This winter Here Now Ministry has joined with Youth Street Reach for our outdoor worship services. This January I started a reflection series on the Beatitudes. When I read the commentaries on this passage, most shared that the Beatitudes are a kind of recipe for being holy, for how God wants us to act so we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, I thought about the folks that I serve and imaged standing in front of them saying that it’s ok and actually a blessing to be poor in spirit, to be meek and mourning; that somehow these painful states of being would offer some sort of holy cleansing and prepare them for Heaven. Then I imagined the folks that Jesus stood before as he shared what is known as the sermon on the mount. I imagine that both gathered groups are fairly similar; marginalized, suffering from losses of all kinds, and perhaps some teetering on losing hope (I feel strongly that poor in spirit refers to hopelessness and depression). Facing these vulnerable, suffering folks, it would be cruel to even imagine that God would want them to experience grief or depression or that being meek is preferable to caring enough for self and others that one can stand up for getting needs met. Instead of offering a way of being, I wonder if Jesus was seeing them in their fullness, and was saying “I see that you are suffering, I see that you have been held down and held back, I see that your spirit is being chipped away because you’re living in difficult times.” Perhaps in noticing how his flock was feeling and the conditions they were living under, Jesus offered healing through empathy and compassion rather than preaching on how to be “right with God.” Furthermore, in naming their suffering and then noting that they were Blessed, Jesus was letting them know that their suffering did not come from God, but that God loved them and was with them in their suffering, offering blessings (holy strength) as they moved through whatever they are going through.
During our January worship, an older gentleman I’ve known for a long time was crying out “why did God take my son from me?” My heart broke for him and for anyone who believes that suffering, that loss, that abuse, that homelessness is a punishment from God. Another man I work with who has suffered multiple losses wonders what he did wrong to have deserved this. No one deserves suffering, however suffering is part of our human experience. What if we are taught that humans experience an unbalanced mix of joy and suffering in their lifetime, rather than being taught that “we get what we deserve?” I wonder how that would affect our resiliency, our spirits? I wonder how that would affect our relationship with God?
Jesus saw the hearts and souls of the people he pastored, and brought about healing of hearts and spirits by letting them know he sees them, and that in all that they are experiencing they are loved by a Love without measure, and that nothing can separate them from this Love.
In the prayer that Jesus taught he tells us to bring about on earth as it is in heaven. Perhaps in declaring that those who are depressed (poor in spirit) , and grieving (mourning) , and marginalized (meek) are blessed he was preaching to us. Perhaps he was telling us that instead of seeing these states as God intended in order to climb up that ladder to heaven, or God ordained as some kind of punishment for bad deeds, perhaps we are being told that all people are loved and blessed by God and that it is our responsibility as fellow humans to help bring healing down that ladder from heaven and spread it around here on earth.
I see you, I see your pain, know that you are loved and nothing can separate you from God’s mercy, forgiveness and love.
It’s time to get to work, it’s time to do some noticing and healing.