Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”- Matthew 5:3
These words come at the beginning of the most famous sermon that Jesus ever gave the Sermon on the Mount. It is this sermon that Jesus gave to his disciples at the beginning of his ministry that helped set the stage for the meaning of his entire ministry. It is this sermon that comprises our Gospel lessons for the month of February. The Sermon on the Mount is an important sermon because it’s not an academic sermon; nor is it a how to lecture; the Sermon on the Mount’s importance is how it speaks about the realities of life.
Today’s opening section is entitled the Beatitudes. Jesus wishes to use the Beatitudes to contrast our everyday experiences such as mourning, meekness, persecution, and poverty of spirit with the promises of the coming Kingdom of God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
What these words mean are blessed are those people whose life didn’t end up quite the way they wished for it to be. Blessed are those who realize that there is a need for faith when they are at their very lowest.
I want to tell you a story of a gentleman named Julio Diaz as told to NPR. Diaz was a social worker who lived in the Bronx. Every night Diaz would take the train home from work. But one night in 2008, Diaz’s evening took an unexpected turn. As Diaz was heading towards the stairs to exit the train platform, Diaz came across a young teenage boy who pulled a knife on Diaz demanding his wallet. Diaz eventually gives the Boy his wallet. Yet soon a surprising perhaps even shocking thought pops in Diaz’s head.
Most people in this situation would probably hope for something horrible to happen to this Mugger. Diaz’s response thought was different. Diaz called the Boy back realizing that this boy must be in really rough shape if he needed to rob people at knife point. Diaz offered this Boy to take his coat also out of concern that he might grow cold throughout the night.
The Mugger was in shock at the offer. Only for Diaz to make a more surprising offer to the Boy who mugged him, Diaz told the Boy that all he was planning to do that night was to stop by his favorite diner for some dinner. Diaz informed the Boy that if he would like something to eat that he was more than welcome to join him. The Mugger confused by Diaz’s generosity decided to take Julio Diaz up on his dinner invitation.
As soon as the Boy entered the diner with Julio Diaz, he immediately picked up something about Diaz’s presence. Diaz knew the name of every single person within the restaurant. Diaz knew the managers by name. Diaz knew the waitresses by name. Diaz even knew the dishwashers by name. At this point, the mugger probably wondered what was going on.
So the Mugger asked Diaz, “If he owned this place?” To which Diaz responded, “No, I just eat here a lot?” But the Boy was shocked that Diaz was nice to even the dishwasher. Diaz asked the Boy hadn’t he been taught to be nice to everyone, hadn’t he been taught to see the vale in every single person he encountered.
To which the Boy responded with a surprised look on his face saying, “Yea, but I didn’t actually think people behaved this way.” Diaz then asked the Boy, “What did he want out of life?” At which point the Boy couldn’t formulate a response, he could merely have a sad look creep over his face. For this mugger was more than just a punk or hooligan. This mugger was a frightened, desperate kid unsure of his place in the world.
Well eventually the bill arrived for Julio Diaz and the Boy who mugged him. At which point, Diaz looked at the Mugger saying, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ‘cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
Upon receiving this offer, the Mugger didn’t even hesitate he grabbed Julio Diaz’s wallet and gave it back to him. Julio Diaz then took a $20 dollar bill out of his wallet hoping it would help the Boy out. All Julio Diaz asked in return was that the Mugger gives him his knife. At which point, Diaz’s Mugger gave him the knife; he had used to take Julio Diaz’s wallet hours earlier.
I can’t tell you anything about Julio Diaz’s backstory. I can’t tell you why he acted like he did on this night. But what this story does illustrate is that Julio Diaz understood the meaning of being “poor in spirit”.
Julio Diaz took one of the worst situations that we could have imagined and turned it into a blessing. Julio Diaz was able to see the Mugger in a way that rose above present circumstances, and past experiences. Julio Diaz saw this mugger as one of God’s Children, and offered to come together with him in the midst of his brokenness. It was precisely because Julio Diaz understood the reality of being poor in spirit that transformation could occur in the Mugger.
