All of Gods Blessings
a sermon based on Matthew 5:1-13
by Rev. Gary Roth
God bless you. Thats kind of nice, isnt it? God bless
you. Its nice to think that God might bless us. The good news is, of course,
that He does. In fact, His first Word to us is always one of blessing of promise.
Luther, in talking about the Ten Commandments, tells us that even when He gives us a
command, it is always attached to a promise. The promise always comes first. Oftentimes
people feel that it goes the other way around that if you are good, or you repent,
then you get the promise. Somehow you have to earn Gods blessing, and He is somewhat
reluctant to give it. So of course, thats a trap, because we are never good enough
to earn it. It has to be a free gift. Thats where Jesus starts today. As Jesus
delivers the Sermon on the Mount, the crowd gathers below Him. He sees them all the
sick, the lame, the wounded, men, women, children ordinary people, like you and me.
Not the powerful, not the religious leadership most of those kind of people
wouldnt be caught dead with these folks who are gathered around Jesus now. These are
just ordinary people, struggling to get by the best way that they can. Jesus sits down,
and sets out to instruct them. He opens His mouth, and the first thing that He says is,
God bless you!
I had a lady in my church in Baltimore that used to like to give me a hard time.
Im glad that theres no one like that here! She was actually a very sweet gal,
but every Sunday shed tell me, Pastor, youre too easy on them. I want to
hear a little more fire and brimstone. It reminds me of the story of the Baptist
pastor who was preaching on all the sins of that generation. Hed preach against
gambling, and one old gal in the church would yell out, Amen! You tell them,
pastor! And then he preached against alcohol, and she yelled out, Hallelujah!
You tell them pastor! Then he preached about gossiping, and he paused, waiting for
her. Everything was quiet for a minute, then her voice was heard, Now youve
gone off preaching and gone into meddling! Have you ever noticed that Jesus never
preached fire and brimstone to the ordinary people, to those who had been labeled
sinners by the religious righteous? The only ones he hit with fire and
brimstone were the religious and political leadership, those who had contempt for ordinary
people. But to these ordinary people, Jesus says, God bless you!
Jesus once told the disciples, You did not choose me, I chose you. It was a
gift that God granted them, to be one of Jesus disciples. It is also a gift that He
has given us. We are His people. We met the requirements for a relationship with Him,
simply by being sinners who needed saving. He met the requirements of that relationship by
forgiving us, breaking down the barriers between himself and us, bearing the cost of the
relationship himself. Of course, these folks who gathered around Jesus couldnt know
that but Jesus did. They supposed that the Pharisees and all those other good
religious people were blessed, but not them. They supposed that those good Pharisees had
all the answers, but not them. They supposed that the Pharisees had everything together,
and that if they wanted a relationship with God, that these good, religious people were
the ones who had the inside track, the ones that they should emulate, the ones who could
help them. They supposed that they were like the little child, standing outside the candy
store without any money, looking in the window at all that wonderful stuff that they
couldnt have. So what a wonderful surprise it is to them, to have Jesus sit down in
their midst, and begin with these words: God bless you!
Could you use a little blessing in your life? I could! Another translation says,
happy. Could you stand a little more happiness, a little more joy, a little
more fulfillment in your life?
Yet the blessing does seem to be provisional. It isnt for everyone. Who is it
that God blesses then? How do we get to be part of that blessed crew? Jesus tells us about
them. He begins: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. The poor in spirit are those who, realizing that they have
nothing to offer God, depend on His grace alone. They know that they have nothing to offer
that if they are to live in His presence, that they must live only in the shadow of
His love and grace. There is a God-shaped void in the middle of their life that nothing
else can fill. They are empty, waiting for God to fill them. The promise is that those who
seek will find. Are you poor in spirit? Then, God bless you!
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth. In terms of our relationship to ourselves, God
demands truth and humility. The ones who mourn are those who see themselves truly, who
make no excuses for themselves, who, when faced with Gods demand for holiness, see
who they really are, and mourn for their sinfulness. Their experience of sin in the world
and in their own life causes them pain, it causes them to long for Gods kingdom.
Jesus says that they shall be comforted. The comforter is the Holy
Spirit. They will receive the gift of the Spirits presence, to lift them up, and to
help them grow in grace. The Spirit is the down-payment that they receive on the Kingdom.
Are you the meek? Are you the one who mourns? God bless you!
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be
satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. In terms of
others, Gods demand is for righteousness and mercy. By righteousness, He does not
mean doing what the law demands. The words, righteousness and
justice refer to the same thing in scripture a right relationship
bringing about wholeness, peace, shalom, unity fulfilling the purpose for
which God created us, that we might, as Adam and Eve originally did walk in the
Garden with God. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, are starved
for better relationships they want them so bad that they refuse to carry a grudge,
they refuse to think evil about another, refuse to backbite or slander or gossip. They are
those who go beyond the call to be reasonable, to give tit for tat, to do what can be
expected, what is deserved or what is even allowed to be merciful to others. They
are always willing to forgive; they love without counting the cost, and so possess the
same heart as God Himself, who gave His all to us. So they shall receive mercy, Jesus
says. Are you one of these those who are starved for better, restored
relationships? Are you the merciful? God bless you!
Blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for
righteousness sake. There is also a social demand in our relationship with God. That
is what is expressed in the last three Beatitudes. The pure in heart, are
those whose lives are aimed in one direction. One of the saints said, to be pure in
heart is to desire only one thing. What is the central desire of your life? Is it to
see God? Is it to live in the shadow of that hope? The pure in heart dont care what
others say about cultural values or social expectations. Their aim in life is to
reflect Gods life in theirs, to mirror His concerns in theirs, to make Gods
heart the sole object of their own heart. They are the peacemakers, the shalom
makers, whose presence brings healing and wholeness and restoration to this world. They
are the ones who are more willing to bear injustice than to create it, who are more
willing to be victimized by the world than to allow that any of gods children should
suffer injustice. He compares them to the prophets who, in speaking for God, suffered
persecution. Are you one of these the pure of heart, the peacemakers, one who is
willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake? God bless you!
Are you happy today? What makes you happy? What brings you joy? Do you get up in the
morning, excited about life? Do you have the kind of joy that has staying power? Is your
life bearing the kind of returns you want it to? Jesus says that it can. That is the
promise: Happy are you. God has already called you to new life in Him. He has
given you the possibility of a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with Him. It
isnt something you have to strive for it is a gift for you today. Talk to Him
about it. Pray about it. Receive it into your heart. You wont be sorry. And you
wont go back. And God bless you!