Learning to Bless

Learning to Bless

TEXT: Matthew 5:1-12

As I think back on this summer and our tour through God’s big story and the major themes we looked at, one phrase kept rising to the top week after week: blessed to be a blessing. It comes from God’s covenant with Abraham, but permeates so much of redemptive history. God has pursued us in love and invites us to be a part of what He is doing – which is pursuing people in love!

For the next ten weeks we will take a different approach to scripture. Instead of the 10,000-foot view of the whole thing, we are going to take a deep dive into twelve verses in Matthew 5. They are part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” and are focused on this theme of blessing. They are often called “The Beatitudes” which comes from the Latin for “blessed” because each phrase begins with “blessed are.”

I do want to remind you that “blessing” is not lottery winnings… it is the benefit of living within God’s will and word, both given to us for our good, our safety, and our salvation. Jesus’ teaching here will help point us in the right direction!

I have two hopes for this series: that we will grow in our understanding that we ARE blessed by God; and that we will learn how to more faithfully bless others.

Today I want to just give an overview of how those two concepts are woven into this simple and profound “sermon” by Jesus. And I want to give you a challenge for the next ten weeks.

Being Blessed, Giving Blessing

Look at the first verse and a half for the context. The previous chapter (Matthew 4) left off with this: “Large crowds followed Jesus from [all over the region]. Even here at the beginning of his ministry, there was much interest in Jesus, what he had to say and what he would do.

Chapter 5 of Matthew begins then, with this: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him… and he began to teach them.” Surrounded by a sea of humanity, Jesus withdrew a ways and those interested in being taught came. As was the custom among Rabbis or Jewish teachers of that age, Jesus sat to teach them, with the crowd of humanity as a backdrop and context.

And he taught about being blessed and giving blessing.

BEING BLESSED

He went through a litany of who was blessed by God, following each statement by an explanation of how they were or would be blessed:

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (How are they blessed? Blessing and poor don’t seem to belong in the same sentence!) They belong to the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn. (How are they blessed? That doesn’t seem like a blessed state!) They shall be comforted.

And so forth. We will look at each teaching in turn over the next weeks. But here’s the general flow of it. Jesus describes someone we don’t normally think of as being blessed – maybe that’s even us! – and he explains that they are blessed, and how.

My hope is that you will hear something in here that reminds you or even surprises you about yourself and about others. Maybe you are hurting, suffering, feeling alone; and need to know how God has blessed you. Maybe you look on others in the ‘crowd’ and judge them less than, undeserving, or worse; and you need to hear how God has blessed them.

GIVING BLESSING

Jesus teaching here is also about giving blessing, in two ways. A number of the statements about who is blessed are about people who are actively giving blessing. Jesus says “blessed are the merciful” – those are people who show mercy to others. The blessing of showing mercy is to receive mercy. Later, those who bless others with peace (the ‘peacemakers’) are blessed as being called children of God. So being blessed and giving blessing are interwoven.

But then also, after the Beatitudes proper, the next two verses (vv.13-14) describe us as “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” That’s Jesus description and challenge for us: that we be active engagers of the crowd, of the community, of the world. (We’ll end our series on those two verses.)

Blessing Challenge

So that gives you some idea of where we are going. I want to end then with a challenge here on the front end of this series:

Each Sunday I challenge you to think of one way God says you are blessed. Receive it; accept it; welcome it; live it! Then I challenge you to spend the week looking for at least one opportunity to bless someone else with that same blessing.

If you need help identifying how God has blessed you, I commend the two passage used in today’s service: Isaiah 61:1-3 and Matthew 5:1-12. Both cover a striking range of human experience.

So here’s an example: though I don’t always feel lovable or lovely, God says that He loves me. That’s a blessing for sure. Now, my challenge for the week is to find at least one person to tell or show that they are loved – not just by God, but by me.

Then next Sunday find another, and pass it on. Will you join me in that?

Amen.

Some Music Used

  • HANDBELLS: A Simple song of Joy (Keller)
  • Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
  • By Our Love
  • The Blessing (Jobe, Carnes)

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