Today’s Gospel has Jesus issuing some really strange blessings for those who are poor in spirit, for those who mourn, for those who are humble, and for those who feel like the whole world against them. The reason that this passage is so important is because Jesus promises to these people the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus in our lesson for today is seeking to remind the Disciples of one the most profound spiritual truths that we have a God who is truly present at those very moments that we do not expect it, at those very moments when we often can’t even begin to comprehend God’s presence such as the during the act of being mugged.
This week, I was talking to a woman that has recently been going through a litany of issues in life that many people face such as issues within her relationships, issues with finances, and issues with self-esteem. As she had been undergoing these issues for the past few months she said something that jumped out at me, when she said “I’m tired of hating myself.”
Hearing the word hate jolts you because it is such a strong word. We hate others because of our abundance of pride. We hate others when our pride as I crushed. As I heard this woman talk, the one thing that kept going through my head is that she is not the only one that feels this way.
My Sister when she was in high school seemed to have it all, she was smart, she was outgoing, and she was voted Prom Queen at a fairly large high school, yet the weight of the world crushed her at times to such a degree that she couldn’t’ get out of bed in the morning.
What the Beatitudes seek to remind is that the world is harsh, the world is unrelenting, and Satan attacks our every weakness. Way too many of us misunderstand the Christian Life and this is what the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes seeks to correct.
Think of the way we often process the things that Jesus talks about today being poor in spirit, mourning, or coming to grips with our sense of powerlessness to change it and how we naturally assume this isn’t the way life is supposed to be. We often talk about pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and turning lemons into lemonade. The Sermon on the Mount is written to tell us that there will be moments when you feel like failures. There will be moments when a sense of sadness comes over you that won’t easily go away. The Beatitudes remind us that the Christian existence doesn’t promise you joy or victories, but rather crosses that you have to bear. Yet what the Sermon on the Mount wishes to assure you is at those moments when you’re at your lowest, you have not been left behind.
The Sermon on the Mount is written to assure people who feel guilty, excluded, or plain weird that they are not alone in the challenges that they face. The Beatitudes seek to address the present life according to how it really is not how we wish, or think it should be. Jesus seeks to remind us today of the reality of the human condition is to be broken no different then Julio Diaz’s Mugger.
The reason that human brokenness is such good news is because it points out how the reach of God’s grace and the coming transformation is way bigger then we can even imagine.
It points out how in the words of Tullian Tchavadian that “While I am far more incapable than I may have initially thought, God is infinitely more capable than I ever hoped.”
The Sermon on the Mount is a sermon that in the words of Saint Paul reminds us, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”-Romans 8:18
This week, I was visiting Mervel Hanson who has recently been placed in Hospice. When I was talking to Jenny (his wife), she made the comment that “his faith really seems to be strong”.
I said there is something to be said for moments like these when our bodies are breaking down, when we begin to confront the reality that the next breath could be our last breath. These moments serve as a contrast to how the realities of this world contrast with the promises of the coming Kingdom of God.
This seems to be the point of why Jesus speaks of the poor in spirit, the mourning, and the meek as being the ones who shall be blessed not because there life is necessarily going to turn around tomorrow morning. Rather what Jesus seeks to remind us today is the blessings which he promises us; we have not yet received. What the Sermon on the Mount seeks to remind us is that no matter what our circumstances are in a given moment, they shall one day be changed. We all have moments in our life where God’s presence appears to be hidden from us. Yet as we look towards Our Cross, we are reminded that it is at those moments when God seems most absent, he is often most present.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”-Matthew 5:3
 Matthew 5:3
 “A Victim Treats His Mugger Right”. NPR. 28.Mar.2008. Web. Feb.1.2014
 Richard, Pastor Matt. “A Steadfast Lutheran Interview with Pastor Tullian Tchividjian.” Steadfast Lutherans. 14.Jan.2014. Web. Feb.1.2014.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.