REFLECT – Day 1:
Over the course of Lent we are going to adapt the Church of England’s Lent Pilgrim Devotionals which help us explore the life of Jesus through “The Beatitudes”.
These can be found in Matthew chapter 5 verses 1 to 10. Can I suggest that you pause your reading or listening and take a few minutes to read through this passage now.
Now that we’ve read it through, let’s start by filling in some background information. A crowd was gathering and Jesus continues to respond with great kindness to those hungry to learn about the Kingdom of God. He climbs a mountain, sits and begins to teach.
A little activity: Try to picture the scene in your minds eye. You are on a hilly ridge near the town of Capernaum, with a magnificent view of the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps the wind is gently moving your loose clothing and is a delightful relief from the hot sun. You came hoping to hear Jesus teach, and as he assumes a seated position, the normal position for a teacher at that time, you know your hopes will be met.
What does it mean to be blessed? What other words would we associate with blessing? Perhaps we would match it to success or good health but the biblical word carries a deeper meaning. To be blessed is more than a “temporal or circumstantial feeling of happiness” it is a state of spiritual well-being for those who are in relationship with God through the ministry of Jesus. It is to know deep down that you are blessed beyond measure, even when all of life’s trials are dragging you down. To be blessed is to sing “it is well with my soul” even in the midst of great tribulation.
Jesus’ teaching becomes more challenging though when he proclaims “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Many of us work to avoid poverty but Jesus suggests that it’s the way into the kingdom. Being poor in spirit means acknowledging our need for God’s help. Only when we admit that we are spiritually bankrupt, can our lives be filled with the only thing that matters, His grace.
So as we have begun to see, each of the eight qualities Jesus lays out in this famous sermon is set within a blessing. Every blessing is set within a promise. These are challenging words, but they remain words of joy and hope.
We will take several days to think about each blessing – first up is poor in spirit. The eight blessings will help us come to know Jesus better. They are a kind of miniature portrait, unpacked in the four gospels.
The same eight blessings will give us a vision for what it means to be fully alive, to live as God intends, both as individuals and as a community.
Still your mind. Take time to listen to the words of Jesus and repeat them several times with the rhythm of your breathing:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.
Plan times in your diary to reflect during the next 40 days.