Just started reading ‘Jesus’ People: What The Church Should Do Next’ by Bishop Steven Croft. It was recommended to me, earlier in the year by my tutor Michael Volland and (less importantly) by Amazon! Croft believes The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) should be the manifesto of the Church and he’s not alone in this thinking. This week I have also come across ‘Internet Monk’ who states the same idea and only a couple of days ago Ian Mobsby claims The Beatitudes have been speaking to him profoundly.
How can The Beatitudes shape the potential community I’m hoping to gather this year?
Let’s take each one individually and begin to construct a vague manifesto for the community.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (The Message)
Blessed are those who know their need for God. Do we know our need for God? A Christian community must know, at its very core, that it can do nothing without God. As a Christian leader I must, as Graham Cray reminded me at Spring Harvest (see Wrestling With Truth (part IV) post), to model good discipleship and this is the first marks of discipleship. I need to be reminded again and again that nothing will come of this placement if Jesus is not at the centre; each session, conversation, planning time needs to follow a statement of need for God.
Take what I offer, paltry as it is and make it last. Take these loaves and fishes that would just stretch to a snack and make it a feast for thousands. I want to join in your creative action for You are making a Kingdom that will last.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (The Message)
Blessed are those who know that this world groans with suffering. How often do we, as Christians, accept suffering? I’ve said before the passage in Scripture which depicts what the Church should be is Jacob wrestling with God. The nation of God is named ‘Israel’ (the one who wrestled with God) and this means asking difficult questions, engaging in struggles, pushing deeper into the pain. One of the driving forces behind this placement is to give space for people to ask questions, of themselves, of others and (maybe) of God. This means we will undoubtedly encounter suffering, mourning, struggles and as a community we must engage. The theatre is a great art form for expressing pain and sorrow, to enable people to feel the emotion of others.
May we empathise with all those who mourn that we become those who mourn. Let us tell, openly and honestly, the stories of struggles and human experience and not shy away for fear of the unknown. May we wrestle continually with You knowing that the more we grasp at you the closer we are.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (The Message)
Blessed are those who give away power and influence rather than hoard it. This is my own personal struggle… Humility is something that I’m constantly praying for! How I love power, influence, fame and glory! I need to continue to remind myself that to be a follow of Jesus I must, like Him, give power away; to know who I am and for that to be enough rather than showing everyone. This community, therefore, must have no hierarchy. I must, as the director, walk and act in the nature of the Divine Director (see Divine Director (part I and II) posts) allowing the power to be shared amongst the community.
Teach me, each day, to be content with who am – no more, no less. Give me opportunities to give away power and influence and to serve others rather than myself. May we continually work towards collaboration and the spirit of The Chorus for it is in this relationship that we experience the Trinity most.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Mt 5:6)
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. (The Message)
Blessed are those who are discomforted with the way things are and who strive to put things right. Hunger and thirst are extreme words for the way we should feel about the lack of justice in the world and society. Do we feel this uncomfortable about it? Becoming a disciple of Christ is not about receiving the gift of eternal life and then waiting for heaven to come; it’s about signing up to work to see the Kingdom realised. N.T. Wright in his book ‘Surprised by Hope’ puts forward the idea that we are to be actively involved in the establishing of God’s Kingdom on earth. It’s not a new idea either. As disciples of Christ we must seek God’s Kingdom, realise it, work to see it to completion. The work of a community, therefore, is to encourage each other in this work and to pray for others before our own, personal salvation.
We pray for Your Kingdom. We seek it above all things for when we are focussed on this work all other things will be given unto us. We want to be Your co-workers to help our Father build His world for as we work with you we come closer to You.
Join me tomorrow for the final four Beatitudes. Why not have a listen to Avro Pärt’ ‘De Profundis:The Beatitudes‘ and read Matthew 5:1-6 and ask yourself; which of these are my strength and which are my weaknesses?