Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
CRM 2012 LENT DEVOTIONAL: DAY 8
I love to read stories to my sons, epics of good struggling against evil. The tales enrapture them, eyes glazing over, images dancing in their minds. In a recent story we read together, the main character laid in long grass, frolicked to and fro under the sun, enjoyed peace, warm breezes, and the sights, sounds, and fragrances of spring in safe, resounding peace. I stopped and I gazed at my youngest son, struck by the innocence yet within him. He could easily be that character.
Later, watching him sleep, I prayed. I know that his reality is fleeting as he enters puberty and becomes aware of this broken world’s tumult, which he inherits. This makes me sad.
In 1947 W. H. Auden, a British poet, wrote a labored poem entitled Age of Anxiety. Britain saw two painful world wars produce only chaos as it entered the post-industrial age. The British felt deep anxiety over their future. Today, Auden’s haunting words are as apropos as ever. We face wars, broken societies, moral collapse, and an approaching economic apocalypse. Politics now stand on the premise of anxiety and serve to propagate it. Natural disasters seem to increase with boundless devastation. We despair. Peace has departed our reality.
Then, I come to this passage. Jesus saw an anxious crowd groping for hope in a world of great suffering. He withdrew and taught his disciples about hope: “The Kingdom is coming!” “Blessed are the meek.” And he blesses those who endure beyond their control—mourning, persecution, spiritual poverty. I am not an eternal optimist; I see our dire future. Like in the first century or in post WWII Britain, the age of anxiety reigns. One could easily dismiss Jesus’ words as a pep talk; nothing more than cheap-veneered hope in the “by and by.”
Yet biblically, “blessed” means so much more. We have God’s intimate, personal favor, and more than sentiment, he promises to do good to us. Jesus promises that the Father knows; he is coming and will establish his Kingdom, and all anxiety will pass away forever. All will be put right. While these temporal circumstances do bring anxiety, and yes they hurt, we belong to him.
I long for eternity when we will return to the innocence my youngest son still enjoys, though for a short while. I long for God’s justice, when he sets all things as they should be. I long for the King!
As I kneel at my boys’ beds and pray, I am comforted that God is returning, establishing his Kingdom, peace, justice, healing, and joy. The temporal is swept away into the eternal.
In this Lenten season, may we remember this and be the heralds of God’s coming Kingdom and the end of anxiety. May we speak truth and an eternal perspective to the anxious. And may we anticipate frolicking in long grass in our eternal spring.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
1. Take a moment to consider the state of our world and of your own life. Are there any troubles that you carry? Spend some time sharing those with God.
2. Are there things you normally do to deal with your troubles? Do you turn to Christ? Invite him now to show you what it means to be blessed. As you do that, what do you hear?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mike Brantley joined CRM in 2001, first pioneering a team in New Zealand. In 2006 he and his wife, Suzanne, and their sons moved to New Orleans to pioneer Communitas, a collection of communities engaging, reaching, and discipling people in our post-Christian world. Today Mike serves the nineteen members of Communitas and mentors pastors, church planters, and missionaries in multiple nations