Can you think of times in your life when you have felt especially “blessed”? For most of us, the experiences that probably come to mind are those when something really “good” has happened to us—perhaps the birth of our child, or a marriage, or a career advancement, etc. And if we see God’s hand in these experiences, then they certainly are blessed times.
In the well-known portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel that has come to be known as the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-10), he gives us a list of “blessed’s” that suggests very different times and situations in which we are blessed by God. These verses include phrases such as “Blessed are those who mourn” and “Blessed are those who are meek” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted”. At first glance, and especiallly if we have been through times of mourning and meekness and persecution, we may realize that Jesus is broadening our definition of what it means to be blessed. For example, to be “meek” these days is usually no way to get ahead in the world! We might go as far as to say that Jesus is effectively turning the traditional cultural understanding of what constitutes “blessedness” completely upside-down in many of the Beatitudes.
During the season of Lent, we will be exploring a number of the Beatitudes in our worship services. We will examine how it is indeed possible to feel “blessed” by God even in what we have previously considered to be difficult times in life. And since time will not allow us to closely examine all of them, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Erik Kolbell’s excellent little commentary on the Beatitudes entitled What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life in the church office and make the reading of it a part of your Lenten discipline this year.
In the forward to the book, the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin shares these words that remind us of the transforming power of Jesus’ Beatitudes:
“…the Beatitudes challenge today’s habitual expectations. They shake up our usual criteria of normalcy by presenting a new view of reality…they are at heart
profound and passionate, full of insights and authority for those of us prepared, in these precarious times, to reevaluate matters at the very core of our individual and collective lives.”
I hope that your Lenten journey will include your participation in this valuable examination of all of the ways and times in which we are blessed by God, and even more importantly, how we might share those blessings with others.