Reflection for Sunday November 1 – Teryle Watson
Readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12a
I have been privileged to be with my parents, dear family members and treasured friends as they put on their Crown of Glory and stepped into the kingdom. I am always in awe of the translucent glow that comes over the face of one going home.
Death, the transition to eternal life, is the action that unites our most real selves to Heaven. We are one with Heaven and Earth. But, how does this happen?
Can you imagine going to your primary care physician and asking, “Hey, doc, do you have a prescription that will get me into Heaven?” We know what the answer would be. Fortunately, the gospel for today gives us the exact prescription to Heaven. The eight instructions of the Beatitudes are the GPS to eternity. Let’s do some reflecting.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Our earthly home is temporary. The need to fill our lives with possessions, money and power can blind our eyes and hearts to the good news of Jesus Christ. God wants us to enjoy the pleasures of the world. It is the attachment to things and greed that can leave us earthbound. It is reasonable to remember there are no U-Hauls in the cemetery.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” I have friends who have stated, “I don’t do hospitals” or “I don’t do funerals.” To deny the inevitable is a denial of life and a misconception of eternal life. We are called to step far outside of our comfort zone to provide solace for the brokenhearted. Through baptism we are united in the priesthood of Jesus. It is our privilege and responsibility to pray for, cleanse, console and be the light for those who mourn. As we willingly become the hands, eyes and ears of Christ we become the blessing of the mournful.
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth.” Meekness is not equal to weakness or powerlessness. I prefer to paraphrase this Beatitude as “Blessed are the just, for they shall inherit the Earth.” Throughout Scripture the image of the just person is frequently used. The just person does not exalt themselves nor do they feign piety.
The just person grows as a cedar tree. I don’t think I ever completely understood this metaphor until recently. While visiting Japan I saw thousands of cedar trees. They are erect—pointing heavenward. Their branches provide protection but do not block the sun from other species. Each cedar is equal, giving a strong, protective sense of balance. Certainly those who point to Heaven, display equality and allow the sun (Son) to shine are blessed.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” What a direct mandate to walk our talk! This is a very clear call to social action. There is a marvelous song by Ysaye M. Barnswell of Sweet Honey in the Rock, entitled “Would You Harbor Me?” The lyrics are profound:
“Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you? Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Heretic, Convict or Spy? Would you harbor a runaway woman or child, a poet, a prophet, a king? Would you harbor an exile or refugee or a person living with AIDS? Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garrett, a Truth, a Fugitive or a Slave? Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean or Czech, a Lesbian, Transvestite or Gay? Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?”
These are tough questions. We see the slogan WWJD—and we know the answer. I am not certain that a self-examination of my conscience would always yield the response I know that I should give. As Christians we are mandated to fight for equality for all humanity in terms of housing, living wage, good nutrition, education, support for the disabled and marginalized. We are mandated to fight for parity in the justice system, career choice, lifestyles and the right to marry and create a family with one’s true love. If we truly practice Agape love we must move out of our comfort zone. To love and support life in the image of our Creator, Redeemer and Life Giving Spirit, we must release our often myopic images of the Kingdom of God. We are invited to harbor and love the “dear neighbor.”
It s my belief that the God who created the earth, oceans, butterflies, lions, tigers and you and me is more loving and powerful than we can possibly imagine. The last gasp of our Redeemer on Calvary was not reserved for a chosen few and thankfully, the spirit creates in us a constant Pentecost. I pray that one day I might pry my heart open and love like God.
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.” Gentleness and forgiveness are hallmarks of the life of the Christian. Scripture provides wonderful examples. More importantly each of us has experienced the forgiveness of our good and gentle God. I am amazed how many times God has forgiven me. I struggle to do likewise. I would like to share the words of one my favorite musical pieces. The lyrics are from “Jane Eyre,” music and lyrics by Paul Gordon:
“You mustn’t be vengeful, you have to be strong, to offer good for evil, return right for wrong. We must not hold a grudge and we must learn to endure. Then, as God is your judge at least your heart will be pure. Forgiveness is the mightiest sword. Forgiveness of those you love will be your highest reward. Bless the souls who would curse your name. When the last bell tolls you’ll be free from blame. The time will come when we will leave this world, and then the injustice and the pain, and the sin will fall away from us. And only the spark of the spirit will remain, returning to God who created it. You must never lose faith; you must never lose heart. God will restore your trust and I know you’re afraid—I’m as scared as you are, but willing to be brave, brave enough to love.”
“Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” Our senses are assaulted daily with media, lewd behavior, questionable fashion and abusive language which distract from Kingdom building. We have too many opportunities that exalt violence, greed and the misuse of the gift of sexuality. When the senses are filled with negativity the word of God is unheard, our vision of eternity is blurred and our tongues fail to sing God’s praises. As Jesus instructed his apostles in the boat, we must keep our eyes on the prize. We must keep our lamps trimmed and burning.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for one day they will be called the children of God.” Each second of our lives we are presented with opportunities to build up or tear down the Kingdom of God. Peacemakers are bridge builders who allow the power of God on Earth to be strengthened. Peacemaking requires the courage of a loving heart, a tongue that is girded in truth, ears that listen without first making assumptions and a mind that is eager to learn. Peacemakers consistently honor the presence of God in the “Dear Neighbor.” Peacemaking does not avoid conflict, the process of weaving hearts can be a terrible beauty. Peacemaking grows out of prayer, quiet discernment and a desire to be transparent. Gossip, jealousy and parking lot meetings are foreign to the peacemaker.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” There are climatic moments when we are asked to pay for the kingdom of God on Earth. Some will be called to pay the ultimate price for the sake of the Living Word. Such is the Journey of the Christian. We rejoice at the wood of the manger, revere the wood of the cross—the sacrament of our salvation. For some of God’s beloved we will spend time in the garden and pray for fortitude and faith as we face our own Calvary.
“Blessed are you when they insult you and hate you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in Heaven.” Let us celebrate the saints who have walked the journey before us. As we continue our earthly mission I invite you to embrace the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”