Well I have three sermons to catch up on. I will try to write one a day for the next three days.
We have been looking at the subversive nature of the book of Matthew. Not only is this book written by a tax collector, subversive enough for a 1st century Jewish person, but the things Matthew decides to include make me smile with a bit of anarchist glee. Matthew shows us a radically different Messiah than the Hebrews were expecting, infact, Matthew shows us a Jesus different than maybe we expect.
Jesus after beginning out on the margins preaching "the kingdom of God is come" is now explaining just exactly what this kingdom is. We cannot understand this properly if we do not understand the context of expectation of a political, military kingdom ruled by the Messiah who leads Israel to victory against the Romans because of their piety and refusal to fudge on their "Jewishness". Jesus begins to explain a kingdom that is radically different from this expected kingdom, and only seeing this as an answer to their expectations can we really understand the full, subversive and revolutionary message of this passage of scripture.
Jesus starts with the beatitudes as they are commonly called. The blessings. And as he does this, He right away turns everything on its head. As the crowd looks around at the others in their midst, and think of the temple, and the coming "kingdom" Jesus says, "blessed are those who are spiritual beggars, unable to care for their own spiritual nature theirs is the kingdom of heaven" And everyone sees the scribes and pharisees who are very confident in their ability to meet their own spiritual needs. Remember these people see the pharisees as the righteous people, as the true spiritual ones, and there is no neediness among them. And the revolution begins.
Blessed are the mourners, for they receive comfort. We find solace in Gods comfort, mourning isn't judgement on our sin, but rather the human condition that makes us find God.
Blessed are the meek, not the powerful, not the strong, not the holders of influence and the swayers of destiny. But the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those who think they already have righteousness. I am reminded of the parable of the Pharisee who stands before God and says, "thank you Lord that I am not like those disgusting sinners, but I am a good guy, doing all of the great churchy stuff" I will mention as well that the Hebrew word for righteousness is very connected with the idea of justice, which should not be forgotten and has huge implications.
Blessed are the merciful. But wait, we are not to be merciful but to destroy sin and sinner in our midst so that God will pour out his vengence upon the Romans, and we will destroy them with no mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart. You mean not the pure in actions, in traditions, in lineage? Surely this Jewish purity is what will present our case to God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, as a quick view of the crowd will show zealotts with sharpened swords ready to do battle against their gentile rulers, the peacemakers not the holy warriors will be called sons of God.
Blessed are the persecuted. Not those sitting with stature, and favour and political and religious power. But those that are tormented for actually living out this alternative kingdom.
Jesus starts this announcement and primer on the kingdom by destroying our expectations. And though we must understand the context of the passage in its history in order to grasp it, we must also understand our context in order to live it. Does our Christian kingdom look like this? Are the poor and marginalized esteemed? Are the peacemakers looked at as sons of God? Or do we give honour to the powerful, the strong, the succesfull? Is our Christian culture a radical departure from the worlds worship of success and strength? Jesus starts His kingdom excercise telling us, everything has got to change.