After spending about six months browsing through the Psalms, Pastor Connie and I have decided it is time to move to the New Testament for a while. This Sunday I will give an introduction in our new series on The Beatitudes. Here is the account of this key teaching of Jesus, recorded as the beginning of his “Sermon on the Mount,” in Matthew 5:1-12:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of  heaven.

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for  righteousness, for they will be filled.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called  

  children of God.

 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’   sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute  you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my  account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in   heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’

As has been our practice for a few years, Pastor Connie and I will alternate preaching on Sundays and this will take us right up until the Advent season. We’re looking forward to exposing ourselves again to these challenging words of Jesus.

These eight Beatitudes are usually read as if they were a list of nice things some people may do that we all have to admire. But when we realize that Jesus actually meant for his disciples (including us) to make these precepts the fabric of their lives, it’s shocking to see how radical they are, compared to the values people usually live by in the society we’re part of. We might as well entitle the series “Living Upside Down.” It sounds as if Jesus is describing life on another planet.

In his 2005 essay “A Man Without a Country,” American humanist Kurt Vonnegut pointed out an ironic fact:

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Beatitudes be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Let’s see if Jesus can get some Beatitude truth through our thick skulls in the next few weeks.

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Also, I’m going to use this Beatitude series as a time to restart our weekly Interact meetings, every Sunday evening at 6:00 pm. Each week’s topic will be the Beatitude that was the subject of that morning’s sermon. I’m asking you to gather examples of that particular Beatitude, from Bible stories, personal experiences, people you have known, figures in history, literature, drama, TV, newspaper articles, etc. Our theme Beatitude for the evening sessions will be, “Blessed are the creative, for they will help shape an inspiring Interact.”

— Pastor George Van Alstine