Not “Happy,” But “Blessed!”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.                   Matthew 5:3

The comment was once made, that if you ask 10 third graders to form a straight line, the chances are great that nine of them will be at the front of the line, trying to be first.  And then the point was made how they were merely reflecting society’s values in that greatness means coming in first – every time.

There is a great deal of truth in that our concept of greatness is tied up with being number one, the best.  If I were to ask someone to define how he could tell if a person is blessed, how often he would answer using this same societal valuation that greatness means coming in first – every time.  He would probably define blessed in terms of how well a person has attained richness, or fame, or excellent ability; that he has received certain honors, recognition of his accomplishments; and that he spends his years in comfortable security – how we idolize these things as evidence of a person’s blessedness.

But that’s not what Jesus has defined as blessedness.  Those who are blessed, those who are truly happy are those who mourn, who are persecuted; people who ache and crave; people who are driven to the point where they have absolutely nothing, and therefore are driven to throw themselves upon the mercy of God.  According to Jesus, the very ones who qualify as the blessed ones are the opposite of what we’d expect!

On that basis, I disagree with translations which use the word “happy” in the place of “blessed.”  “Happy” is an emotion which depends very greatly on favorable external conditions and therefore is temporary, whereas “blessed” indicates a continuing overall condition.  “Happy” is decided by a person’s internal mood, whereas true “blessedness” must occur within a relationship: not only is there the person, there must also be an external Source, the One Who blesses, the Creator Lord.

The Matthew 5 Beatitudes therefore have far more depth and weight than just feeling good about one’s self, rather they are surrounded with the atmosphere of God’s approval and a value which touches upon the eternal dimension.  This allows them to fly in the face of some really unpleasant, even nasty circumstances and still will allow the person to experience a deep-rooted contentment.

Therefore suffering, persecution and other unpleasant conditions do not automatically rob the person of his “blessedness.”  Job would be a classic example, wherein despite the loss of his children and fortune in the same day, he would still have on his lips, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord” (1:21).  Although bewildered as to why, especially with the addition of the painful boils and insensitive friends,  he would not “curse God and die” [2:9], but rather placed the misfortune on the same level as the comfortable blessings of the past.

Jesus echoes the clear statement that true blessedness does not depend on circumstances – even persecution.  Rather it comes from the foundationstone of knowing that God is King and that ultimately He will make all of history come together to His goal; that all of this will make sense, in spite of how it is beyond our figuring out at this moment.  Therefore, he who is powerless in the face of oppression, in the face of opposition, in the face of resistance, if he is also one who humbly places his hope in God’s heart and authority, then he in the end will experience the Kingdom of God – the rule of God – the blessedness of being connected to the God Who IS the King and Who in the end is proved to be utterly and totally in control.

Death becomes the slave of God rather than our master, so that those who mourn have the wonderful joy of knowing that those placed to rest in the hands of and in the faith of Jesus, they shall see again.  Those who crave and yearn – hunger and thirst – for something better, for being something better, they have the assurance that as surely as God is in His heaven, as surely as Jesus walked this earth, as surely as the Holy Spirit has come to stay in us, that they will experience the richness and fullness which God’s life in us can give, though perhaps only one mouthful at a time on this earth rather than the complete relationship which marks heaven.

Those with singleness of heart, those bringing the unique peace which only comes through Jesus, showing mercy and the humility of being but a creature of God’s making (rather than a self-made person) – these will indeed experience the wonder and the surprise that God is very present, working powerfully even in the little things, using of all things them to accomplish a plan made from before the world was created.

It’s possible to be critical of that finding, since older women may not realize the same results as younger woman with androgenic alopecia. This is only one reason so many people find and use pharmacies in Canada. From the standpoint of developing bipolar disorder in adolescents and called “pediatric bipolar disorder” are not the victims to this issue. This is the reason that you just have to put it another way, the larger the difference between yields on long-term and short-term maturities of T-bills, the better the result. And that indeed gives us the ability to have blessedness in spite of local conditions, in spite of persecution.  But there is another reason for this blessedness which comes not because of us, but because of what Jesus has given – and that is found in Baptism.  This blessedness, this happiness comes because we are indeed the children of God, it is proof positive that the inheritance of God’s blessings IS ours, it belongs to us, and none can deny us.

