Summary: A sermon on the second beatitude.
Happy, Happy, Happy: Happy and All Heart
You’ve heard the ten rules for happier living?
1. Give something away (no strings attached)
2. Do a kindness (and forget it)
3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance)
4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel)
5. Laugh often (it’s life’s lubricant)
6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough)
7. Pray (or you will lose the way)
8. Work (with vim and vigor)
9. Plan as though you’ll live forever (because you will)
10.Live as though you’ll die tomorrow (because you will on some tomorrow)
The ten things listed make sense to us, but when we hear Jesus’ words in today’s passage of Scripture about what he says can make us happy, the words don’t quite make sense to us. I think that’s probably because we focus so much on having it good rather than understanding what it is that makes it good. Phil Robertson says teaching his grandkids they have it good is not nearly as important as teaching them “why” they have it good. Jesus is teaching about his kingdom, and remember, his kingdom looks much different from the world in which his first century hearers lived, and it looks strangely different from the world we live in, as well. Jesus’ focus is not on whether we have it good, but rather on what it is that makes life good…what makes one “happy, happy, happy.” Listen again to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-2, and then in verse four, this time hearing them from the King James Version:
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:  And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
I’m not going again into all the details of how we get happy from blessed, but that’s exactly what Jesus means. Happy are the people who mourn for they shall be comforted. That makes no sense to us. What more particularly makes sense is this statement—Happy is the person who has never seen grief. Or this one—Happy is the person who has never known tears. Our philosophy of life is to avoid crying at all costs. We believe it is not good to know tears—tears of loss, tears of pain, tears of suffering. Let’s avoid them at all costs. But Jesus says that is not the case.
What does it mean to mourn? I had a secretary who was the only child left from her family. Her mother and father had passed away, and her only sister, who was an identical twin had also died. She would often joke that she was going to have to hire mourners for her funeral because there wasn’t going to be any family left to mourn. We laugh at that, but that is exactly what people used to do. They would hire professional mourners. Actually, they weren’t professionals, but they were paid for their services. There were actually people who went from funeral to funeral making a living off the suffering of others. When a loved one died, these mourners were available, for a small fee of course, to come and make great lament for the dearly departed. Sounds fun, huh? Jesus was talking about something much more than the singular mourning for the dearly departed. These mourners were there only for window dressing.
The kind of mourning that Jesus is speaking of here comes from the strongest Greek word for sorrow. Jesus is speaking of that sorrow that pierces and breaks a person’s heart; the sorrow that is reflected in our faces and impacts our actions. The Old Testament saint, King David, mourned with this type of sorrow when his son, Absalom, revolted against him. We find the story in 2 Samuel 15. There David, and those who mourned with him, covered their heads, went barefoot, and wept. They went up into the mountain to worship and cry out to God. If being poor in spirit means the humility of recognizing and admitting our need for God, then mourning in the sense that Jesus speaks of here is the mourning that moves us in the center of our being and changes our lives forever.
What do we mourn? Our sins: Personal- those sins each of us struggle with—sins like anger, pride, prejudice, lying, cheating, gluttony, lust, avarice, hatred. As a nation—what are our national sins? As a world—see injustice in the world. The AIDS epidemic, the images of starving children in the world, the persecution of Christians. What other areas do we see injustice and inequity?
Mourning our sins leads us to the source of our happiness—Jesus Christ. The essence of spiritual mourning is the realization of what we have done with life and of our desperate need for the forgiveness of the Lord. Mourning our sins in this deepest sense brings us to three life-giving words: “Lord, forgive me!” The happy life, the contented life, begins with these three words, and it grows as we live our lives constantly repeating those words.