You are invited during this season of Lent 2017 to reflect on and ponder anew the teachings of our Lord in the beginning of Matthew 5. These celebrated sayings beginning with, “Blessed are…” might be the most famous of all of Jesus’ words. Yet, instead of inviting us to deeper insight, their familiarity can actually lead us to neglectful inattention.
This Lent, you are invited to participate in a project that offers a different approach. In our foyer, you are encouraged to write your own “beatitudes” using the original statements as a beginning. Examples of ways to update, modernize, paraphrase, or adapt these statements are illustrated below. Your wise and creative words will be beautifully displayed in collaboration with others as an art project on Easter morning.
Take a moment and read the Beatitudes reading below, shared in Central's Wednesday Worship on February 1. Paste a copy on your bathroom mirror or keep a copy in your car. Reread them daily as you think about the people around you who need encouragement and blessing. May this be a way we encounter the world-transforming teachings of Jesus in a fresh way. Together we walk this Lenten path. Together we take his words and make them our own. Together we encounter the holy mystery of the fulfilling and eternal life Jesus provides.
Leader: When we read familiar passages of scripture it is easy to gloss over the depth of meaning that the words hold. This evening we read the “Beatitudes”, a very familiar teaching of Jesus. We will read several different versions and contemporary interpretations. After each blessing, we will allow a brief pause for you to reflect on the words and contemplate the meaning for our contemporary times. When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others;
Reader 3: The spiritually humble are God’s people, for they are citizens of his new order.
Reader 4: Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Leader: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness;
Reader 3: They who are deeply concerned are God’s people, for they will see their ideas become reality.
Reader 4: Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
Leader: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home;
Reader 3: They who are gentle are his people, for they will be his partners across the land.
Reader 4: Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
Leader: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Reader 3: They who have an unsatisfied appetite for the right are God’s people, for they will be given plenty to chew on.
Reader 4: Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
Leader: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
Reader 2: All those who enact these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.
Reader 3: The generous are God’s people, for they will be treated generously.
Reader 4: Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
Leader: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him
Reader 3: Those whose motives are pure are God’s people, for they will have spiritual insight.
Reader 4: Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
Leader: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.
Reader 3: Men and women of peace and goodwill are God’s people, for they will be known throughout the land as his children.
Reader 4: Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
Leader: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Reader 1: You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Reader 2: Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart;
Reader 3: Those who have endured much for what’s right are God’s people; they are citizens of his new order.
Reader 4: Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Leader: Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Reader 1: Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even! — for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Reader 3: You all are God’s people when others call you names, and harass you and tell all kinds of false tales on you just because you follow me. Be cheerful and good-humored, because your spiritual advantage is great. For that’s the way they treated men of conscience in the past.
Reader 4: Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
* Shared at Central Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on Wednesday, February 1, 2017. Scripture compiled from Matthew chapter 5 of New Revised Standard Version, The Message, and Contemporary English Version. Also referenced is Pope Francis’ Beatitudes for the Modern Era and Clarence Jordan's "The Cotton Patch Gospel".
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