Jesus

Image courtesy of Naypong,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everywhere I have gone today I have encountered the word “blessed.” Different meanings of the word blessed were talked about in our Sunday school class; those meanings included “happy,” “wonderful news” or “fortunate.” Then, once I had gotten home and eaten lunch, I read the material that had been electronically sent to those of us who participate in a Sunday afternoon 11th step focused study of Matthew’s “Beatitudes.”  Of course, it was information about the various meanings of the word blessed.

In the Sunday school discussion, the beatitudes were presented as a proclamation Jesus made of how he was starting to create God’s kingdom on earth by turning things “upside down,” and the author of the book we were studying (Wright, N. T.,2002, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, Louisville, KY: John Knox Press) emphasized that these “blessings” were not something we are rewarded with in heaven after we die for having lived the “right kind of life.” Instead, Wright points out that these blessings are present-tense blessings and suggests we should try living according to these principles in the present moment.  He doesn’t specify how to do so, but I sure he means to live in a manner that helps create God’s kingdom in the present moment. I cannot imagine he means to purposefully become poor, hungry, persecuted,  or look forward to mourning the death of someone you love.

According to Bob Towner (2014), the convener of the 11th Step Beatitudes Study Group, the blessings Jesus was addressing in what is traditionally thought of as the “Sermon on the Mount” were actually an invitation to search one’s inner self in order to find peace and happiness—–even in unhappy situations like those specified in the beatitudes. Towner’s spin on the meaning of the beatitudes suggests Jesus is actually  “offering me [us] the choice of finding worthiness and benefit in attitudes and conditions which the world finds useless or shameful.” This  means I need to apply what I encounter in my inner searching into changing my attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

So, I am faced with considering two different perceptions of the message Jesus was trying to give those who were listening—-as well as to those of us who are reading the account of what he said. They both seem to agree that they are more “here and now” than future focused. They both seem to  agree that the “blessings” are in direct relationship with actions one must take to feel blessed in the present moment.  I have experienced peace and happiness within my inner being when surrounded by the very things mentioned in the beatitudes, and practicing the 12 steps has taught me that much of my inner peace depends on changing my attitudes and actions.

I think I just figured out my take on all this. Blessings are something God gives to me if I am willing to seek them in a spiritual manner. They are not concrete, measurable rewards to be stacked up in heaven or here on earth. I don’t have to do things to make myself miserable in order to receive them. However, I would be the first to admit there have been times in the past when I was only able to find such blessings because I was miserable enough to surrender my will and to actively seek God’s will.  Fortunately, I am learning to work on my “God seeking” skills, and I am much more able to realize and accept blessings now than I have been in the past; I am also fortunate that it doesn’t always take “hitting bottom” to motivate me to seek God and his blessings these days. Although I still work on changing my attitudes and behavior for the better, I still have lots of room for improvement.

So, when I close my blogs with “God bless and keep you,” I am not suggesting you just sit around and wait for God to drop blessings on your head. I am inviting you to actively seek those blessings and hoping you will find and express them in your attitudes and behavior. Although I would like my closing to be some sort of magical spell that guarantees my readers will be blessed and safely held in God’s arms, it is actually expressing my hope that you will actively seek, find, and share God’s love and the peace that “passes all understanding.” God bless and keep you.

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