First Mennonite Church
August 30, 2020
We Have Been Declare Blessed 3
Text: Matthew 5:9-12
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today, we come to the last three Beatitudes. Jesus’ inauguration sermon that began with the Beatitudes certainly might have not been the most appealing way to attract the crowds. However, his embodiment of these saying was forceful, clear, and despite of their being oxymoronic, that is they seem self-contradictory (blessed are the poor, those who mourn, etc.) the crowds could not resist to join Jesus’ following.
If we were to associate ourselves with at least two of the Beatitudes, which would those be?
Blessed are the poor in spirit?
Blessed are those who mourn?
Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers or those reviled and persecuted?
Which of these can we say we embody?
We certainly might not be able to associate ourselves with each of the Beatitudes, but being Jesus’ followers, it is not possible we cannot with any. Jesus’ followers must embody one, two or three of these Beatitudes.
The first in our list for today is:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. It is far easier to be a peace-loving person than to be peacemaker. A peace-loving person avoids conflict, interpersonal interactions that might give rise to their differences. A peace-loving person would prefer to stay to him/herself in fear of conflict. James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote: For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:16-18). The peacemaker engages, interacts, and serves the other. He or she does not avoid engaging others because she is gentle, willing to yield, shows mercy, and is impartial and sincere.
Often times the word peace is thought of only as the opposite of war and violence. When Yahweh, the prophets, Jesus and the apostle use the word “peace,” most times they are referring to the Hebrew meaning of the word “shalom.” Paul used it as his greeting, occasionally. Peace, according to the Old Testament definition, is the opposite of everything that disturbs and fails to secure the common good of all, which can lead to violence and even war. In that regard, everything that is involved for a good harvest, such as access to land, timely rain, and working hands to gather the crop which prevents famine is a sign of shalom. When there is social harmony that unifies and strengthens a nation that is shalom. When just laws are enacted and when these are applied evenly regardless of the violators, shalom has come. In summary, whenever men and women bring about signs of the will of God in their endeavors, the world sees glimmers of God’s shalom touch the earth. Therefore, when Jesus calls blessed those who are peacemakers, he is referring to God’s active agents working toward the fulfillment of God’s will on earth. This active engagement of bringing to earth God’s will was made visible in the life of Jesus Christ. Praying for God’s will to come on earth as it is in heaven is part of that active engagement for the disciples.
In Jesus’ times, the Romans considered themselves as the peacemakers of the world. However, they brought peace by suppressing and destroying their enemies. Rome believed peace through military victory. When Octavian defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he ended the Roman Civil War and was acclaimed a “peacemaker.” The early Christians, however, believed in “peace through justice”–peace through righting wrongs and treating all people, particularly the bereft, with dignity. Christians believe in a peace that reflects the acts of Jesus their Lord who even prayed for his enemies, even as he was dying at their hands.
We are called peacemakers. When we refrain from stoking the fires of division, when we pray, not only for the riots to cease but for the very reasons the riots came about, we engage in peacemaking. God’s peacemakers are not children of the world. God’s peacemakers will be questioned on which side they stand on the issues of division, conflicts and conflicting positions. They will surely become suspects of being traitors, undefined, and possibly in our context, “Un-American.” The blessed peacemakers, however, know that they only imitate their Master, who is just and does not discriminate between people. They only want God’s peace to reign. They are only concerned for God’s righteousness for everyone, just as their God makes his sun to rise upon sinners and the righteous and the rain to fall upon everyone. The blessed peacemakers will be called “children of God” because they resemble God in their endeavor for peace.
And that leads to the next two Beatitudes which are interrelated.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Jesus’ disciples hunger and thirst for righteousness. In the world, they are a different kind of people. Or as Peter says, they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and are God’s own people, therefore, their values, interests, and pursuits are countercultural. They do not take sides in the worldly chatter, nor become entangled in the ideological wars. Their call is to advocate only for things that conduces for the holistic wellbeing, both for all humanity and all of God’s creation. They call and pray for God’s will to come on earth as it is in heaven.
The disciples of Jesus are often misunderstood because of their countercultural position in the world. Just as Jesus so was righteous, yet died an unrighteous death, so are his disciples, whom he calls blessed. The world cannot tolerate them. That is why Jesus says they will be persecuted. Their helpless pursuit for the will of God to come on earth, their constant advocacy for the common good on the various spheres of life, Jesus’ disciples will be met with persecution. People will revile them and will falsely characterize their position, work, and passion for good, as evil. The disciples of Jesus do not have a narrow scope of what righteousness is. They understand that the goodness of God’s will includes all aspects of life and for the life of all.
But it is to this reviled people, that Jesus reminds them: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Those who suffer for the sake of Jesus should “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” for their reward is great in heaven. They are the unfortunate victims of persecution, yes, but they find themselves in the line of the great prophets of the past as well as John the Baptist and Jesus himself.
My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus calls us blessed. We should take to heart that those describe as “blessed” resemble the character of God, Jesus, the prophets, the disciples and, unfortunately, the many saints and martyrs along church history. The blessed, Jesus describes, are you and me, because we are hungering for what is right, just, and good for all. We are those Jesus calls “blessed” for walking humbly before our God, knowing that by doing so we pursue holiness and grow in the likeness of the Son of Man.
To close this morning, let me quote the words of the apostle James once again: the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:16-18).
May the Spirit of the Lord empower us to reflect unambiguously the high privilege, the honored position, and the great advantage of counting God by our side, which is the meaning of being blessed, by having a humble spirit and by being an agent of God’s shalom today and here. It is Jesus’ promise that we will be satisfied, comforted, shown mercy, and, in the end, we will inherit the fullness of God’s kingdom. To us is the promise that we will see God and be called his children.
Dear church, God is declaring us “Blessed are you.” Amen.