Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

January 8, 2009 The Beatitudes

READ: Matthew 5:1-12
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Most commentators I've read about this section focus on the specific categories of people Jesus talks about. But think for a second about the relationship this passage has with what Jesus says in Revelation:

“‘So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

“‘For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

“‘I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.


I don't think what Jesus was driving at here at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount was so much how blessed the poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry, the thirsty, the merciful, pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and the reviled are. With Jesus (and we'll see this again and again), most of the journey is in recognition. If you don't realize you are hungry or thirsty, if you aren't aware you're in mourning or poor, if it hasn't occurred to you to offer mercy to another in their sin, if you don't know there is something wrong with your heart, don't know the trouble you've caused in relationships, have never thought to speak the name of Jesus boldly so as to risk persecution, you'll never know his blessings either. We either recognize our need for Jesus or we don't.

The reason Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders of his day was because they believed themselves to be righteous in themselves. Though they talked about God all the time, they had never really faced their personal need. Well, most of them, anyway. Remember that it was Nicodemus (a member of the ruling counsel) who came to Jesus at night because he realized his need. So many people never ask the question or admit they have a need or a problem because they're afraid someone might judge them or think less of them. Well, on behalf of your brothers and sisters I want to make an offer: we're here and we're just as damaged and hurting as you are. That's why we've fled to Jesus. Come... let's talk.

Jon

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