Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat
down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s; sake, for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all
kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who
were before you.”
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Jesus invited people to encounter God and embrace God’s hope for their
On a hill top, Jesus began his “Sermon on the Mount” with the Beatitudes.
The Greek word used in the Beatitudes is makarios. This word is difficult to
translate into English. It represents the present tense and infers ‘being happy or
‘experiencing good fortune’.
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates the word
makarios as ‘blessed’. Blessed is a fine word, but it can sound celestial or
Jesus’ Beatitudes proclaim a presently occurring earthy happiness that is
neither fleeting nor affected by circumstances. It is happiness or blessedness that
remains unshakeable as a direct result of the person being grounded here and now
These simple, yet powerful statements convey the identities of those who,
not only are the truly happy ones, but also, belong to God’s kingdom and live
within it; all because they are rooted in a life-giving relationship with God.
The Beatitudes resound as a foreign language to many of us. They do not at
all parallel the world’s standards of happiness. One writer pens: “If we are honest,
we must admit that the world Jesus asserts as fact, is not the world we have made
for ourselves.” (Lance Pape, Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Brite Divinity
School in Fort Worth, Texas, Textweek.com, 2011)
A pastor from Gaithersburg, Maryland, let his creative energy flow,
articulating these as beatitudes for our contemporary world:
1. “Blessed are the self-confident because they rule the world.
2. Blessed are positive-thinkers because they don’t need anybody’s comfort.
3. Blessed are the cocky and assertive because they get what they want.
4. Blessed are those who hunger for fame because they get reality TV shows.
5. Blessed are the vengeful because they get respect.
6. Blessed are the impure, pleasure-seekers because they see a good time.
7. Blessed are those who beat their opponents because the victors write the
8. Blessed are the popular because everybody loves them.”
(Josh Harris, the senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.;
from the internet)
The world sees and values things differently from Jesus. God’s realm holds
to other standards. As Jesus taught:
“Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
“Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
“Happy are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
“Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
“Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
“Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.”
“Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you, and speak evil against you
falsely on account of following Jesus.”
According to Jesus, happiness envelopes those who live by God’s standards
for they reside within God’s realm.
In actuality, it might take us a little while to appreciate God’s realm. It
requires that we must detach from the world’s standards. And, that can be
uncomfortable, in fact, troublesome for many people – especially those who are
enjoying the privileges that afford happiness by the world’s standards.
500 years ago, an Augustinian monk and priest by the name of Martin
Luther observed the Roman Catholic Church abusing its power and selling
indulgences to raise money for renovations to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Buying indulgences was purchasing, from the treasury of ‘good works’
accomplished by the Church’s saints, remittance of some or all punishment in
purgatory. This practice proved the Church was getting too comfortable with the
standards of the world. So, the scholarly monk responded.
The following quote is taken from the History Channel’s website:
“Committed to the idea that salvation could be reached through faith and by divine
grace only (as St. Augustine taught), Luther vigorously objected to the corrupt
practice of selling indulgences. Acting on this belief, Luther wrote the
“Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as “The 95
Theses,” a list of questions and propositions for debate. Popular legend has it that
on October 31, 1517 Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of
the Wittenberg Castle church.
The reality was probably not so dramatic; Luther more likely hung the document
on the door of the church matter-of- factly to announce the ensuing academic
discussion around it that he was organizing.”
“The 95 Theses, which would later become the foundation of the Protestant
Reformation, were written in a remarkably humble and academic tone,
questioning rather than accusing. The overall thrust of the document was
nonetheless quite provocative. The first two of the Theses contained Luther’s
central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone,
and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them
directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported the premise of the first
two theses.” (http://www.history.com/topics/martin-luther- and-the- 95-theses)
On this All Saints & All Souls celebration Sunday, we recall the saints of
the Church, including Martin Luther. They were people grounded in God and
who sometimes brazenly voiced opposition to abuses by both church and society
while also reaching out to others with God’s unfathomable love.
Also, we remember this day our loved ones who have passed from this life
and now live with God in the Heavenly Realm. Those who knew and lived God’s
love are inspirations for us today.
They are those who used their time, their artistic talents, their skillful labor
and their financial resources to extend God’s generosity and impact our lives with
indelible blessings from God. They are those who inspire us to live, not as the
world lives, but as Jesus invites us to live: in harmony with God and one another,
committing ourselves to God, trusting in God, and enjoying the unshakeable
happiness of living within God’s never-ending, never-failing love.
Before I close, I want you to think of one saint or a loved one who has
inspired you to live and share God’s love.
I’ve had the privilege of many inspiring people intersecting with my life.
But today, I remember Opal White. You’ll hear more about her another time.
She lived a harsh life on a small farm in the Ozarks. During and after The
Depression, she alone provided for her two children and her husband, after he had
a debilitating accident affecting his legs. Opal White was a woman of faith,
prayer, courage, and happiness. In her golden years, Opal quilted blankets, read
her Bible and cooked delicious country feasts for friends, neighbors, family, and
me. Her generous and kind love was grounded in God. I’ll never forget dear Opal,
because she is one of my inspirations.
Today, let us give thanks to God for the Saints and for our loved ones. Also,
let us be grateful to God for Jesus Christ and his invitation to live above the
trappings of this world so that we may experience the lasting happiness of living
within God’s realm of peace, justice, joy and love. Amen.