She was still swaying as the last honey-laden tunes Of sweet summer faded away like fragile baby’s breath— Her eyes were closed, a shawl lightly over shoulders Under the net of stars that had become a shroud As one by one they died silent into the pale light Of a clouded dawn, and all the guests had gone In a whispered goodbye, like the twinkle in his eye.
But the womb still has its memory as does the heart— Heart over heart, head over head, eight months bodied Though autumn breezes steal him away like a changeling, Like a changeling into winter’s overcoat to fleeting summer’s loss— I will not speak of spring, she said, breathing gusts of prayer Aware at last of the chillness in the air, but of tombs, oh LORD, empty Oh, my God, in that long-expectant day, birthing him to eternity, holy.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NIV) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
A-lone, a-bed, a need to rise, arise, remembering, sighing to rise sight aroused, upraised
dawn-drawn in fulness of cloud tears of consummation, gathering
gathering, a communion of praise for One whose work completed upgathers to raise me, to rise,
arise, walk in new life.
Luke 5: 18-26And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.
And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
To use the word "work" in a quadrille of 44 words is our Labor Day task from Lisa at dVerse. My labor? To look on the work of Christ Jesus upon the Cross for all who believe in Him.
Her eyes are busy with light Though I worry her with my doubts There are candles in picture windows Flirty love ballads on stereos Ivy stabbed with holly Santas under mistletoe And I can’t get enough of the night.
Her eyes are busy with light Though I fear her faith is naïve Government thugs surveil, killing with drones Children trafficked in towns, families ripped Credit flows lucre between banks into pockets Drugs dull, cocktails insensitize till we all go aground And I burrow into the darkness of the night.
Her eyes are busy with light Her hopes against my fears She doesn’t see weakness in a babe in a manger She doesn’t see defeat in a man on a cross She doesn’t see what I see in a handful of dust When the devil comes calling to offer a favor And I run like the dickens to add to my scars.
O Winter, O Church Bells, O Dawn of revelation! Would I could see her Savior, hear hallelujahs Know what it feels like to know darkness conquered Have peace and contentment, courage in the fight To overthrow temptations and to laugh at my weakness With Christ as my Brother, crying ‘Abba! Father!” And wordless prayers by the Spirit means I’m not alone.
In such a heart as mine, O Father, enter in In such a world as mine, O Christ, enter in In such a darkness as this, O Spirit, enter in Your call I hear above the noise Your love for me over unbelief overflows Before I can seek You, God, You have sought me To save and to keep me eternally in You.
My eyes are busy with His Light My life is bursting with His Life My weakness melts in His Strength The darkness dispersed by His Word The pain we bear makes me aware That God suffered in His flesh To deliver us from death And, hallelujah, our eyes are busy with Light!
[Jesus said,] “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Unlooked for. You were unlooked for. Unhoped for. You were unhoped for. Where I was You were not. Where You were I was not. Sudden. Then. It was sudden. Not the shuddering of wings, not of swan. Angels watched. Unwatched for. What are you looking at? Put ‘em back, your hallelujahs. Because I’m a mess. A blubbering mess. Mess of sticky goo, sin. Call it what you will. It was painful, this birth. This death. At twenty. A resurrection in You. In You. In You. In You. I can’t get over You. I can’t get over You. You know me through and through. You know me through and through. You swaddled me not in a manger. You fed me at Your breast Your Holy Spirit milk. You hid me in Egypt. You found me at Jacob’s well. You suffer me a cross to bear You bore it as well. For me. For me. You birthed me. You loved me. It’s not a fluke of biology this Light as in Damascus. This Love, this Light, this manger this cross, this thorny crown this night, this life over which this darkness cannot roll. This Love is Light is mine.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:1-5, 9-13
Grace at dVerse asks us to write either in the form of Kwansaba or write a poem of blessing or praise in the style of David Whyte. Click on Mr. Linky and join us for the last meeting of 2021 at the dVerse bar.
Image credit: Photo by Andre Moura from pexels
King Ahaz was a jackass And a murderous one at that The faithless shepherd of Israel Who roasted children before his gods.
But before his Assyrian enemies he shook and cowered, and the prophet Isaiah came with a strong word from God: “If you don’t stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all.”1
The LORD had determined to protect His people from the Assyrian wolves; He told wicked Ahaz to ask for a sign And false-hearted Ahaz refused.
Yet the LORD was committed to His purpose of peace And gave Ahaz a sign foretelling a birth then and hence A maiden would give birth to a child, Emmanuel, “God with us”2: “If you don’t stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all.”
Now as we celebrate our Savior God’s birth We light a second purple candle to remember A virgin’s journey to Bethlehem to bear Jesus, Our Emmanuel.
You, compassion-clad, mudlark scavengers of world-weary souls
You, yourselves poor, despised, nobodies scorned3
Beloved of God, glory-bound
catch the light in golden cups of faith catch it, taste it, see how good His Word catch it freely with a living hope
catch sun-filled manna, multiplied grace peace as it settles like a priceless crown upon your head in splendor untarnished
catch the light with your open heart newborn soul with ears to hear Song of songs from Your Father’s throne
catch it as a prayer upon your tongue sounding the depths of Love unknown but for the babe in a manger born
catch the light and let faith loose kindled incense upward bound sent like sparks to heaven’s court
catch joy unspeakable, unbounded love the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost come in power to dwell with you
1 Peter 1:9 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1The Beatitudes are characteristics and blessings listed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12
2Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
31 Corinthians 1:26-29 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
section in bolditalics: Sammi's weekend writing prompt: 52 words, "Mudlarks" Eugi's weekly prompt: "Compassion" Have a blessed First Sunday of Advent everyone!
