One thing I think the Lord is teaching us at The Belfrey at present, is the priority of celebration. That we need to rejoice. To be glad. To praise him. To thank him. With passion. With devotion. From the heart. And not be afraid to do so.
So by the end of Grace a couple of weeks ago, we were beginning to party. We’d had a great message from Al Rycroft, shared Communion together and then we began to rock. It was a shame we had to stop! So we picked that up at The 7, with three baptisms an Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, and we celebrated God’s goodness and the way he changes lives and brings the lost back home. It was party time!!!
Jesus was teased by the religious leaders of his day, because he partied too much. In Luke 7:34 Jesus acknowledges that some even call him a drunkard and glutton. That’s because he liked to spend time in the homes of sinners & revelers and, as we’re learning on Sunday nights at the moment, he encouraged his followers to celebrate and to party when the lost got found. So Jesus liked to celebrate.
But this Jesus who loved to celebrate also said that to be truly blessed, you have to be ‘poor in spirit’. Spiritually dissatisfied. Interesting…
I suspect that’s not just about being dissatisfied with your own relationship with God but for others too, in our locality, region, nation.
It’s like being a follower of Jesus involves holding two things in tension. On the one hand: being happy and celebrating God and his goodness. But on other hand: being unhappy and wanting things to be different. The people of God’s kingdom need to be both.
Having looked last time at the first Beatitude, the next three take this further. Like the first, they are mainly about our relationship with God, whilst the last four beatitudes (which we’ll look at next time) are about our relationships with others. So what do Beatitudes 2, 3 and 4 say? Let’s see.
No2: The Mourners
Jesus says: You are blessed by God if you mourn. The Greek word for ‘mourn’ is the same word we’d use for grieving over the dead. It’s about sorrow. Sorrow for the way things are.
So what are you sorrowful for? What makes you grieve?
I felt sorrowful a couple of weeks ago when I saw video footage of children taking part in cage fights in a Preston Working Men’s Club. Adults were watching, and one of the children was crying because he was hurt. This is happening in this nation. And in the North, which we want to see transformed. And my heart went out to those little ones. I wanted to weep.
Maybe you feel that about injustice; immorality; abuse or violence. And rightly so. We must grieve over such things. But, as Nicky Gumbel says, Jesus’ teaching here is perhaps more concerned with our own sin, than the sin of the world around us. And the challenge is whether we mourn about that? Are your sorrowful about that?
Jesus says that God loves to respond to this kind of sorrow for wrong… by bringing comfort. It’s like our grief drives us into the strong arms of the Comforter.
No3: The Meek
Jesus says: You are blessed by God when you are meek. Being meek is not being a drip – a wet blanket. It’s about choosing to be the opposite of arrogant. A very similar word in English is ‘broken’ – but not like broken glass. Rather it’s about being broken in, like a horse. When a horse has been broken in it is tamed, and can use it’s strength is channeled. Being meek is like that. It’s about submitting to someone else’s agenda.
Jesus says that if you’re like that with God, then you inherit the earth.God will give the meek a high place, because they will not seek in themselves.They will get the earth. It’s all yours, if you’re meek. God gives you everything. The world. The world becomes your parish, if you like. There for you to live in, and enjoy and win – for Christ. Because you are ‘meek’ – submitted to his agenda.
No4: The Hungry
Jesus says:You are blessed by God when you hunger & thirst for righteousness.I don’t think I know what it is to be really hungry. Not really hungry. I once had such a severe food poisoning that meant I went for a week without food. I was pretty hungry by the end. But I wasn’t going to die. I had plenty of fluids. I was ok. But one in every three people in the world experience a much deeper hunger than that, on a regular basis. They are hungry. And hungry people become desperate.They might travel miles to find food. Some will even fight for it in order to stay alive.
Jesus is talking here about feeling like that about ‘righteousness’ – about right relationships. Being really desperate for right relationships with others is particularly picked up in the next 4 Beatitudes. Perhaps here Jesus is focusing especially on having a right relationship with God! If so, this is about being desperate for him. Feeling spiritually empty is necessary, so you can be filled by God’s Spirit. Which then takes us back round to the first beatitude; being poor in spirit.
100% and 100%
So Jesus wants us to be live is dual life – a life of celebration and dissatisfaction? It’s not about balancing the two. It’s not about being half and half – 50% celebratory and 50% dissatisfied. I reckon it’s about integrating them together, so you’re 100% celebratory, and at the same time, 100% dissatisfied. A bit like Jesus, who when he came to dwell among us wasn’t 50% divine and 50% human. He was 100% divine and 100% human. He intergrated both natures. Similarly we are called passionately celebratory of God … and passionately hungry for more of Him.
If you are like that: then ‘blessed are you’ says Jesus. God will use you in his kingdom.