Speaker: Sandy Souder, July 26, 2015

Good Morning Beloved!

One day a housework-challenged husband decided to wash his Sweat-shirt.

Seconds after he stepped into the laundry room, he shouted to his wife, “What setting do I use on the washing machine?”

“It depends,” Replied the wife. “What does it say on your shirt?”

He yelled back, “University of Oklahoma.”

The Beatitudes, Part 1

Today we are starting a series on the study of the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes are eight blessings shared during the Sermon on the Mount, as related in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme.

Four of the blessings also appear in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke. Luke states them directly to the listener, though, saying Blessed are YOU… Matthew changed the wording, we can only guess to make them, more appropriate to ALL listeners, and added to Luke’s list with four additional Blessings.

We see similar verses in the traditional writings of Buddhism, in the Qur’an, the teachings of the Baha’i, and in the Book of Mormon where Jesus gives a sermon to a group of indigenous Americans including statements very similar to Matthew and evidently derived therefrom. Proving once again that we are all one in Spirit; that ALL teachings are of love.

The term beatitude comes from a Latin noun beātitūdō which means “happiness”.

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation. As He said in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He is making a statement of how the spirit of the law should be followed.

Matthew constantly shows how Jesus came in the light of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

So, again we have an example of taking Old Testament or Hebrew Bible teachings and re-purposing them into new directions for us. We have learned the basic laws of God through our journey in the OLD and are now learning how to put them into practice in the NEW.

The Beatitudes present a new set of Christ-like ideals that focus on a spirit of love and humility different in orientation than the usual force and demand. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion. These were and ARE the basic teachings of Jesus.

It’s important, I think, that Matthew has the setting of Jesus “Up into the mountains” leaving me to believe that he lifted his thoughts to higher more spiritual realms. Metaphysically, we go to higher perspectives or thoughts when we see mountain mentioned, just as we do when we see mention of Jesus looking up toward heaven.

This scene also takes us to the Hebrew Bible where Moses goes up in the mountain for laws of Obedience, the Ten Commandments.

We have learned these laws, supposedly, as we take our soul’s journey and are ready to put the Spirit of the Laws into practice, via Jesus’ teachings.

The message of Jesus is one of humility, charity, and brotherly love. He teaches transformation of the inner person. Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, virtues in life which will ultimately lead to reward. Love becomes the motivation for His followers.

All of the Beatitudes have an eschatological meaning, that is, they promise us salvation – not in this world, but in the next. The Beatitudes initiate one of the main themes of Matthew’s Gospel; that the Kingdom so long awaited in the Old Testament is not of this world, but of the next, the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus proclaimed that God’s kingdom was at hand.

And we now know that that Kingdom can be found here on earth, within and without each and every one of us. It is ‘at hand’, because it is us.

The Greek word translated “blessed” means “spiritual well-being and prosperity.” When we bless someone or something, we are asking that they or it be increased, be prospered, be one with all.

There is a desire today to translate the word with “happy.” But that does not seem to capture all that is intended here in the text, primarily because modern usage of the word “happy” has devalued it. This term is an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with your God. Happiness may indeed be a part of it; but it is a happiness that transcends what happens in the world around us, a happiness that comes to the soul from being favored by God. That is why it can call for rejoicing under intense persecution. In some ways the Lord’s declaration of “blessed” is a pledge of divine reward for the inner spiritual character of the righteous; in other ways it is His description of the spiritual attitude and state of people who are right with God.

Those who experience the first aspect of a beatitude (poor, mourn, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted) will also experience the second aspect of the beatitude (kingdom of Heaven, comfort, inherit the earth, filled, mercy, see God, called sons of God, inherit the kingdom of Heaven)

The Beatitudes describe the ideal disciple and their rewards, both present and future. The person whom Jesus describes in this passage has a different quality of character and lifestyle than those still “outside the kingdom.” They have journeyed and are re-membering who and what they are.

Let’s look at each Beatitude….and keep in mind who Jesus is teaching….The Hebrews who are deep in their traditions or we could say, their domestication. We’ll look at the first 3 this week.

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

In Aramaic, it is “Blessed are the humble, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or “Delighted are those who surrender to God because heaven’s reign belongs to them!”

The history of the Israelites had them under Roman rule for over 500 years. They were a very prideful nation, believing that their country, their God and their people were better than any other country, god or people. And their pride even went so far as to think it below themselves to do work below their caste. They would rather starve than do a job outside their customary work.

It is this pride that Jesus is referring to in his lesson. This and the pride of the Pharisees and Sadducees and their self-righteousness.

