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We chose the Beatitudes as one of the readings at our wedding, because my husband felt it was a meaningful passage for him (although we really weren’t even churchgoers at the time). Today, we heard it once again at church.

These are all ideas from the pastor’s sermon — I didn’t come up with this myself! But it made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to share it.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12, THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I’ve seen the Beatitudes interpreted a couple of different ways. First, they are often seen as prescriptions for how we should live — we should be poor in spirit (humble), pure in heart, merciful, etc. We should be OK with being persecuted; it just proves that we’re doing all the right things!

Or, we think that Jesus is saying “It’s OK if you’re broken-hearted, or if people persecute you, because you’ll be rewarded later, so don’t worry about it!” Yay, pie in the sky!

Both of these are lacking something, I think.

So, in the sermon, Dustin suggested that perhaps the Beatitudes are an invitation, and a message of inclusiveness, instead! Jesus is saying that everyone is welcome in the kingdom — the broken-hearted, the meek, the mourners, those who are persecuted by society, as well as those who are already pure in heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc.

Jesus didn’t exclude anyone from the kingdom — and neither can we.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. (First Thessalonians 5:16-18a)

Paul gives this advice to the Thessalonian church, and it’s a list that transcends time; I certainly find it as useful in the 21st century as it presumably was in the first.

But how? OK, maybe I’m not literally CONTINUAL about it. But I do reach out often for a hand, a rope, a presence. And if I don’t know what to say, I fall back on a couple of short prayers that are easily memorized and repeated.

One is similar to Paul’s advice above.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29, paraphrased from the NRSV)

This phrase appears in many of the Psalms and in other books of the Bible; I can imagine people throughout the ages repeating these words.

And the other is the Jesus Prayer, a traditional prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I got this one from Madeleine L’Engle, who described especially falling back on the Jesus Prayer when waking up with middle-of-the-night anxieties. I’ve read about it elsewhere since then (and even seen it on Twitter), but that was where I first heard about it.

In times of joy, anxiety, grief, or any time at all, this is where I go.

This post was triggered by my reading of the daily devotional from The Upper Room; reading this is a great daily practice and I urge you to check it out if you’re interested.