The True Meaning of Being Blessed
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at St. Jacobs and Trinity Lutheran Churches on January 29, 2017, the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. The gospel lesson is Matthew 5:1-12.
Dear Friends in Christ,
There is a phrase that is used often these days in America. That phrase is “I am so blessed!” My plea to all of us this morning is to stop using those words. At least stop using them until you know for sure what they mean and that they are really true about you.
We have 3 scripture lessons today that should really have gotten our attention when they were read. These words from God are not being listened to or observed by too many in this nation of ours. I wish to God that I could gather our leaders together, simply read these words, and ask them: what part of God’s Word do you not understand?
Paul observes rightly that the gospel truths that we Christians hold up as right and good and true, are considered to be foolishness by the world we live in. Don’t you Christians realize that the one you are named after, Jesus Christ, is a failed leader, says the world? They put him to death, don’t you know? His followers were losers and just about every one of them was hunted down and killed. Do you really believe in heaven? All that hope is just to pacify you in this world. The ones who get ahead know that this world is all there is. To get ahead you do whatever it takes; forget this love your neighbor baloney. It’s king of the mountain time. Yes siree! To the victors go the spoils!
We heard from Jesus himself in today’s gospel. He’s preaching his Sermon on the Mount. This comes at the beginning of his ministry and is really his Inauguration Speech. He lays out his mission and declares what is expected of those who will follow him. Today we’re hearing the Beatitude Section, these 12 verses, that we have heard so often but don’t fully understand. We may rightly ask: what do the Beatitudes, these “blessed are you statements”, have to do with us and our faith?
Well, let’s dive in. “I am so blessed!” And so, dear Christian, are you so blessed, according to Jesus?
*Are you poor? Matthew says “poor in spirit” and Luke says its “poor”. In either case, you are blessed if you are poor in some way and not if you are “rich”.
*Are you mourning? If so, you will comforted and thus blessed. The shortest verse in the Bible says so much about Jesus: He wept.
*Are you among the meek? Not the powerful or first in line or greatest. Jesus says the meek will be blessed by inheriting the earth.
*Are you hungry and thirsting? Matthew says “hungering and thirsting for righteousness”, but Luke says just “hungering and thirsting”. In any case, it does not say you will be blessed if your belly is full and you have everything you need.
*Are you being merciful? Jesus says those who are showing mercy will be shown mercy.
*Are you pure in heart? At your core, do you have noble intentions? If you do, you will be blessed.
*Are you a peacemaker? Not a person wanting to fight first instead of seeking reconciliation and goodwill. Does your character reflect the Prince of Peace or the Prince of Darkness? It is the peacemakers who will be blessed, says Jesus.
*Have you been persecuted? For the sake of Jesus and the faith you hold, have you experienced hardships and suffering in this world? If so, you are the ones who will receive a blessing.
Jesus ends the Beatitudes by saying you are blessed already when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of him. Jesus says great will be our reward in heaven, our greatest blessing, if we have had to endure all these things in this world.
So, let’s take a reading. Still feel like you can declare that you are blessed? Is it true that you have and are experiencing life in this world as a way to be an example of faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about our nation? Are we demonstrating concern for the poor, the hungry? Are we being merciful and looking out for those who are being persecuted?
Our first lesson today is from the Old Testament Micah. Micah sets the stage for Jesus and Paul. What God says through Micah to all people of faith down through the ages rings so true to us in America today. O God that it could truly be said of us, but I fear that we aren’t listening as we should. Does God want our words to be kind? Does God want us to treat all people fairly? Does God have something to say when we become prideful and arrogant? Should we strive to have the greatest and most powerful nation on earth? Should the goal of each of us to be rich and popular and to do so by disregarding the needs of others as we climb the ladder of worldly success?
So listen again to what God says in one of the most uplifting verses in all of scripture:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Right now, you and I have an opportunity to be blessed by God in ways that God would wholeheartedly approve of and encourage. Those ways may be seen by others as foolishness. But we live as strangers and pilgrims in this world. Our allegiance and citizenship is to a higher kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.
So, friends in Christ, may we truly become blessed in the eyes of our Lord.