The last time the Sermon on the Mount came up in our lectionary we were at the gateway of the Pandemic. We didn’t yet know that the ominous virus we were beginning to hear about would sweep through our lands and our lives, killing millions and leaving behind a wreckage sodden by grief and fear. All that has happened in these three years: isolation, loss of loved ones, the division of families and friends by political extremes, the realization of our unremitting racism, the devastating war in Ukraine – all these things have made us into a different people. This initial teaching of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel falls on different ears.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. As many commentaries on this passage tell us, these sentences are not meant to be calls to act in certain ways or admonitions against particular ways of thinking. They are simply a truth, a reality that turns our usual way of looking at the world upside down.
We don’t like it. And yet it is a relief and a balm. In remembering those moments when we couldn’t go and see our dying friends, when we couldn’t hug, when we were sick and alone, this truth shines out like a beacon. All the funerals we couldn’t attend, all the continuing illness we suffer, all the losses we have experienced in the past three years take their places in the Way of Things. It is all right; God is there. God is always right there. There is comfort, there is fulfillment, there is belonging in a kingdom that transcends earthly boundaries and crosses the thin line between life and what is beyond. There is an inheritance that is greater than any wealth we can imagine. It is not something that has to be worked for or learned; it simply is the truth. And out of that truth comes mercy and peacemaking. Out of it comes purity of heart. And out of it comes persecution for the sake of what is true.
Take a moment to acknowledge that place you’ve come to in the past three years in which you really get that you do not understand God’s ways and what God wants of us. Go ahead and stand in that openness and see if you don’t catch a glimmer of the kingdom of God.
Take a moment to mourn all you have lost – all we have all lost. I’m sure you’ve already grieved, but take a moment to do so again. The pain is still fresh. But the comfort is ready at hand.
Take a moment to remember that terrible feeling of not being able to make it better. Your meekness is a gateway to belonging with everyone who ever lived in every corner of the world.
Take a moment to stand again in the devastating realities of the Pandemic. We were made humble. We were reduced to howling together in the night. We were pointed toward the things that really matter.
The long effects of Covid lie not just in losses of health and not just in financial losses. They lie in a change of heart that will emerge as we continue to process what happened to us. It’s important to process what happened to us. We are blessed when we do so.