RCL A Epiphany 4
Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Saint Matthew 5:1-12

With the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John in last week’s Gospel, we see that Jesus is ready to begin his ministry in earnest. And he begins his ministry of teaching and preaching with the Sermon on the Mount whose signature is the Beatitudes, those sayings of Jesus about who is blessed or blesséd.

If we were able to hear or to read the Beatitudes for the first time, with our very culture as background, I believe we would be struck by how unexpected and surprising this collection of sayings is. They are not what anyone of us would give as an answer to the question about how to live one’s life. The advice many in our culture give about how to live differs greatly from the Beatitudes.

Specifically, we do not think of the poor in spirit, or mourners, or the meek, or those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, as being happy or blessed. We think of those people as living on the emotional and spiritual fringe. And what do we think of the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, the reviled for Jesus’ sake, do we not regard them as somehow interested in the wrong things? But Jesus says that they are not at all interested in the wrong things. He says that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[1]

The second thing to notice, I believe, about the Beatitudes, is that we have the freedom and the ability to choose to have those qualities. Jesus is not asking us to be what we cannot be. Jesus is asking us to choose to be poor in spirit, to be merciful, to make peace, and to thirst for righteousness. The happy or blessed conditions that Jesus teaches his followers to prefer are in their grasp. Anyone can be these things if one wishes to be them.

And so, the kingdom is at hand. We can take a single step and be in its very center. The Beatitudes represent the qualities we all can have if we determine to dedicate ourselves to them. They are not impossibly high mountains to climb. They describe all the saints together as a group. They describe all the saints in the church on earth and in heaven. They describe growth in the spirit if we direct our footsteps and ways toward them.

They describe exactly what Micah the Prophet had said in the First Lesson. For Micah prefers not bombastic pleading to the mountains and contending with God. But Micah prefers doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.[2] There is not one of us who cannot do these. And as the Psalmist today proclaims, “Whoever does these things * shall never be overthrown.”[3]

[1] Saint Matthew 5:10.

[2] Micah 6:8.

[3] Psalm 15:7.