Our text for today is Matthew 5:1-12. It is the opening statement of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and contains a series of short, sharp statements about the kind of people who are truly blessed. In our 21st Century world, they offer a vitally important reorientation to what it means to be blessed.
Have you ever heard of spatial disorientation? Spatial disorientation, or ‘spatial unawareness’ is the inability of a person to correctly determine his/her body position in space.
One of the great dangers for pilots is flying in the dark or through thick clouds without instruments and somehow becoming disorientated. There is a whole biological and scientific explanation which I won’t go into but which I’ll leave you to google for yourself. J The gist of it is that pilots, without a clear line of sight of the horizon, become so disorientated that they believe they are flying level, but are actually slowly turning upside down. The result of this disorientation is ultimately that control of the aircraft is lost, usually in a steep, diving turn known as a graveyard spiral. During the entire time, leading up to and well into the manoeuvre, the pilot remains unaware that he is turning, believing that he is maintaining straight flight.
I believe that most people living today … and for that matter many who call ourselves Christians … have become spatially disorientated in the spirit … especially about what it means to be blessed. Like the religious people of Jesus’ day, we have an upside down view of what constitutes a blessed life. We all desire a blessed life but we incorrectly believe that to be blessed means:
- To have it all together
- To be wealthy and live an easy life in physical comfort
- To be in a state of happiness because nothing ‘goes wrong’ for us
- To be in powerful positions at work and in our relationships
- To be well fed physically
- To receive love and pampering from others
- To always have whatever our hearts desire
- To live in perfect physical health
But in truth, if we live our lives pursuing this state of blessedness, our lives will be disorientated. And the longer we pursue this distorted view of blessedness, the more likely we will be to crash and burn in our own version of a graveyard spiral.
What Jesus offers us in His opening statement of the Sermon on the Mount is a spiritual reorientation. Helping us to get our sights set back onto the horizon … back on to what it truly means to be blessed.
Like last week’s Sermon, today’s is going to take a different format. Let’s create space for the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. There won’t be time for us to each write our own paraphrase of Matthew 5:1-12 but I will use the paraphrase prepared by author Eugene Petersen, well known as ‘The Message’, as the core text today. This will not be about ME offering us all a spiritual reorientation through the words of Jesus … but it will be us all inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to us and reorient our hearts and minds today. So let us listen to each of the verses as paraphrased … take a moment to absorb it … I’ll pass a brief comment … and we’ll move on to the next one.
5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, or as The Message has it:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
Silence… Do you feel like you have nothing left in your tank spiritually? Do you feel you have been stretched so thin that you’re about to snap? Do you feel like God has set you an exciting task but you don’t have what it takes to accomplish it … in fact you really have nothing left to offer? Good, says Jesus. Instead of despairing about where you are at spiritually, rejoice, because now you are in a position to allow God to take over.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement: “Blessed are those who mourn”, or as The Message has it:
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
Silence… Do you feel like you are at a place in your life when you have lost what is most dear to you? Are you mourning the loss of something or someone precious? Have you lost a season of your life or a relationship or a dream you feel you’ll never be able to get back again? Does all seem lost? You are in a painful space… but it is also a precious space, says Jesus, because the God who has loved you since before the creation of time is right there with you … and you are in a great position to open yourself to Him more than ever before … and He will embrace you and pour His comforting love into you.
Blessed are those who mourn
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are the meek”, or as The Message has it
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
Silence … We live in an age of restless discontent … a constant race to have more and to be more. That goal can never be reached! Instead, says Jesus, we ought to be pursuing the state of contentment … a deep, abiding contentment with what I have and with who I am. The world may scorn this as weakness and a lack of ambition, but Jesus says it is a reorientation of one’s ambition … making it our ambition to be content. As Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances … I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation … I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Blessed are the meek
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” or, as The Message has it:
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
Silence … Most of us humans have a huge appetite for pleasure … for luxuries … for smarter houses and flashier cars … for a more comfortable life. The world tells us that is blessing! Jesus, however, invites us to reorient our desire towards God … to hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God! Do you have an appetite for God? Let it grow. Hunger for God! Thirst for God! And you will be completely satisfied. Your life will be richer and fuller than ever before.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are the merciful” or, as The Message has it:
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”
Silence … We all feel a need to be cared for by the kindness of others. Jesus says to reorient ourselves and seek first to care. Somehow when we aim to give ourselves away in loving care for others, we find that God pours His care into us. Like a hosepipe which has to feed water out in order to receive more in … we need to feed loving-kindness and care out of us, in order for more of God’s loving-kindness and care to flow into us.
Blessed are the merciful
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, or as The Message has it:
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
Silence … When Jesus speaks of being pure in heart, He speaks of an unadulterated heart … a heart that does not try to mix our love for worldly pleasures with our love for God. And He promises that when we have hearts and minds focussed on loving God, we will see God wherever we go. We will sense His presence, His love, and His gentle Holy Spirit at every turn.
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, or as The Message has it:
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
Silence… Are you willing to be a peacemaker? Heaven knows the world needs those who will find ways to bring people together to understand each other and love one another. In this age of Brexit, the Great Wall of Mexico, racial tension and social revolution … we have enough people working very hard to drive us apart. We need a revolution of peacemakers who will help this world to cooperate and live at peace. Working together we can accomplish so much more.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Let us listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in silence as we digest this statement, “Blessed are those who are persecuted”, or as The Message has it:
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Silence… In a world of political correctness, populism and people-pleasing, will you be someone who is willing to stand up for the truth of God and His Word? Would you be willing to be side-lined and ignored or even despised and hated because you speak the unpopular truth and call sinners to repentance? Would you be willing to lose your job because you refuse to lie or cheat? Would you be willing to face social ostracism because you befriend and reach out in love to those whom others reject?
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
So will we allow our lives to be reoriented by Christ? Will we have a value-shift? It is what we will commit ourselves to next Sunday when we recommit ourselves to a life of complete abandon and surrender to Christ.