1 November 2016

Matthew 5:1-12

“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.” (vv. 1-2)

Psalm: Psalm 34:1-10, 22


Halloween is over and today we reach one of the high points of the Christian Year - All Saints Day. Sometimes today is called All Hallows - hence the word Halloween being derived from 'All Hallows Eve'. The Christian story is often one where opposites are held together, despite human efforts to part them. The Psalmist reminds us that darkness and light are both alike to God (Psalm 139:11-12) yet we understand darkness to be a place of evil, where bad deeds are done, forgetting the nurturing darkness of the womb. It seems that human beings need to engage with evil before we can celebrate good. Today we remember saints - those of legend and those ordinary saints that faithfully loved God and their neighbours. Most saints have not been perfect - they have made mistakes and missed their paths. Yet God's transforming love has shaped them for service.

In today's passage, Jesus goes to a high place, "up the mountain", not this time for his own transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) but in order to address his disciples and teach them about the way God holds things together that seem at first to be opposites. The poor inherit the kingdom of heaven, the mourners will be comforted, the meek will inherit the earth, etc. It's not entirely clear whether Jesus teaches the crowd, or goes up the mountain to avoid them! Either way being in such a high place gives Jesus a broad perspective: he can see the full picture and can offer to his disciples some truths about the nature of God who will restore creation and honour those who let go of the empty ambitions for power, wealth and popularity.

The link between the text and sainthood perhaps comes in the word 'beatitudes'. In Catholic tradition people who become saints are 'beatified' - they are blessed because they have demonstrated lives of service and self-giving love, often putting themselves at risk of scorn, imprisonment, even death. We stand, not on mountains, but on the shoulders of giants, who have loved God and neighbour, and shown us a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven that, through Christ, we inherit.

To Ponder

  • On whose shoulders do you stand? Who inspires you in your Christian journey?
  • What might it mean to be "pure in heart" (v. 8)?
  • How can you be a 'peacemaker' today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Micky Youngson

The Revd Michaela Youngson is Chair of the London District of the Methodist Church. She has served as a presbyter in circuits in Lancashire and London, as well as having been Secretary of Pastoral Care and Spirituality in the Connexional Team.

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