Glimpses of the Kin-dom: Week 4
I pray you enjoy this message and God speaks to you through it. To listen to this message you can hear it on the Beech Grove United Methodist Church Podcast (podcast releases Monday mornings), or by clicking here.*
Also every week I offer sermon notes as an opportunity for folks in my congregation to have something to take with them. Check them out here!
*Note: Sermon audio does not match the manuscript…sometimes the Spirit moves.
5 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he began to speak and taught them, saying: 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 receive 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 for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:1-12
As we have journeyed the last few weeks, through the scriptures that have made up this series, we have seen this theme of kin-dom theology begin to instill within us a sense of faith-lived work that lay ahead of us. As I mentioned in the first week of this series, the basis of a kin-dom understanding is centered around relationships. It is the embodiment of God’s relationship with us and our relationship with one another. There is no hierarchy in the kin-dom and thus moving away from a language that uses KINGdom can help place us all on an equitable footing as we move together in community and relationship with God and one another.
God, as this familial figure, offers us wisdom, guidance, and most of all abundant and unconditional grace. The authority of God playing in a bigger role in God’s empathy rather than any understanding of judgmentalism that we ourselves often try to mirror as a manner of superiority. It is for this reason that when we see in Jesus talking about the kin-dom we see it done in this manner of humility that is embedded in our own lived reality.
Now I remind us here that the kin-dom, as talked about by Jesus is both a present and lived reality and a promise of the hope of eternal salvation God offers. This means that we both experience the kin-dom now and we look towards the fulfillment of the perfect reality of the kin-dom in salvation.
When Jesus goes about teaching this, he recognizes how this can be a very hard pill to swallow, but if we back up back to the first week of this series, back to Jesus’ baptism, we see a very harsh reality for us. If we follow along in the story, we see Jesus baptized, and the naming by God of this special individual. However, to continue to read the parts of the story we skipped over to get to our verses today, we see that life does not get “easier” for Jesus because of his baptism, and unfortunately the same could be said for us.
Following his baptism, Jesus retreats into the wilderness, is tempted, then comes into acts of ministry and service in which he experiences the harshest critiques from humanity. The problem is we seek salvation in the world when we think we are receiving it from God. We expect the world to treat us how God treats us. We think heaven a divine right, and we forgot that it is in the promised hope of the kin-dom that we reside in it in the here and now.
We do not go around seeking for the world to treat us justly because we are Christian, rather we seek to create a just world as we live out our faith in the world. When we come to this point in the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus has been in ministry for a little while now, and he has come to a point where he will offer a message to help his disciples and many of those who have gathered to learn and grow in their own faith.
It is no wonder then that Jesus will begin with the manner of blessing and happiness that resides in our faith and in this linear tension present in the understanding of the kin-dom. Many of you may be familiar with this set of verses read for us today, often termed “The Beatitudes.” However, you may have always wondered that they seem a little oxymoronic in the way Jesus presents them as blessings or even an understanding of happiness. Maybe it makes you think that Christians are just gluttons for punishment and that this is a manner of blessing the divine suffering often portrayed in some Christian circles.
To be clear I don’t think either of these are true. In fact, I think that the manner in that Jesus offers these blessings to the crowd witnessing this sermon, speaks towards the nature that we claim this idea of the kin-dom in how we embody it in our daily lives, not in our suffering or lowest points, but in a matter of relationship and closeness to God. The nature of these blessings begins with the idea that the kin-dom of God can not be understood in relation to any sort of kingship or kingdom idealism we try to project on God’s intentions.
Blessedness or happiness in this scenario becomes attached as a by-product of being in a relationship with God and is in no way connected to our early experiences.
This does not lessen the grief that is experienced in heartache, pain, or suffering, but it establishes blessings that stem forth from our connection to the kin-dom, and not to the world.
As we look at these blessings we see ways that we live into the image of Christ, for all the experiences Christ lists here are experiences of Christ himself. It is a relation that we carry with us in our connection to Christ in our modern faith. There are nine blessings in this passage and each one connects to a different aspect of faith and human connection, and each one offers comfort through experiences.
It strikes me that we often interpret this passage and each of these beatitudes as “blessed,” but to dive into this word blessed we can see there is more to it than this feeling of accomplishment we often attach to the word. The Greek word used in the Beatitudes for blessed here is makarios. This word is translated as happy or blessed conveys not a human emotion that comes when we are feeling good, but a state of being we have from God and from our relationship with God.
It is all a reminder of our connection to God, and the work we are called thereby from that intention. A Biblical Professor, Karoline Lewis speaks of the Beatitudes saying,
“The Beatitudes are a call to action for the sake of creating the world God imagines. And these days, we need this reminder — when our imagination may be limited. When our hope for the future might have been dimmed. When we think what we do and what we say and what we believe does not matter.”1
The promise of the kin-dom that God is building. The promise of the kin-dom that we are baptized into. The promise of the kin-dom that we play a role in.
Each of these aspects listed out by Jesus promised in this passage lay forth how we live into the kin-dom. In hearing these preached we are invited to consider the true depths of our community. We are invited to consider our connection with one another, and how we will live into the image of God created within each of us. Find blessings in places that may not be expected, because God does not put bounds on the kin-dom and neither should we.
When we become short-sighted about the kin-dom that is when we miss most of the blessings God places before us. So let us reflect on where those blessings are. They reside in the kin-dom, in the promise towards creation, in God’s mercy, presence, and grace, and in the blessing and reward of heaven. For when all feels lost in humanity it is God’s blessings that reunite us together.
It is the kin-dom and its embodiment as a community of faith that instills and reminds us of this. Let us not get lost in this. Let us lean upon one another to be reminded of the blessings of God around us.
For the poor in spirit, for those who mourn, for those who are meek, for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for those who are merciful, for those who are pure in heart, for the peacemakers, for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and for when people revile, persecute, and utter evil against us.
It may seem oxymoronic, but it is in these moments that we remind ourselves that we are loved by God and that we have a community of faith that should surround us with the same love and grace.
As we look at the role we play it is our job to extend these blessings upon creation.
As we work for this embodied sense of kin-dom reality we live into and offer God’s grace as an extension of the blessing offered to us. In our poor spirit, God offered us the kin-dom, so we too offer it to others.
Each one of these is an offering of God to each of us, that we may in turn offer to all of creation the manner God hopes to build in creation.