Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fresh Studies in Matthew: Chapter 5


The Beatitudes bear much reflection.  Does verse 1 of chapter 5 say the multitude heard him or just disciples?  That is key.  It’s not necessarily a large crowd.  The first one, verse 2, is a mystery.  Poor in spirit?  In another context, in Luke, it is only “poor.”  What does it mean?  Downtrodden?  Sad?  Those who lack self-will and self-reliance?  Andy why the kingdom of heaven?  What is the connection with mourning and the meek?  Perhaps the whole passage is saying, “God’s values are not those of the kingdoms of this world, which honors and privileges ruthlessness, self-seeking, ambition for power, and false happiness at the risk of ignoring real pain.”  This is starting to make sense.  This is why I cannot be all about my career and power, and leadership must come from a different mindset.  
I read the “servant leadership” book but people misunderstand the concept.  The core is not what one does specifically. but the overall goal of being a leader, i.e., that it is to serve a group of people.  Greenleaf in that book was more about the servants of the organization being leaders, a kind of democratic structure.  That is ok, but not what most people think about with servant leadership.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
The key behind it is that we will be comforted.  We are not blessed because we mourn (although maybe sometimes we are) but because we will be comforted.  The blessing is not inherent in mourning, but in what living with Jesus as king of one’s life provides in mourning
We might, however, be blessed in mourning.  First it means we have someone close enough to mourn over when we lose them. We have enough sensitivity of spirit to do so, a sensitivity I fear is being lost with an increasingly narcissistic generation (and I don’t mean millenials) and the everyday presence of news reports of mass killings somewhere at home and abroad.  For Jesus’ audience, mourning was a common experience because people were likely to die from medical conditions or die younger or even from political reasons.  They also had a stronger sense of community and family and a weaker sense of (if any) individualism and isolation. 
However, the emphasis here is being comforted, so we must ask what about the kingdom of God that Jesus is bringing in comforts those who mourn? 
  1. long-term view
  2. he cares
  3. community who cares
  4. he mourns too
I saw in my Bible that I had put the words “over sin” over the word “mourn.” (why do we feel the need to add words to the text?)  There seems no reason to add that, really.  Mourning is ultimately mourning over sin anyway; if there were no sin there would be no mourning.
However, we live in an age where mourning is feared; we are supposed to “move on,” which makes those who mourn longer feel like freaks who need therapy.  Let’s not move on so quickly.

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