?” When will be cured of this national sickness we have with guns and gun violence? When will we start seeing people “do to others as you would have them do to you?” When will people start seeing all people, even those who may be different, not as “others” but as fellow human beings, made in the image of God?

It’s in these moments that we need to hear the great promises that are found in Jesus’ beatitudes. The first part of each statement is telling us who we are, right now, and that’s one great promise: You are blessed. But, in the second part of each statement, Jesus reminds us of the hope that we have in God’s work in our world, that God will be bringing about a new future for us all.

Things look tough right now. Pain and suffering seem to dominate our news. But, in the midst of it all, God is at work, bringing life from the death that surrounds us. God is not at work in the hands of gunmen or attackers, but in the hands of first responders and those offering protection and aide to the affected.

God is bringing about a new future for us all. Maybe this future will come to us soon. Maybe God will work through you or others to bring about a better world now. I think we can use a healthy dose of peace, civility, and kindness in our world today. But, there’s also the chance that God’s future will only come to us at the end of time. To be “blessed” is to recognize and cling to the hope of God’s future for us all. Blessedness says, “I trust in you, God, and I trust in the future that you have promised, whatever and whenever that may be.”