Summary: Jesus' beatitudes give us the hope of God's kingdom. At the same time we are called to service in the world.
February 2, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Pastor Mary Erickson
Micah 6:1-8; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; Mt. 5:1-12
On Earth as It Is in Heaven
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Today we hear the beginning words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The sermon begins with the soaring words of the Beatitudes. Jesus launches his sermon by pronouncing a blessing.
The Beatitudes form one of the most cherished passages in the Bible. Biblical scholars refer to something they call “The canon within the canon.” They mean that there are some verses or passages in the Bible which seem to almost leap off the page at us. They speak to us so very poignantly. These passages resonate the entire thrust of the Bible’s good news. John 3:16 would be such a verse. This verse proclaims the gospel message so simply but profoundly.
The Beatitudes are also such a passage. The canon within the canon. In these opening words to his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a vision of the Kingdom of God. It’s a realm of blessedness. When I read these life-giving words, my heart swells. It soars upwards to heaven.
But at the same time as I’m uplifted, another part of me sinks low. For these words make clear how broken our current world is. These verses speak of mourning! They confess our poverty and persecution!
When I hear the Beatitudes, my soul responds like a kite. Part of me soars upwards. My heart swells with the blessed realm Jesus pronounces. His blessing lifts me up. I hear Jesus’ words, and I say, “YES, Lord! This is your good word of life! These are the works of your hand! You are the author of life and of justice!”
Jesus pronounces a blessing. It overflows with the reality of heaven. He blesses us with comfort and mercy. He promises inheritance for the children of God. At long last, justice is completed. The meek are not trampled. Jesus speaks into being a reality where we relate to one another in an economy of mercy.
I hear Jesus’ soaring words, and I respond YES! The words swell my heart. But at the same time, there’s also a sinking feeling. My heart tugs with a deep, unsettled yearning. Behind Jesus’ kingdom words, another reality is also present.
There are the poor. There are the threatened meek of the earth. There is sorrow and mourning. Alongside Jesus’ blessing, there is a chronic injustice plaguing the earth’s people and creatures.
There is a shadow side to Jesus’ words of blessing. And it’s a realm I know all too well. And as that realm of sorrow resonates, it pulls me down.
Jesus’ Beatitudes lift us up. But simultaneously, a yearning tugs at us. It pulls us downwards because this realm of blessing is not our earthly reality. And we become aware of the dichotomy present in this world. The lifting and tugging creates a tension on the kite string.
We live in this tension. There’s an already but not yet. Already we see the faint fingerprints of this divine reality. But the daily world we live in is also very broken.
The tension on this kite string is dynamic. It doesn’t allow us to fly away into a heavenly escape. We can’t flee into the safe confines of the church and pull the door shut on the sorrows of the world. No, this tension pulls us back into reality. It keeps us grounded. Our world and its desperate needs keep us tethered to cries of sorrow and want. For the world wants to be loved.
The words of the Lord’s Prayer come to mind. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This prayer feels the same lifting and pulling as the Beatitudes. Our earthly realm and the realm and will of God are at odds.
We pray for God’s will to be done here on earth, may it come into fulfillment, may it be realized, may it come to fruition and ripen here on earth, just as it is in heaven. This is what we pray.
Luther’s explanation on this prayer petition sheds a profound light:
“The good and gracious will of God is surely done without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may be done also among us.”
We pray for God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The kite string keeps us connected. We can’t forget, we aren’t allowed to forget the world and its needs. Our Lord’s prayer doesn’t allow us to cut the string. We aren’t permitted to jettison the world and ride the soaring kite of faith into the exclusive air of heaven. The kite string keeps us tethered. The downward pull will not allow us to forget the world and its suffering.