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What are the qualities that God desires in his children? One day in the midst of all the joys and sorrows of the crowd, Jesus moved toward his inner circle and opened his heart to them.
Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people. They brought to Him all who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and Jesus healed them. His fame went throughout all Syria. Great multitudes followed Him--from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 4:23-5:12 NKJV, condensed
"I Have a Dream"
Do you have a dream? I hope so. Dreams for happiness, success, reunion with loved ones, prosperity, good health, peace, reconciliation, respect--the list could go on and on. Whether you are a parent, the Man from LaMancha, a CEO, a factory worker, a service rep, or an immigrant, your dream is important.
Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and proclaimed his dream for peace on earth and good will among all people. But long before that famous speech, Jesus stood on a hillside in Galilee and announced his dream. We know it as the Beatitudes. Jesus' dream was that all God's children be blessed, happy.
Do you ever dream about the kind of world in which you would like to live? The kind of people you want to have around? The person you would like to be? A world where everyone is a useful citizen and has everything they need. Where people live in harmony with each other and with nature. Instead of being greedy, judgmental and overbearing , everyone is considerate, wise, and accepting. Suppose that were the dream, how could we get there? What are the beginning steps in that direction, the first step? Jesus has already shown us the way!
Jesus is the doorway into the kingdom of heaven and he welcomes us daily to enter his realm. Pride, arrogance and feelings of superiority are out. Possessiveness--me, my, and mine-- is out. Most of us enter Christ's kingdom on our knees. The money in our pockets will not help, neither will the resume in the computer nor the great clothes. Here is what Jesus asks of us:
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.Dear God, poverty of spirit is something new to us and we do not know what that looks like. We hate to admit that we don't have it all together. Our proud faces hide the fear and chaos within. We know not where to turn for answers, because it is so difficult to acknowledge our needs. Forgive our pride. Help us be spiritually poor, and to humble ourselves before You. We cannot handle life alone. We are poor and needy, and You are the treasure we need.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED.God of all who suffer, we would rather laugh than shed tears. But only in sorrow can we experience Your comfort. Forgive us for not wanting to show our emotions or express our feelings. Help us to cry without shame, and to feel deeply, not only our own pain, but also the pain of those around us. From our own losses and mistakes, we learn to understand the shortcomings of others. Because of our own wounds we are able to share courage and strength with those around us. As we do this, we do indeed find comfort.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.Lord of the earth, you require so much from those who believe in You. Meek is a word we do not like; it lacks the ring of strength, power and influence. We ask, "Who will look out for me?" Oh, it's not about me. It's about You and Your creation. We are not to crow about ourselves. Rather with a gentle and quiet spirit, we take pleasure in seeing the goodness of other people and promote their strengths. We will lead from weakness and without praise. We stand for the rights of others while claiming nothing as a right for ourselves. If we do these things, the promise is that we will be fit stewards of Your earth.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED.When people are selfish, cruel and blind, we feel like aliens in our own world and long for a better way. Like sailors who have been adrift too long, we hunger for the life You intended for us. We want to believe in God's dream. As we emerge from the murky waters, clothe us in Your righteousness. We will live in Your light, and do right things for good reasons. The more of You we want, the more You will give us and so we shall be fully satisfied.
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY.God of grace, You have showered us with mercy, love and compassion. You have given us better than we deserve; now we will do the same for those who travel the road of life with us. Rid us of all malice and meanness. Forgive the times we have been exacting and demanding; when we have insisted that someone pay for their sins. As You forgive us, so we will forgive each other. Help us to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, and lower our expectations when needful in order to save the dignity of the other. As we give, so we shall receive.
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.Dear Jesus, our lives are pulled in so many different directions. Life is full; full of good things to do, interesting people to meet, commendable goals to achieve. Plus all the duties and necessary things that are required of us. And now You want us to be pure. Undivided. Unmixed. Not just gold-plated, but solid gold through and through! The pure in heart turn their faces toward God, and anything that is not bathed in the light of God needs to be shaved away and let go. That knife is sharp and we do not know if we can bear the pain, till all that remains is-- everyone we love and everything we do, in Jesus' name. Then everywhere, at all times, and in every face, we will see God.
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD.We want to be children of the Heavenly Father, but we have trouble getting along within the family. We have all experienced conflict; we know what anger and fear can do. Instead of heaven on earth, we have created hell. Turn us around from our destructive ways. We must do an "about face." God help us to strive for peace with justice in all our relationships, to build bridges instead of walls, and disagree without being disagreeable. Peace is a rebirth, a starting again at a new beginning with God and with each other. Those who make peace are truly created in God's image.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN THEY REVILE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU, AND SAY ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY FOR MY SAKE. REJOICE AND BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD, FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN, FOR SO THEY PERSECUTED THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU. Thoughts of persecution fill us with dread. But when we are attacked for Jesus' sake and for believing in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus says we should be filled with joy, do a happy dance and have a real celebration! These words surprise us. We need this reminder that those who suffer for the cause of goodness, draw strength from the kingdom of heaven within them. Criticism, teasing, ridicule, being treated unfairly, taking the heat for others--don't save us from all these things, O Lord, but help us get through it with rejoicing!
Thank you, Jesus, for showing us a happiness not based on our emotions or our circumstances. Spiritual poverty, sorrow, meekness, longing for goodness, mercy, purity, making peace, and suffering for the kingdom of heaven--some people may not recognize the value of these things. But we know it to be true. This is where we met God and our fellowman in meaningful relationships. You have trusted us with Your dream, now help us to trust You by living Your way every day. Amen.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe a time in your life, or a particular situation, when you felt close to God. Then as a group, determine if that time of "closeness with God" is described in any of the beatitudes.
What are some of the popular uses for the word "bless"? Do you have a favorite way in which you "bless" people? What did Jesus mean when he used the word "bless"?
Which beatitude do you like the best? The least? Share the reasons for your choices. Is there one beatitude that is more important than another?
If you could change one of the beatitudes to suit you better, how would it read?If you could write a beatitude of your own, what would you say? "Happy are those who __________________________________"
In the real world, many of the beatitudes just don't make sense. The poor are not blest, those who mourn are not comforted, and we see little mercy or peace. What would you say to someone who says that the beatitudes are not worth the paper they are written on? That they are not true?
Many of the beatitudes are just the opposite of what is commonly believed to be true! Make a list of all the qualities Jesus highlighted in the beatitudes. Then make a second list of what the opposite of each beatitude is. Finally, consider what you see most in the world around you--what Jesus said or the opposite? Which world would you rather live in?
As you think about the beatitudes, is Jesus describing anybody you know? If yes, you could bless that person and yourself by telling them so. In what ways is Jesus describing you? Or not describing you?
The beatitudes have been labeled the "Be happy attitudes". What is an attitude? And how is it different from an emotion? Can a person become happy by changing their attitude? Give examples of how your thinking determines your action?
Jesus is speaking of a happiness not dependent on the circumstances. Give some examples of people who showed evidence of being blest even though they were going through hard times? Have you ever known happiness or peace within an unpleasant circumstance? If so, how did that happen?