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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 5:1–10              

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)

My wife and I had the privilege of traveling with a group from Fourth Church to the Holy Land a few years ago. One highlight was the time we spent around the Sea of Galilee, including a visit to the location of the Sermon on the Mount.

Seeing the remote but beautiful location and realizing how difficult it was for a large crowd to have gathered there gave me an appreciation for the excitement, the anticipation, and the hunger the crowd felt for the hopeful message Jesus was delivering in words and actions.

In a sermon dating to the 1500s, John Calvin said, “It is as if Jesus were saying, ‘When I tell you that nothing will take away your blessedness, however oppressed and afflicted you are, I do not mean that you should dumbly resist regardless of feelings, or that you should be like senseless blocks of wood. No! You will weep, you will experience want, dishonor, illness, and other kinds of affliction in this world. These things you will suffer; they will wound you to the very core and make you weep. But nothing will take your blessedness from you.’”

What a comfort to know when the condition of our lives and our world makes us mourn and weep, makes us thirst for righteousness, calls for mercy and peacemaking that our faith and our personal relationship with Jesus assures us of God’s grace.

I’ll always treasure that trip to the mountain, but I’m not sure I would have followed Jesus into the wilderness. Will I now?

O Lord and Father, help me to keep your promise before me and to claim your blessing in the midst of my own unworthiness. In a confused and suffering world, help me to accept your grace and follow your example as best I’m able. Amen.

Written by Ed Coke, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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