This continues a post started yesterday)
Jesus looked first at one of the disciples, one that everyone knew was struggling with a really bad sense of himself. He was constantly despairing of ever measuring up spiritually in this group. He was sure that he was failing, that he would never measure up.
And he was telling the truth. He knew that he was not good enough to buy God’s favor.
Jesus looked into the disciple’s face and said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The disciple looked up, full of hollowness. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And in that moment, that disciple found a glimmer of hope. Not in what he’d done or because he had emptied himself. His hope was in recognizing that he WAS empty and recognizing that God wanted to fill him and recognizing that God, Jesus, was looking him in the eyes. Without cringing or flinching or scolding.
And so we can read through these nine statements of blessing, of affirmation from Jesus as offerings of hope rather than more things to do, as more standards that we cannot hope to achieve.
We can start reading them something like this:
You are feeling like you have nothing to offer, like you are at a party where everyone else brings cool gifts and you are still waiting for your last paycheck and so have nothing. God offers you everything of his.
You think about how you have done wrong and how often you have messed up, and it makes you want to cry sometimes. Rather than piling on guilt, God offers you his shoulder and his comfort.
You watch other people push to the front with all the “right answers” and you stand back along the edges of the crowd, scuffing your toes in the dirt, uncertain. God looks straight in your eyes and offers you everything that matters in the whole world.
You want to live the right way so much you can taste it sometimes. You have a dull ache in your chest because you so much want to be clean, finally, really clean. You don’t want to fill that ache with products that promise everything and are empty boxes themselves. And God offers you a seat at his table.
An earlier version of this post is included in Learning A New Routine: Reading the Sermon on the Mount a Little at a Time