Gospel Matthew 5:1-12
Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you
and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.’
These are the Beatitudes, part of the Sermon on the Mount, and possibly the most difficult of all of Jesus’ teachings to really take to heart. And yet the teaching that tells us more about God's love for us than almost any other.
Because they are ‘B’ attitudes- not ‘A’ attitudes.
Christians are meant to be in the world but not 'of' the world. The world has its own viewpoint and that viewpoint is generally looking down on others. We are all taught from a very early age that we need to be aiming for the ‘A’s in life. The ‘A’ attitude makes us very single minded. There’s is nothing that we should be involved in where we don’t want to win; where the top is not the place to be. There is no price we should not pay to achieve it.
Which is fine and dandy for the straight ‘A’s or even the mostly ‘A’s. But with the world’s sense of competition and ambition; that penthouse in the sky, top of the ladder, cream of the crop spot is not one that many people hold on to for long. In fact, the reality is that it will hold the equivalent of 15 minutes of fame even for the best of us. The reality is - there will be very little time before the next ‘A’ comes along.
And that’s for those of us who get there – what about the people who own the rest of the alphabet? Where is the celebration in being a D, M,S or Z?
But most of us – are a D, M, S or a Z. Most of us know we have failings and struggles and faults and that life is not easy. If we imagine that God only has pride in his A team then we are going to be living a disappointed and despondent life.
The blessing is that God is not like that.
God has no sense of hierarchy; top or bottom, best or worst. And when God does seem to judge people – it never makes sense to us because it is the wrong way up… The ‘B’ attitudes tell us that there are blessings in not being good enough, rich enough, assertive enough; happy enough.
When you are not ‘anything’ enough you know your life is not in your control and the less control you have the more you can give yourself up to God.
The saints, who we are celebrating today, are all on the B team; sometime in their lives many have been celebrated in their own way, have been rich, talented, desired, on a road to somewhere.
And then God got in the way and what is really important became more important.
Admitting our weaknesses is not a worldly attitude but it is a Godly attitude. The ‘B’ attitude lets you admit to God –‘ I am poor, I do mourn, I am hungry, I live in a world that struggles and I want peace and even trying to find peace causes suffering. To the world I am a failure and yet through all that I believe in you; I believe that you are the only one who can help me. So I am not relying on me – I am relying on you.
And that is why the Beatitudes tells us we are happy.
Because a ‘B’, or even less, will still get us into Heaven.