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Posts Tagged ‘beatitudes’

I looked it up, the word, beatitude. It actually comes from the Latin word, beātitūdō, which means perfect happiness. I was already suspect with the idea of “perfect,” not to mention the leap to my struggle with perfectionism. Add the expectation of happiness, a most elusive beast [it’s right up there with joy], and I feel like the entire premise is a prescription for failure.

Matthew 5:1-3a
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Blessed are . . .

Of course, it gets worse before it gets better. Most people have the general understanding of the beatitudes. They know it’s a list of blessings based on a series of paradoxical statements. In other words, be perfectly happy when you are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart while peacemaking and being persecuted. Now, if that doesn’t make you want to jump up and follow Jesus, what will?

I’m only kidding, of course. But really, the beatitudes feel like the high end of understanding and following Jesus. Despite professing the Christ for over thirty years, I break out in a sweat when I have to revisit the beatitudes. They seem to uncover me or reveal me in a way that nothing else in scripture does. I feel like I need to go to a meeting, stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Irmgarde, and I’m not living out the beatitudes.”

You know, the implication is that this was the summary teaching, the preview of everything that came later. Jesus ultimately walked out these seven verses [Matthew 4:3-10] in the next three years of his ministry. And all the while, he’s saying, this is the way despite what you may think or see. Here is the real freedom. Here is answer to what it means to be fully human.

Let’s all pause and think about that today.

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When is the end? I always wonder if I’ll know the end. I mean, maybe the end has already come and I’m just treading water. Has “death” been destroyed by the Christ? I mean, He got to pop back up from the tomb, but what about the rest of us?

I Corinthians 15:24-26
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

I have pretty much assumed that “believers” die, resurrect immediately after death, get to be with Jesus in heaven, and have a big meet-up with our family members who took an early exit. But, reading this portion of Corinthians, I’m having to rethink these assumptions.

Of course, I’m not speaking of any academic evaluation of this verse or comparing it with others in the Bible. I’m not an eschatologist. I’m just thinking about the words and looking for an application for me today.

I do believe Christ has full control over the kingdom (in the whenever). And this kingdom exists now but is not “handed over” until the sifting has been completed: the destruction of the other powers/enemies. Death is the final enemy.

So, is death destroyed now? Are people who are dead, not dead? But if not dead, then are they only in heaven not dead? Jesus made a re-appearance in our 3-D world. What about the rest of them… or us?

I still don’t think I get it. The deal with humans and death and Christ, that is. Jesus promises that we “can” be like him [Romans 8:29] and manifest even more works/miracles than He did [John 14:12]. So, what’s up with that?

I’m guessing we’re still in Seth Godin’s “Dip”. People are having trouble “sticking” with it. We have grown discouraged like the servants who were told to take care of the vineyard while the master was away [Luke 20:9-20]. We don’t really believe that death can be conquered in our “time.” We don’t really believe we, humans, can do those miracles. For those who get excited about this possibility and start seeking out that capability, they may begin to look like charlatans and snake-handlers. If people look for the miracle working power without the foundational stuff in place, it gets distorted. Pure and simple.

What’s foundational? The Sermon on the Mount stuff: all the PARADOX stuff like humility, mercy, cheek-turning, selflessness, poverty, purity, peacemaking, and gentleness.

OK, it’s not the end because God is giving us a chance to work this out. To practice a little more. I know I need practice.

This is when I wish I had those “matrix” eyes so I could see what is really “real.” That’s where the kingdom is – it’s here around me. I just can’t see it because I am blinded by my attachment to life as I have known it, not life as the Christ wants me to live it.

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Who wants to give up anything the body wants or needs? I’ve been investigating the importance of the body as the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and yet, here is old Paul recommending celibacy as a way of walking out “self-control.” Harumph.

I Corinthians 7:1b
It is well [and by that I mean advantageous, expedient, profitable, and wholesome] for a man not to touch a woman [to cohabit with her] but to remain unmarried.
[Amplified]

This Pauline letter must be one of the main sources for the Catholic tradition of celibate priests. A few verses later, Paul even spells it out, “I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.” [vs 7:7]

Is this a good thing? I know that fasting, another form of body denial has its place in devotion. It seems that as we deny the body sustenance, there is more time to look inward to the things of spirit. But this conversation is for those who choose these things, for those who choose to be celibate or choose to fast, or choose to deny themselves in other specific ways.

What about those who have no choice? What about the lonely men and women of this world who desperately want relationship and intimacy with another person? What of the couple who no longer have intimacy due to illness or boredom. What of the poor?

God promises a grace to those who are not in a position to choose. These promises can be seen readily in the beatitudes. They are promises of hope in the midst of great loss and deprivation. These were the people he chose to teach first, to reach first.

What happens for the rest of us who much choose seasons of deprivation? We get a taste, a glimpse of both poverty and grace in this arena.

But I want to remember that Paul also says that each person has his/her special gift from God. The key here is knowing what God wants of me. The point is hearing God’s voice, God’s plan for today, for now. Once, God called me to a long fast and I was so deaf, He made bread taste like garbage before I got the message.

Choosing self-denial for the mere sake of it does nothing special. These times must be part of the true call.

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