Blessed are those who suffer?

I’m not quite sure that I want THAT blessing. And I most certainly do not feel most honored. How can Jesus be transforming my heart with this?  

The scriptures appointed for this past Sunday – All Saints Day – included a passage from Revelation as well as the most beloved “Beatitudes” in Matthew 5.

The book of Revelation is beautifully filled with promise. Rather than looking it as an opportunity to utilize fear to “scare people out of hell” this book is filled with hope. In chapter 7, one of the elders asks the writer, who do you think are those people who are robed in white? And in a humorous moment, the writer says, I don’t know…why are you asking me – you’re the one who knows.” And the answer comes back, “They are the ones that have come through the great ordeal.”

Through the Great Ordeal – we all have been through great ordeals and it seems that there is a new one every week. As we were worshiping this past Sunday, 1000 miles away, in a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, TX, a horror unfolded. After the shooting stopped, 26 people ranging from unborn to 80s lay dead in their sanctuary which turned into anything but in just a matter of minutes.

This act of violence and horror has rocked houses of worship across the country. Just this past week, I’ve had conversations about the safety of our sanctuary and how vulnerable we all feel. Social media has lit up with messages that include it’s not just enough to pray any more, we must do more. But what?

First and foremost, Jesus did not and nor did God make this horrible thing happen. It is a sign of what is so wrong with the world and this tragedy spotlights the need for more mental health services in this country, especially when it comes to our veterans – but that is a conversation for another day.

But the promise is that Jesus will use this to transform our hearts and minds for reaching, loving and caring for our neighbor.

And that’s what Jesus does – he transforms our hearts and blesses us to be a blessing to others. But our blessings may look odd to the rest of the world. Another way to translate blessings is “greatly honored.”

And if Jesus says that we’re blessed – the mourning, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit – I’m not quite sure that I want THAT blessing. And I most certainly do not feel most honored. How can Jesus be transforming my heart with this?

Perhaps the first thing that he is reminding us to “fear not.” Someone counted in the bible how many times the words, “fear not” or something to that affect are used in the Bible – 365 times. One for each day.

Fear not. And the other interesting thing is right after “fear not” comes God or Jesus doing a new thing that we don’t expect or show up in a way we don’t see coming and totally blows our mind and transformation occurs.

Quoting a colleague who was talking about Luther, who in the middle of the firestorm of his reforms, took up the matter of the “marks of the church.” Preaching, sacraments, etc. and added one more, “struggle.” He stated that where faith is there is always struggle.

Those times when we feel low in faith or lacking faith, or even feel functionally atheist (yes, pastors have those moments, too) that these aren’t signs of failure but rather “a testament to profound faith as we wrestle with deep questions and take Jesus seriously…So when we feel at our most low and wonder if we have lost our faith, and try to make sense of senseless things, Jesus is naming us blessed, happy, most honored and faithful. Blessed are those who struggle.

Could that be the transformation? Fear not the struggle?

So I will struggle with this, try to make sense of this, ask Jesus what he would have me do with this and wait. Wait for an answer. Wait for transformation. And know that the “lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

At RLC, Jesus is our shepherd, he guides us to the water of life, and God wipes away every tear from our eyes.

And has blessed and greatly honored all of us this day with love, grace, forgiveness and mercy, so that we may be that blessing for those around us.

*colleague is Dr, David Lose, writing in In the Meantime

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