Monday, April 9, 2012

Beatitudes Remixed

As I prepare to lead a study on Jesus' bold declaration, "blessed are the peacemakers," I thought I would (re)post my midrash of the Messianic hillside announcements, known as the beatitudes, which I originally wrote to and for youth:
Blessed are the religious doubters, seekers, and those who have more questions than answers, for God’s dreams for the world include you;

Blessed are those who grieve the loss of loved ones, whose parents have split-up, whose relationships are strained, for God’s love, peace, and presence extends to you;

Blessed are those whose voices go unheard, whose self-worth has crumbled, and those who no longer feel comfortable in their own skin, you are made in God’s beautiful image and welcomed members of God’s new world already here and yet-to-come;

Blessed are you who long for the world to be made right, who seek the end of poverty, homelessness, disease, hunger, and all forms of injustice, for you will find hope and freedom in the good news that God is putting the world to rights;

Blessed are you who offer second-chances and forgiveness, even to your worst of enemies, for in the same way has God offered you new beginnings and fresh starts;

Blessed are you who choose peace over violence, love over vengeance, and grace over retaliation, for you have indeed understood what it means to be called God’s people in the world;

Blessed are you who have been cut from sports teams, marginalized by systems, isolated from crowds, rejected by supposed friends, abused by those claiming to love you, misunderstood and gossiped about, even for your commitment to the way of Jesus, for you are not alone and will find joy in the resurrection parade of the Messiah and the movement of this gospel.

The beatitudes, transliterated from the Latin word beatus, meaning "blessing," are a collection of Jesus' prophetic hill-side statements. They are subversive announcements* that God’s kingdom has come into the world and all are invited, especially those who are estranged by and move against the grain of the status quo.I love what Dallas Willard says:
“I believe [Jesus] used the method of ‘show and tell’ to make clear the extent to which the kingdom is ‘on hand’ to us. There were directly before him those who had just received from the heavens through him. The context makes this clear. He could point out in the crowd now this individual, who was ‘blessed’ because The Kingdom Among Us had just reached out and touched them with Jesus’ heart and voice and hands (Divine Conspiracy, p. 100).
It is easy for us to read and hear these words and turn them into a list of religious rules and self-help steps that guarantee us entrance into the great by-and-by in the sky. Be humble. Be poor. Be meek. Be a peacemaker. Then I can gain entrance past St. Peter's pearly gates. Yet that would only ruin these powerful and subversive statements. Even more, these statements directly confront that mindset. Instead, what Jesus does is make an announcement, a proclamation, that God’s kingdom has once and for all come into the world. And the center of this divine activity, the cast of characters invited and included, looks quite different than expected.

May we have the audacity and grace to enter into fellowship with those Jesus calls blessed, to extend the same sort of love and compassion to those celebrated on that first-century hill, and I pray that in our own seasons of mourning, demonstrations of peacemaking, encounters with suffering, or moments of doubt, to be able to recollect Jesus's words...blessed are you who...
* I love what N.T. Wright says, This is an upside-down world, or perhaps a right-way-up world; and Jesus is saying that with his work its starting to come true. This is an announcement, not a philosophical analysis of the world.  Its about something thats starting to happen, not about a general truth of life.  It is gospel: good news, not good advice. ( Matthew for Everyone 36)