This year, the season of Lent begins on March 1 with Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time for us to journey closely behind Jesus as he prepares to head to the cross and the resurrection. It is a time for us to focus on our spiritual selves, our true selves in Christ Jesus. Over the years we have
done this is different ways, but this year our Lenten journey will take us into the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. Pastor Audrey and I will conduct a preaching series highlighting one or two Beatitudes each week leading up to Easter Sunday.
Along the journey, there will be opportunities to connect more deeply with the Jesus story. I want to highlight specifically the opportunities of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, we’ll gather for our spring Love Feast and remember Christ’s last supper in an intimate setting. Then on Good Friday, many of us will gather during the day to walk with the cross, reflecting on Christ’s rejection. Later in the evening on Good Friday, our own Temple Choir is preparing a cantata filled with music and reflection entitled, “In my Place: Remembering Christ’s Sacrifice of Love” by Craig Courtney. This will be a powerful service that you will want to be a part of and invite your friends and family to attend with you as we prepare our hearts and minds to understand the power of Easter Sunday more fully.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Before we arrive at the events of Holy Week, we must experience Lent with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a favorite text for many Christians. They are some of the most poetic words spoken by Jesus in the gospels. There is a beauty and rhythm to the word choice and repetition. But underlying their beauty is this counter-intuitive, destabilizing message about the upside-down kingdom Jesus proclaims. The Beatitudes proclaim this odd world that is no longer tit-for-tat, cutthroat, or success driven. Rather, Jesus raises up what once was deemed weak and gives it honor in the Kingdom of God.
Translated directly, “Beatitudes” means “blessings” or “the blessings.” The list of blessings really throws into question what kind of people are considered blessed. The rich must be blessed, right? The powerful, the smart, the strong, the popular, the winner; they must be blessed. In response to the assumptions of the world, Jesus says we are thinking about this all wrong. These are those that are truly blessed: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the poor in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. If we reframe our focus for living on these traits and characteristics, then we can begin to understand the Kingdom of God.
So let us dig deeply into this text as more than a source of beauty, but as a source of profound truth.