At the base of a hill during the cool afternoon, we sit with a multitude of others who have followed a Rabbi from Nazareth out into the countryside. Some of us are waiting expectantly for whatever discourse he is about to give, some of us are here because we just had to know what all the fuss was about, others here because quite frankly we find it hard to believe that anyone from Nazareth has much good to say.
The Teacher opens his mouth and begins to speak. He starts this sermon with a sequence of odd blessings. He tells us that it is the poor who are blessed, the meek, and the hungry. He says we are blessed when we are persecuted when we refuse violence when we mourn. These are not the things we were taught to consider as blessed. These are not the things that we had thought made you righteous and accepted, but here is the Rabbi speaking, as one with authority, about how everything we considered broken, weak, and indicators of cursedness are actually indicators of blessing from God. He tells us that this is the Kingdom.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most radical discourses on human society that has ever been uttered. Sadly, much of our western iterations of Christianity seem to be more or less uninterested in what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, and what it looks like to live in such a kingdom. These iterations of the Christian faith have little interest in seeing the Kingdom of God at work in the world, what Bonhoeffer would call "Cheap Grace", and have instead preoccupied ourselves with making sure Jesus is nothing more than our chauffeur to the afterlife, or "ticket to heaven" if you will.
It baffles me why so many Christians (MYSELF INCLUDED) have given very little weight to the teachings of Jesus. For much of Christianity Jesus is nothing more than a blood sacrifice that affords them the opportunity at some decent afterlife insurance policies. We have resolved to have more use for the Jesus who is the coordinator of our afterlife affairs, and very little use for the Jesus who is Lord, the Lord of all Lords for that matter.
In light of the last week of executive orders, protests, and overall political unrest in our country I find the teachings of Jesus more relevant than ever. See Jesus had little to say about life after death (despite what your pastor told you) but had an overwhelming amount to say about this life and what it means to follow God and participate in his Kingdom work, as Jesus taught us to pray, "on earth as it is in heaven." This message, the gospel of Jesus, the magnum opus of the kingdom of God that is the sermon on the mount must inform how we live and act in this world. The way of Jesus is a narrow path for a reason. It is a pipe dream, unintelligible, absurd, and overall ridiculous in the eyes of the world. This is why Paul speaks so often of the "foolishness of the cross." God has revealed himself in his Son Jesus, and in doing so has shattered all of our preconceived notions about the divine, life, and what it means to be truly human. Jesus challenges the way we do politics, business, the way we live, and how we choose to order human society. And the Beatitudes are the first blow, of many, to the systems we have constructed in the name of progress.
The Beatitudes are not so much instructional as they are descriptive. They are Jesus telling us that is through the poor, meek, hungry, and vulnerable that God is breaking into the world. The Beatitudes are in a sense, God showing us that it is those in the margins, the forgotten, and the broken things of the world that he has chosen to see the Kingdom established. The Beatitudes are counter-intuitive because they challenge us to re-calibrate, to step back, to repent of how we see the world, and instead choose to see the world, and the plan for creation through the eyes of the vulnerable, and thus through the eyes of God. Unfortunately, sometimes we are so removed from the words of Jesus that we need a fresh reminder of what he is trying to tell us, and so I have written some Beatitudes to remind me of the heart of God for our context-
Blessed are the refugees, for they are welcome in the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who doubt, for their questions produce faith.
Blessed are the LGBTQ kids who suffer because of their sexuality, for they are accepted in the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are the addicted, for they shall find fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are those who are lynched in the streets for their skin color, for they will see justice.
Blessed are they who work their fingers to the bone and still can not get their heads above water, for they will find rest.
Blessed are the pregnant teenage girls who have no idea what they are going to do.
Blessed are those suffering with PTSD, for the Hell they have seen shall be wiped from their eyes.
Blessed are those who without affordable healthcare will die young.
Blessed are those who protest, for they are the voice for the voiceless.
We could go on and on.
May we let the Gospel of Jesus shake us to our core.
May we realize that we encounter God in the most vulnerable.
May we be the people who take seriously his call to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.