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How is this a blessing?


The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12 1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Blessed.

Sometimes these words of Jesus are hard to hear. The word for blessed is more like “Oh, you lucky thing!” You are to be envied!

It doesn’t often feel like that when you hunger and thirst, When you are persecuted, or when you are in mourning. You would give anything to have these feelings taken away from you. They are feelings that nobody likes. And some people seem to have more then their fair share of them than others. And I don’t want to discount that, or make light of it with what I am going to say today.

There is some suffering and sorrow in the world that we will never reconcile ourselves to, or never understand, or even be at peace with. But there is some that, when we look back, we realise has made us stronger, that we have even been able to survive it at all. Perhaps we didn’t think we could. But we have. Somehow.


When I used to work as the school Pastor at Faith Lutheran College in Plainlands, I would sometimes make myself very unpopular with the students, by telling them something they had never heard before.

You see so many children these days have always had everything they need, but more than that they always have everything they want. They never know what it is like to go without. For many they never knew what it is like to be told “no”. Their parents just want to do everything they can to make them happy, which seems on the surface like a laudable ambition.

But often when I spoke to these young people about MY ambition for them, my wish for them, I said that very unpopular thing that they didn't want to hear. and this is what it was:


“I don't want you to be happy.”

Wow.

if you ever want a teenager to look at you like you have two heads, say something like that. Some of them had never been told in their lives that there would be times when they would not be happy and that this was OK. Their parents had tried to make them happy, but where they had fallen down was that they had tried to make them ALWAYS happy, to never have to face any sad times or hard times at all. So they were totally unprepared when sorrow or tragedy struck: as we know they will.

So I would go on:

“I don't want you to be happy. I want you to be whole.”


I come across the same phenomenon in marriage counselling, especially one of the questions on the prepare course that says “I do not think there will be ever any hard times in our marriage”. looking through rose coloured glasses every couple says “oh of course there won’t be! Everything could not be any more perfect!”.

And then nasty old pastor Joel comes along and says “Oh yes there will”. Do we think it is for nothing that the marriage vows include the words: “for worse” “for poorer” and “for sicker?”.


But I don’t want them to be unprepared when these things happen, so that it doesn’t mean they can’t go on. I want them to know how to deal with these times, and expect them even, because that is the nature and the reality of living in a broken, fallen world.

I want them to be whole.


In this world, adverse health diagnosis will come, there will be times when we lose jobs, relationships will end. We may be persecuted, we may be hungry.

There will be times when we are weak, when we are sick, when we are helpless.

There will be times when we will need to mourn. The price of love is loss. The price of life is death.

Does this mean that we cut ourselves off from love for fear of grief and loss? in very rare cases some people do. It is one of the saddest things to see. It is a life of loneliness and emptiness. For the rest of us who need people, the price of loss is one that we are willing to pay for the prize of love.

To be whole is to be able to deal with the hits when they come. It is being prepared, being resilient. It is knowing what you can handle, because you have handled it before.



It took me a long time to come to this realisation:

If it had not been for the most painful times of my life, I never would have learned what I can stand up to.

If it had not been for the times when I was persecuted, even by my own church, I would never have learned what faith I have, what strength God has built into me, and how far my God will carry me when that strength runs out.

if it had not been for the most physically painful times in my life, I would not have learned that I don’t have to hate pain, or at least that I don’t have to be afraid of it. Sometimes the fear of something is actually worse than the reality of it!


To the extent now that when I think back to the worst times of my life, the events I so much wish that I could have taken back, I now realise that I would go through them all again. They have made me, (or rather God has made me through them) who I am. Yes with scars, yes with baggage. But me. You may not feel the same way. But if you think back on your life you might. Every journey is different.

And there is no one who doesn’t carry the baggage of their lives with them to some extent.


A Disclaimer:

I need to be clear about something. There are some times that will never be good. There are some times, some things that we will never understand, where we will never understand God's purpose, where we will question him with everything we have. I've come across that this week. sometimes there is a limit to what we think we can endure. And sometimes we are right.


When our strength runs out, when our ability to cope runs out, that's where we need God, our family and our church family to run in.

We know that “God works all things together for good for those who love him.” Romans 8:28.

But that is so hard to hear in the midst of the hard times. And what it certainly does not mean is that all things are good. As I said, there are some times, that if you will pardon the crass way of putting it, there are some times that just suck. Some times that don’t seem fair.

And God knows that we feel that way, and it is okay to tell him that. In fact, it is an act of faith to tell him that.




Maybe, just maybe, through the awful times, God will eventually work some good things. There may be blessings that come out of terrible times. But those are conversations for months or years down the track.

Until then, we need to bear each other’s burdens when the hard times come.

Part of what I think Jesus is saying in his revolutionary sermon in the beatitudes, is that you will never know the healing of God if you have never suffered. And how sad that would be, never to know the healing of God.

You would never know the comfort of God, and the peace that he can bring, if you have never had to mourn, or to know sorrow.

You would never know what it means to be filled, if you had never hungered or thirsted, and you would never know how it felt to be vindicated, if you were never persecuted.


Not easy words to hear, and not what I would have chosen to preach on this week, given the choice. But maybe these words were here for a reason for us this week. When you suffer, when you mourn, when you are persecuted or hungry or thirsty or poor, hang on to God. Trust that he still loves you, even when it doesn’t look like it. Trust that his heart for you is good. And with his help, stand up again every single day, as he makes you strong, as he makes you whole.

Amen.

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