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The Beatitudes
a sermon based on Matthew 5:1-12
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
   3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
   11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Children’s Message: Bless You!

Props: a handkerchief
Invite the children to come up for the children's time in worship. Show your handkerchief and ask if anybody knows what this is for. Take a few suggestions, then demonstrate the use by pretending to sneeze into the handkerchief.
Ask the children for the various people give when someone sneezes. The most common response is "bless you." Ask the children if they know what this expression means. Who is supposed to do the blessing? What is the blessing for? For people to get better, for well-being.
Make a transition to the "Bless Yous" Jesus gives in our passage. Read a few of them to the children. Tell them that Jesus said "bless you" to them, not because they sneezed, but because God wants to bless especially those who are needy, those who are poor, those who are sad, and those who suffer.
Jesus also blesses those who try to do the right thing; those who are making peace instead of taking revenge; who are meek and not aggressive, who are forgiving instead of judging. (You may want to expand this by fleshing it out with examples out of the children's home or school experience).
Closing prayer: "Dear God, thank you for your blessings; we especially appreciate the blessings for those who are poor and those who are sad. But we also thank you for blessing all of us who try to live a good and peaceful life in your kingdom. Lord, we need to be blessed by you; add a blessing to our day today so that we can show the whole world the love you put into our heart. Amen."
The Beatitudes—the “bless yous” Jesus utters-- are perhaps the most recognized part of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 and 6. And rightly so, as they have been a comfort to many who are suffering, poor, and downtrodden as far as the comforts of the material life goes.
The word used in the Greek is Makarioi (μακαριοι). It could be translated with “happy.”  
Obviously, Jesus is not using the word blessed to mean material wealth, prosperity, and success.
A survey of the bible on the concept of blessedness or blessings reveals even more:

Biblical Survey:
God is blessed. No one doubts that. We worship God because of God's blessedness. We express this in our worship services. It is a sense in which we recognize the power and majesty of God. It is behind hymns that we sing today as we "Bless the Lord" and sing "Blessed be the Name. 
We then learn that God bestows blessings on us. The first instance of this type of blessing is found in the first chapter of Genesis, where God blesses the man and woman (Gen 1:28).
And these blessings have enormous power and significance. They are not just nice words to say, they have impact on our lives.
One story that helps us understand the significance of being blessed is the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, but because Esau was born first, he was the heir of his father's estate, including his blessing.
But Jacob talked Esau into selling his birthright, the right to inherit their father's worldly possessions (Gen 25:29-34). And as their father was dying, Jacob stole his brother's blessing as well (Gen 27:1-29).
The fact that the story is told tells us that the blessings have power. The fact that Esau wept when he heard the news (Gen 27:38) tells us how important it was to be blessed. The family blessing which came first from God to Abraham was given to Jacob. Esau feels cut off and no longer a part of God's plan.
There are many biblical examples in which we learn that God blesses us:
· God blessed the man and woman and told them to care for the earth (Gen 1:28);
· God blessed Noah and set the rainbow as a sign of the covenant they made (Gen 9:1 ff);
· God blesses Abraham in the context of a covenant (Gen 12:1-3) -- as a side note, Abraham is also called to bless others in response to God's blessing; God blesses the people of Israel when the covenant is made at Mt Sinai (Dt 7:12-14).
We could name many other examples. The meaning of blessed that emerges from every single one of these examples is that God is blessed, that God wants to bless us and that we are to pass on the blessings we received.

Jesus’ New Concept of Blessedness
Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, introduces a new concept of blessedness. His concept of blessedness is not what the world generally understands under blessings. His concept of blessedness has nothing to do with material riches, earthly comfort, achievements, or social standing.
Perhaps the closest translation for Jesus’ concept is the phrase: Blessings in disguise.”
Let’s look at these “blessings in disguise” one by one:
Poor in Spirit
This is one that is difficult to understand. Many translations have been offered. I personally think, the interpretation by Eugene Peterson makes the most sense: “You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
Sometimes, we are at that point when we are impoverished of the things of this world, we may worry about how to make it, how to survive, we may feel we are at the end of our rope. Jesus is saying: that’s not a bad place to be at all; consider it a blessing, because now as you start praying and looking for help from above, you will experience how God will come through for you and provide for you. A blessing in disguise!
When you mourn
 "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.
What Jesus expresses here is the truth that is otherwise expressed in Christian thought: “God weeps with those who weep.” God is closest to those who are broken-hearted.” Jesus says: God will comfort you!
I have often asked myself, how can people cope with the loss of a loved one, if they don’t have faith? If they don’t believe that they will see them ever again. Our belief in God is a blessing during those times without which it would be so much harder to cope.

Blessed are the Meek
"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 but that are most important. Things such as joy, peace, love, and faith. Money cannot buy those things; neither can achievements or social standing.

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
"You're blessed when you love law and order (and I’m not talking about the show), when you yearn for everybody to have the same rights, liberties, and opportunities.  You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full, toward others you find yourself cared for.

Showing mercy
As we know from Jesus’ other teachings, showing mercy is something we are enabled to do after we received mercy from God. It is something that we gladly do; for whatever mercy we show is nothing compared to the kind of mercy God showed toward us. And as we extend mercy to others we are reminded again of how God has mercy for us. Showing mercy to others makes us part of God’s kingdom and that makes us feel good.

Being Pure in Heart
 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world as well. And what a blessing it is when we start seeing the signature of God in nature and in our own personal lives.

Being Peacemakers
 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.

Being Persecuted
 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens for all heaven applauds you. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. It means that God thinks of you as an important person in His kingdom.
We could spend a whole sermon on each of these blessings Jesus uttered to really understand them better, but today we only have time for a summary and the spiritual principle Jesus reveals:
Jesus turns things upside down (from a human vantage point) and says in so many words: “there are blessings for you even in the very hardships of life! It’s considered a blessing even if you are persecuted for God’s sake.”
These blessings Jesus is talking about are of a deeper, spiritual kind and they have at least three benefits:
1. They will make your life more bearable and fulfilled
2. They will make you a better person
3.  You end up with treasure in heaven.
Jesus wants to shower us with the ultimate blessedness in life this life and beyond—finding harmony, inner peace, being satisfied, feeling loved, appreciated, and being fulfilled, and hopeful for the future. That’s how Jesus wants to bless his followers; that how he wants to bless us this morning.
Do you feel blessed by Jesus this morning? Well you should, because Jesus wants to shower you with them. Let’s open our hearts and minds and accept them out of his mouth. Amen.