The Beatitudes Are for Those on the Margins
I'd suggest that the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12) are as much a description of those who have gathered around Jesus to hear his teaching as they are a general pronouncement of blessing over certain types of people. So who's gathered around Jesus? A rag tag crowd from the margins of society who've got very little to lose (Mt. 4:23-26; 5:1). And why are they blessed? Because they are in a position to welcome the kingdom that Jesus is proclaiming, and they are doing just that in humility and hope through small acts of mercy and peacemaking. It might be difficult to appreciate, but this is utterly amazing — that Jesus would declare kingdom blessings over those who have so little and seem so unimportant. At the same time, it's unnerving — especially for people who've got lots to lose and a kingdom of their own to protect. What should people like that be hearing? The ones who are blessed in more obvious ways ... those who are healthy, wealthy and wise. What is Jesus saying to them? Maybe something like this: Come to me by coming alongside those that I have called blessed. Open yourself to me by sharing life with those who experience themselves as insignificant. Receive from me by walking with the little ones and the least of these. By all means, give generously from your abundance. But go further. Come alongside and learn what it means to be humble and poor in spirit, even if it means giving away your wealth.
Learn what it means to be gentle and meek, even if it means renouncing your power. Learn what it means to hunger and thirst after righteousness, even if it means going without. Learn what it means to be pure in heart, even if it means looking naive. Learn what it means to be a peacemaker, even if it means losing friends. Come to me, open yourself to me, receive from me in these ways and you will discover that the kingdom is yours too, though you may find yourself arriving late and bringing up the rear.
The Rev. Dr. Sean Davidson is Lead Pastor of the Parishes of Waterford and St. Mark's of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton.