You likely recognise the blessing quoted above as being from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. You probably remember some of the other blessings made alongside it:
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the peacemakers
These blessings are traditionally known as the Beatitudes, and I suspect that most of us know these (and the other four blessings that accompany them) pretty well. They are amongst the most celebrated words Jesus ever spoke, though I’m not sure why.
I think many people see these words as poetic. I once had a poster on my bedroom wall with the Beatitudes printed on them. It had an image of a beautiful landscape in the background. The poster-designer evidently saw these words as inspirational.
I have a problem with this. I’ve never been able to see anything inspiring about having a poor spirit. I’m not even sure what it means, but it doesn’t sound attractive! I can appreciate the greatness of being a ‘peacemakers’ or being ‘merciful’ but I’ve never heard anybody say of anyone, “Oh, she has such a wonderfully poor spirit.”
If the first Beatitude is difficult, the second is even more confusing. ‘Blessed are those who mourn’, says Jesus (Matthew 5:4), which is pretty much the equivalent of saying ‘Happy are those who are sad’. It seems straightforwardly self-contradictory!
Of course, if these words are intended as poetry, we shouldn’t be trying to dissect them and scrutinize them as if they were logical syllogisms. Yet I don’t think Jesus was a poet. Indeed, I agree with Kierkegaard when he said that admiring Jesus for His beautiful language is like admiring St Paul for his tent-making skills. Our concern should not be with the beauty of Jesus’ words but with their meaning and relevance.
This brings us to a second popular approach to the Beatitudes, which is to treat them as words to live by.
I have a friend who calls herself a ‘Christian of the Beatitudes’. She doesn’t accept most of the traditional dogmas of the church, but she finds words to live by in the Sermon on the Mount. She is a peacemaker. She tries to be merciful. I don’t know how she’s going with her poverty of spirit, but I do believe she is sincere in trying to use these verses as a guide to life.
The problem with seeing the Beatitudes as guiding principles is similar to that of seeing them as poetry. It works well with some of them but not with of all of them. It might make sense for Jesus to urge us to be peacemakers and to be merciful, but it makes less sense for Jesus to urge us to mourn and to get ourselves persecuted. And once again, I’m not sure at all sure what it would mean to exhort someone to achieve greater poverty of spirit.
Thankfully, there is another way of understanding the Beatitudes, and it starts with recognising that these blessings are descriptive and not prescriptive. Jesus wasn’t commanding anything. I believe He was simply describing the people He was with.
We know the type of people who were attracted to Jesus. It wasn’t the rich and powerful. It was the weak, the marginalized, the destitute, the oppressed, the sinful, the sorrowing, the mournful and (no doubt) the poor in spirit. These were Jesus’ people. They came to Him and He blessed them.
We are in the Gospel of Matthew where we see Jesus repeatedly connecting with the ‘nepioi’ – the ‘little ones‘. Jesus welcomes children (Matthew 19:13-15), He rejoices over little ones who wander off but are found (Matthew 18:12-14) and He concludes His teaching ministry by identifying Himself with ‘the least of His brothers and sisters’ (Matthew 25:31-46). What we are seeing here, at the opening of Jesus’ ministry, echoes what we see throughout Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus is identifying the weak and the marginalised as His people, and He is blessing them.
I find great strength in this. Like many of your reading this, I live on the margins. I don’t have any political power nor any regular source of income. I grieve. I’ve been persecuted. Perhaps I’ve even achieved poverty of spirit? I am a part of this group that is being blessed by Jesus. Indeed, I think we all are!
It’s so easy to give in to despair. The forces against us seem so overwhelming, yet we are Jesus’ people, and we are blessed! We will see God. We will be comforted. The Kingdom of Heaven is ours! 😊
Our Sunday Eucharist
We ended up with a seamless broadcast and a full panel on the Sunday Eucharist last weekend, and this despite the fact that I was on holiday in Victoria, streaming from my hotel room. Thank you, Sam, Dave and Robert, for joining me.
One special feature in last Sunday’s presentation was an edited form of the interview I did with John Shipton (Julian Assange’s dad) while I was in Melbourne. You can catch the edited 5-minute interview at the beginning of the recording below. For those who are keen, the full version (12 minutes) is included below that.
We have some exciting things happening with our Sunday Eucharist over the next few weeks. I’ve thus far lined up three guest commentators to share their Biblical insights with us over the first three weeks of February. Specifically, they are:
- Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer (from London) on February 5.
- Joel Jammal (still in Sydney) on February 12.
- Father Ola (now back in Sweden) on February 19.
I’m also trying to organise our old friend, Father Elias Lleyds (in the Netherlands) to do the fourth Sunday in February. Stay tuned.
As mentioned, I’m also trying to line up people to bring us an opening song, but I haven’t been quite as successful with this. I do have a couple of tunes in the pipeline but I’m keen to hear from anyone in our community who would like to contribute.
I’ll be back at Binacrombi this weekend and am expecting the good company of boxing champion, Nathan Nicholas. I’m not sure who else will be joining us at this stage and am still looking for volunteers. Either way, we’ll be broadcasting Sunday from around 11.45 am and you can Join us on www.thesundayeucharist.com, or via your favourite social media sites: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Let me work your corner.
As ever, a big thank you to my twenty-seven patrons at to Patreon.com and to all those who support the work of Fighting Fathers Ministries, with finances and prayer. If you’re not a subscriber yet, please go to Patreon.com and sign as either:
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What’s coming up?
- Sunday, January 29th – Join us on www.thesundayeucharist.com from 11.45 am, or tune in via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Tuesday, January 31st – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, February 2nd – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Saturday, February 4th – Boxing from 3.00 pm @The Fight Lab
- Saturday, April 29 – Down the Rabbit Hole Fundraiser Ball @The Epping Club
Let me again conclude today with an appeal for help with our new member site at www.fightingfathers.com. As you know, my goal is to develop this site into a safe space where we can support each other, share ideas, and discuss things that we are passionate about without fear of censorship. I need some volunteers to help me road test the new site so that we can develop it further. If you’re interested, login using your Patreon username and password, and then hit me back with your ideas.
May the Lord bless you and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.