In this verse, spirit is referring to those who are humble, unassuming and free from racial prejudice. It means we have emptied ourselves of all desire to exercise personal self-will and pre-conceived ideas in the search for Truth. It means we are willing to set aside our present habits of thought, our present views and prejudices, our present way of life… anything that gets in the way of connecting with Spirit.

To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God. When we are an empty cup and devoid of pride, we are humble. Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, allowing one to experience the connection with Spirit.

In this Beatitude, Jesus is praising the people for their character and pledging divine rewards for it. He acknowledges that they bring nothing of their own power, possessions or merit to gain entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven. God does not judge if one is rich or poor on the material plane.

Jesus did not make them rich in earthly possessions and power; but he fulfilled their greatest need, their Spiritual need.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Basically, we could simply say this has to do with the fact that there were many uprisings in the Near East at this time. The Israelites were often fighting against their Roman oppressors. When the people came to Jesus and complained about this, he told them of the new kingdom.

Mourning indicates the pain and the grief and the anxieties of the soul over some loss, often the death of a loved one. But it could be over the loss of a valued life, such as those Israelites who went into exile. Or it could be over the loss of possessions, or status, or health. People mourn over any disaster or tribulation. And in times of mourning they look for hope. And often in this world people see little hope.

Mourning in the Psalms (cf. Psalms 119:136; 42:9; 43:2; 38:6) was often associated with grieving over personal or national sin, over the oppression of an enemy, over injustice, or over lack of respect for God’s Law. In this context the corresponding parallel in the Beatitudes explains it perfectly, the mourners are ‘those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’, the coming of the ‘reign of God’ (the kingdom) will comfort and satisfy (‘fill’) them.

I believe it also tells us of our comfort as we come to the realization that our ‘sins,’ our ‘missing the mark,’ is just that, a mistake. It is not a condemnation to everlasting damnation as the Hebrew Bible tells us.

AS we mourn our error and reach into our Christ self, we may mourn that we missed the mark, but we rejoice in the fact that we have ‘seen the light’ and can move forward. Our problem, many times, is we do not forgive ourselves, and may continue mourning our errors.

Emmet Fox, a prominent New Thought writer, looks at this Beatitude quite differently…see what you think. His take is that we have to face troubles, woes, illness, etc. so we will ‘hit bottom’ and then finally turn to God and recognize our true source. What do you think?

The interesting thing about metaphysics is, you get to figure out what it means to you!

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. In the Bible, the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control; they are free from malice and a condescending spirit. Being meek is being patient, not easily angered and not thinking of yourself to highly.

A bad example of meekness were the Pharisees. They would make sure people knew that they were fasting and praying and seemed proud about what they were doing for God.

Except God is looking for us to do these things without putting on a show for others but doing it just for God, not for approval from others. Doing a nice, kind thing for someone is what we are here to do.

Meekness is not weakness, the meek are gentle; they practice nonresistance such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela.   The meek do not exploit and oppress others; they are not given to vengeance and vendettas, they are not violent, and they do not try to seize power for their own ends.

In short, they have emulated the nature of Jesus in their lives and learned from him. This does not mean that they are weak or ineffective in life. They may be gentle and humble, but they can and do champion the needs of the weak and the oppressed.

Emmet Fox believes this is one of the most important statements in Jesus’ teachings- the key of life – the secret of overcoming every kind of difficulty.

The term Earth in this sense, means manifestation or expression, the result of cause. Inherit the earth means to have dominion over that outer experience, to have power to bring your conditions into harmony and success. So meekness is a combination of open-mindedness, faith in God, realization that the will of God is always good.

The Hebrew Bible’s religion is based on strict adherence to the mechanics of cause and effect (“eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth, etc.”) This is the accepted standard for Jehovah worship. Jesus reveals God as Pure Spirit, Father, and Absolute Good. A different standard applies in the worship of God as Spirit. The Sermon on the Mount reveals this new standard of religious thinking.

Mosaic (from Moses) Law helps show us right from wrong (Ten Commandments). It helps us to behave properly. It is necessary for basic survival.

The higher and greater dimensions of the law (grace and Truth from Jesus Christ) present good as the only enduring reality. They (grace and Truth) do not just tell us to behave properly in order to survive, but they point the way for our consciousness to begin evolving toward regeneration and perfection.

The Beatitudes which open the Sermon on the Mount are remarkable for the fact that they describe mostly negative states, but call them “blessed.” Upon careful reading we find that the “blessedness” really does not lie in the state itself, but in the fact that help for all those states is available because of God’s spiritual laws. When we open ourselves to God’s help, the negativity of any state is transformed into the blessing of overcoming it and receiving recompense for such overcoming.

We will continue this discovery of the Beatitudes later in the year. Keep in mind, when looking at anything metaphysically, you want to see what the meaning is for you. So, what do these first three Beatitudes mean for you?