February is sure frozen and cold. A good time to stay inside and focus on how we live, how we love, and what God wants for our lives (now that our new year’s resolutions are weakening if not totally worn off).
Our scriptures this Spring are from Matthew’s Gospel, and on Feb 2 we begin with the Beatitudes. You know what those are…the “blessed are the…” verses in Matthew 5:1-12. Let’s note a couple of things here. First, this is NOT advice for successful living. But what these statements are is a blessing by God that we not remain passive, but act out God’s will in God’s coming kingdom (which, by the way, is right here, right now in this holy place…TCC and Townsend…with these holy people…us, and those who surround us).
We are BLESSED. Because we are building the kingdom here with the people GOD calls blessed. The poor in Spirit, the meek, the mourning, those treated unfairly, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted, and those who are repeatedly persecuted and insulted. This is NOT intended as a list of virtues, or (in our minds) to go through the congregation and take inventory of who’s who. What it says is that the world is a crazy, cruel place sometimes, and when we buy into that system of reward and competition we lose sight of God. But when we orient ourselves toward God’s will, even at the expense of social status, political power, higher pay, expensive cars and jewels, we shall be more in God’s favor even as our colleagues and friends scratch their heads in wonder.
It’s why church communities are so important in the first place. We need encouragement from one another in order to make it day-to-day, because there is so much messaging telling us to live in the system of reward and competition rather than the world of light and grace. We admire people who give, yet we scramble to accumulate more for ourselves. We never see an inscription on a gravestone or memorial saying, “wow, he had a lot of neat stuff”; instead we see things like “loving mother; devoted father; gave to all who asked; gentle spirit; beautiful daughter…” and so many other proclamations of WHO we are, not WHAT we are or have. We need one another to encourage the better “who” in all of us, and the beatitudes remind us that in God there is no longer emptiness of the world in our spirits.
When we empty ourselves of the world and fill ourselves with God’s love, it feels different, complete, expansive, overflowing. And so this prologue to the Sermon on the Mount ends with the simple imperative, “Rejoice and be glad”. Not because the world is going to change its way or how it views reward and competition. But in getting off the hamster wheel, suddenly new life and hope abounds, and we band together at TCC to remind us that this is a Kingdom worth celebrating and building. Even when the world seems at its bleakest (like in cold, gray February….brrrrr).
Peace and grace to all of you,