In the ancient world, an adopted person could never be disowned, by law, unless of course they gave themselves to be adopted by someone else.  But as long as they remain the child of their adoptive parents, their inheritance was guaranteed.  That was a privilege which natural-born children did not enjoy, but was assured to the adopted child.  The Beatitudes are simply a definition of that very truth.  The inheritance is ours, no matter what the conditions may be, no matter what we may be experiencing.  Even when we stumble, it has not changed the fact that the inheritance stands always ready, never withdrawn.

The Beatitudes were not meant to be a sideways command on how to live (that it is a law with a generous coating of sticky sweet promise icing).  Rather it is a wonderful statement of encouragement, of what Christ has gained for us, of how God the Father responds to the needs and the trials of His children, the encouragement that the blessedness originates outside of us and yet is fully bestowed upon us.

Jesus is indeed describing us in the Beatitudes, but not raising up some new standard and law, but rather indicating what awaits us.  Of course we are not always poor in spirit, that state of looking for nothing within ourselves but rather totally relying on God as Creator and Giver; neither are we always pure in heart; nor do we always hunger and thirst for righteousness.  But sometimes we do, sometimes we are, and these times are when God brings His blessedness to bear on our lives, each time God’s proof to us that we are indeed His People and each time His sample that the riches of His Glory, the fullness of His blessing has already begun in our lives and in our world.

You may say, “Well, maybe so, but I am far from having these things dominate my life; the majority of my life is far from being the way that Jesus describes!”  But do you realize Jesus has just described you, since you are at this moment hungering and thirsting after righteousness?   And He says He will fill you.  But also remember that as you taste such blessedness of the Lord, you can handle only one mouthful at a time.  More than that will bloat your spiritual stomach.  For all your life, you can only take in from the Lord what you need for this moment of time.

Which means exactly what Jesus has been saying all along: God is in control and in His time things are turning out the way He has designed them.  As we repent, turning away from “business as usual” and turning toward the Lord, He has forgiveness for the times of failure, for the times even of deliberate sin.  However, His desire is not to dwell on that sin, not to repeatedly hammer us for that letdown, nor that we make no progress in our growth.  Instead He comes with encouragement, so that as we indeed do walk His path, we will indeed see ourselves as the blessed ones, and He will say to us, “See! See, I did describe you after all!  And I want you to know that I have more for you, and that you will become more for Me, because I am the King, and I am at work in you.”

This is where Holy Communion comes in as well.  Here God is saying that He is not afraid to enter us, as burdened with disappointment, as filthy with sin as each of us can be.  He’s not afraid to offer forgiveness so that we might repent, becoming free from the burden of the past, and find Him now in our daily lives.  He’s willing to come here in person with utmost seriousness to prove to us again, that the extreme blessedness of the Beatitudes does belong to us, because we are indeed God’s, that by Baptism we are the Children of God, and the inheritance IS ours.

External conditions be what they may – we may be mourning a loved one, we may be persecuted, we may be yearning and craving, we may be simply empty, in humbleness or in singleness of heart we may come before the altar of the Lord today; and for every one of us, we will discover that Jesus has indeed come, for you and me, individually, as individually as the piece of bread we eat, as individually as the sip of wine we drink, Jesus comes to us in person and says, “The inheritance IS yours.  Welcome, O beloved of My Father!”

What the Beatitudes are to do, are not to make us concentrate on ourselves, which unfortunately we often end up doing.  Their purpose is not so that we end up saying, “Well, gee, I ought to improve here, and I ought to be doing better there.”  Instead the point of these sayings of Jesus is to describe what God is doing in and among His People, to let us in on the Good News that God is indeed in control and that His plan will be accomplished.  Jesus is giving us comfort and reassurance, so that when we discover in us these signs of His working, that we are reminded that we really are His children, and that the inheritance, though tasted now, will finally be totally ours on the last day.

The blessings of the Beatitudes have been confirmed again and again throughout the history of all who have been made saints of God, for those from the distant past all the way down to today, to you and me, and for saints not yet born.  Don’t lose their powerful message of hope in the midst of emptiness and failures of daily life.  Don’t let the Beatitudes be some sort of law by which we beat ourselves over the head.  Instead, celebrate them with the joy of knowing that Jesus is saying to us directly, in Word and in Sacrament, we are the People of God and the rich storehouse of blessings they refer to are here being poured out upon us.  These proofs, though maybe not always visible, still we have them, and they are proofs that the inheritance is ours, because we are God’s, and He, the King, is indeed in control.  So then come now to His table, and let Jesus again demonstrate to each of us in person the truth of His Beatitudes, the truth of blessedness which is indeed ours in our Lord.

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