What does it mean to be blessed?
Your answer might depend on what you understand by the word. For some it means they are lucky, they have good fortune, they are happy and content with life. For others it has a deeply sacred tone. My thesaurus lists – holy, sacred, divine, hallowed, sanctified, adored, exalted, revered, spiritual, canonised, godlike. Others may use it to replace a swear word or to ward off the perils of a sneeze.
If our preacher on 29th January chooses to follow the lectionary readings then we will hear Matthew 5:1-12, a passage known as the Beatitudes of “The Blessings” and in the two weeks that follow until it is interrupted by Lent, we will hear the beginning of Jesus teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. These passages are key to Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ life and teaching as they speak of a community that is blessed, that knows God’s favour and spells out the ethical and moral responses expected of such a community. The first remarkable thing about this community is that many people would not look upon them and see people who are blessed – they are broken, vulnerable, grieving, meek, angry, do-gooders – who are persecuted and insulted because of their perceived weakness. Yet they are the salt of the earth, the light of the world called to let their light shine so that goodness can be experienced and God be praised. The second remarkable thing is that the vision of what it means to live as a Blessed Community is a radical way of life that is a struggle to achieve because it involves an openness, a love, a care for people who are different from ourselves and a trust in God to care for each of us in place of material possessions.
Ghandi was one who was greatly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount, so much so that he modelled many of his teachings on non-violence upon it. The problem for Ghandi was that much of what he experienced as passing for Christianity was a negation of the Sermon on the Mount. I would love to be able to claim that was no longer so – but in reality as I look around I know that it continues to be so.
So what are we to do about our own struggles to live as the community Jesus calls us to be? I think we need to be honest with ourselves, and know the ways in which we fail one another, we need to know our own brokenness, vulnerability, grief, meekness, anger and hunger for goodness and welcome the ways in which we receive God’s blessing despite ourselves. In such ways we might just discover the salt and light that Jesus promises and we can be a church that invites and joins with other broken, vulnerable, grieving, meek, angry, hungry people in order to know blessing and share blessing.