Who are the blessed of God? What is it to be blessed by God? Is it happiness, is it joy, is it success, is it wealth and good health?
Who are the blessed of God?
For Micah, the Prophet we heard that the blessed are they who do justice, they who love kindness and they who walk humbly with God. And to Jesus, the blessed are the poor, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure at heart, the peacemakers – they are the blessed.
“Blessed are… you…” Jesus said to the crowd who had followed him up the mountain.
“Blessed are … you…” Jesus said to the crowd as he began to speak and teach them.
“Blessed are …. You…” And just in those words they felt blessed.
It was indeed and it is still indeed wonderful to be blessed and to feel blessed. It is indeed wonderful to feel that you are seen, heard, accepted, and blessed.
Jesus was indeed asking the crowd who had followed him, just as he is asking all of us who have followed his voice and come to church this Sunday morning, - “Count your blessings. Count your blessings and not your problems! And always count me in…. always count God in… as God blesses the poor, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure at heart, the persecuted….. God blesses us even when we do not feel blessed …. To be a blessing in the world.”
As Jesus was looking at the crowd, longing for answers, longing for love, dreaming of peace, dreaming of mercy, - Jesus looked again and spoke with gentle comfort in his voice: “Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.”
Rejoice and be glad. And count your blessings!
One of the true blessing this his year will be the worldwide Christian observation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We are all invited to this grand celebration of a certain time in our history and past, that truly made an enormous impact on our history and our current lives, and for us as Lutherans had a specific significance for our church.
So, you are all cordially invited to attend this year’s finest anniversary. Throughout the year there will be different services and events to attend, and monthly you will receive these small Reformation Reminders in your bulletins.
May I suggest that our Reformation Resolution may be: to read and study and discuss and to be aware of the blessing and count it as a true blessing that we belong to a church that encouraged and still encourage us to think, study, debate and even disagree.
“Blessed are you….and count your past blessings of history, heritage and traditions. And count your present blessings of freedom, change, justice, and democracy that grew out of that history of change. Rejoice and be glad.”
One of my Christmas Presents this year was indeed a blessing.
“The Book of Joy” a conversation book about lasting happiness and joy. The book is a blessed, honest, and respectful conversation between Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Both men have received the Nobel Peace Prize and both have survived and endured more than 50 years of exile, violence, and oppression. And despite their hardships, or as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In fact, they feel they have been blessed and lived a blessed life despite hardship, grief, and struggles.
When I read the beautiful Beatitudes from Matthew, I cannot keep myself from thinking about these two men who have been blessed with hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness and been prominent and important peacemakers in our time and age. Blessed are they, because they have become a blessing in the world.
Desmond Tutu said that If you set out and say, I want to be happy, clenching your teeth with determination, this is the quickest way of missing the bus!” And Tutu and Dalai Lama share their experiences of a blessed and yet troubled life and their thoughts on the qualities of our human mind and heart that we need to cultivate to catch the bus!
They talk about the 8 pillars of joy:
4 are qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance.
4 are qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
In the Catholic tradition and catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues: from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance, and courage); and the three theological virtues, from the letters of Saint Paul are faith, hope, and love.
A healthy perspective, a joyful outlook, is the foundation of jay and happiness, because the way we see the world is the way we experience the world. And there are many different angels, but both Dalai Lama and Tutu suggest that we use the larger perspective or the God’s Eye Perspective as Tutu names it.
The story is told about visiting two soldiers on the same day of William Beaumont Army Medical Center of Fort Bliss. Both were paraplegics who had lost the use of their legs in combat. They had the same diagnosis and the prognosis. The first veteran, Tom, was lying on his bed knotted into a fetal position, railing against life and his horrible fate. The second, Chuck, was out of bed in his wheelchair, explaining that he felt as if he had been given a second chance of life. As he was wheeled through the garden, he had realized that he was closer to the flowers a could look right into his children’s eyes.
Blessed are the meek…….
Then Desmond Tutu wondered if the person who had cut him off in traffic might be rushing to the hospital because his wife was given birth or because a loved one was dying… “I have sometimes said to people, when you are stuck in traffic jams, you can deal with it on of two ways. You can let the frustration really eat you up. Or you can look around at the other drivers and see that one might have a wife who had cancer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what they have have, but you know they are al suffering with worries’ and fears because they are human. And then you can lift home up and bless them. You can say: Please, God, give each one of them what they need.”
The famous overview effect is perhaps the most profound example of perspective; many astronauts have reported that once they glimpsed the earth from space, a small blue ball floating in the vast expanse, lacking our human made borders, restrictions, and differences, they never looked at their personal or national interests in quite the same way again. The saw the oneness of life and the preciousness of our planet home.
When our perspective changes, this leads to a greater sense of humility, humor, and acceptance. And this leads to a heart filled with forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
Blessed are the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure in heart, …. For they will see God.
“Bless you!” I have often thought how wonderful it is that in the American language and culture and daily life, we constantly bless each other! Just sneeze and you a met with a blessing.
With the wise words of Lama and Tutu, and with the beautiful beautifies from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, - we are reminded that we should not limit to bless others to when we sneeze! We are reminded of what a blessing it is to be living right here and now, we are reminded how this church and its history of reformation, change and righteousness is a blessing, we are reminded how we are each one of us showered in God’s blessing as we leave this church – seen, heard, accepted and love and send to be a blessing in the world.
As the wise woman, Maya Angelou once said: This ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Story or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.”
Today we are blessed! Now be a blessing! Amen