Sunday

30 January 2011

"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 ... Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.'" (vv. 1-3,7)

Background

From the window of a popular restaurant it is possible to look out at a wonderful view of Windsor Castle close by, and, in the foreground, to observe a number of men and women sleeping rough in sleeping bags in a bus stop. Which is easier on the eye? To which is our eye drawn? Today, Homelessness Sunday, we are invited to notice what sometimes we may prefer to ignore, the plight of those who, for whatever reason, no longer have a 'fixed abode'.

In these verses from Matthew, we are taken to a hillside in Galilee about 2000 years ago as Jesus teaches the disciples in words which used to be painted on the walls of many churches, words which many of us had to learn for Scripture exams in days gone by, words which are often known as "the Beatitudes", the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. 

They are both beautiful and challenging words, reminding us that Jesus would have been as interested in the occupants of the sleeping bags in Windsor as in the occupants of the castle behind. They are words which turn all that we thought we knew on its head: it is not the wise and well-educated who will receive the kingdom of heaven, but the poor in spirit; it is not the powerful who will inherit the earth, but the meek, it is not the articulate debaters who will see God, but the pure in heart. Equally surprisingly, it is a blessing to mourn, for that will lead to comfort; a blessing to want more of God, for that will lead to satisfaction; even a blessing to be persecuted and reviled, for that will bring great reward in the kingdom of heaven itself! And those who want to be children of God must learn to be peacemakers, and those who need to receive mercy must first learn to show mercy. 

Showing mercy to the homeless might involve opening up our own homes, as in some local schemes; it might mean supporting local, national and international homeless charities; it must almost certainly mean learning a mindset which doesn't judge, but which doesn't pity either - a mindset which recognises the value to God of all humanity and which is open to receive the teaching of Jesus, however uncomfortable. 

To Ponder

How do you respond to homeless people when you meet them face to face? What can you do to help?

If the Beatitudes provide a checklist for faithful discipleship, how do you measure up?

Read the Beatitudes again. Ask God how you can move closer to live according to them.

Bible notes author: Jill Baker

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