American poet E. E. Cummings never wanted his name printed without capitals, but somehow he became anthologized that way. And no, he never legally changed his name to lower case either. It’s true most of his poems were written without caps, reflective of his simple, pared-down writing style.
He reveled in his New Hampshire surroundings and saw in its landscape resonances with his inner life. In fact, he spent more time painting than writing poetry.
As we give thanks to God for all His good gifts, shelter and food, family and friends, and the common pleasures of life, one Cummings poem stands out, whose first line is “i thank You God for most this amazing.” Here it is with an accompanying audio recording of his reading below.
i thank You God for most this amazing day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any—lifted from the no of all nothing—human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
This poem was originally published in Xaipe(New York: Oxford University Press, 1950). Xaipe is a nonphonetic transliteration of the Greek χαῖρε (chaire), meaning “rejoice.”
From childhood I’ve led a nomadic life, then thankfully settled down for a while after my marriage; but due to varied pressures over the last dozen years or so, we found ourselves moving not once, not twice, but four times!
Let slip the dogs of war, cry ‘Havoc!’1 My life is in boxes. Taped wounds reopen. Something’s lost, new scars of the march Mark rosewood and disquiet heart, Chipping tall glasses into which descanted Expectations contain shards. I swallow
To survive. Patience. There is no end to it. Nothing is ever put away in just the right place As it was before, or ever after. A life’s exhumations, Dislocated. Some funerary remains stay buried mysteries, Supernumerary or symptoms of malaise. Diagnosis: Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized
Comes at Christmas, when more than one treasured Ornament is missed, or smashed, glitter powder, a crack On Nutcracker chin. His stout smile now on my face. Shrugging away another casualty. The clock chimes. There are cookies in the oven in the new-not-new
Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf To shelf to find a home. The doorbell rings. I prepare my bravado. Hopeful eyes meet mine, A Christmas tree on slim shoulders, angelic annunciation To their father’s bemused smile. Now a certain
Cavalcade of the heart, benediction of wise men’s gold Escaping boxes, escaping from what was To what is. Another Egypt. Another promised land. Father Abraham. Mother Sarah. Tents folded Unfolded. Tinsel time like tinsel tears shimmer past. Frankincense and myrrh. My life by blood covenant, Thine.
1“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos. The ‘let slip’ is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily ‘let slip’ to allow the dogs to run and hunt.”
Image credit: Michael Whelan, "Lights," acrylic on watercolor board, 1991
I'm guest-hosting today at dVerse "Poetics: Epiphany in the Time of Holiday," where we will write on what an epiphany during this holiday season would look like for us (or someone we know or imagine). An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is 'some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.' Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.) Click on Mr. Linky and join in!
In the year 912, Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Abbey of Saint Gall, is said to have written what became the Gregorian chant below, the English translation of which is a poetic adaption from the Book of Common Prayer (1549).
Media vita in morte sumus quem quaerimus adjutorem nisi te, Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris?
Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator: amarae morti ne tradas nos.
In the midst of life we are in death of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
2 Samuel 14:14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
Image for Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD), November 15, 2021
Linda at dVerse: Quadrille#140 asks us to use some form of the word "fair"
in a poem of exactly 44 words. Click Mr. Linky and join in!
“Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) “But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’” (Matt. 15:25)
Two women: Queen Esther. The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman.
One was a Jewish concubine in a Persian king’s harem. The other was a Gentile kneeling before the Messiah.
Both women were pleading for the lives of people they loved, one for the Jews in the Persian Empire, the other for her daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.
One pleaded for community. The other for family.
One came before an earthly king. The other before the Kings of kings.
Both came trusting in a God who “had prepared a table before them” in the presence of their enemies, came in the power of His Shepherding grace and love through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)
They came as sheep before their Shepherd, believing in His power to rescue and save.
Two women. Two needs.
Having prayed to the sovereign God, Esther came before the earthly king knowing the fate of the Jews in the land was in the hand of God, as was her fate: “If I perish, I perish.”
Having heard of Jesus, the Canaanite woman came before the Jewish Messiah, knowing He was Lord and her daughter’s fate was in His hand: “Lord, help me.”
They were tried. Haman worked actively against all that Esther would do.
They were tested. The Canaanite woman was asked the reason for her hope.
In both cases, God worked behind the scenes, though in the book of Esther He is never mentioned, not once. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus seemed to be indifferent to the Canaanite woman’s plight, though in her heart He had already laid the groundwork that made her bold and persistent.
They knew what God could do. They didn’t know what God would do.
“Let my life be granted for my wish, and my people for my request.” (Esther 7:3) “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)
They hadn’t known what God would do, but they knew who He was: He was a God who cared enough to listen.
Two women who had no rights but what were granted as crumbs in the society in which they lived, went away as daughters of the living God, granted more than crumbs, granted their heart’s desire.
A community of Jews was saved. A daughter released from demonic possession.
A tale of two women alone? No. The story is really about God, and how his daughters (and sons) are never alone.
Pray now, and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Round and round the kwestions go Where they stop knowbody knose.
“Mr. Knowbody, tell us please! When will our suffering cease?”
“It will end in God’s own time,” Knowbody answers with a rhyme.
“Knose you, knose I knose we by and by when on our knees we make our pleas to Him who does know more than we can know does all things well more than we can tell.”
Knowing this by faith I offer praise To God alone who with me stays.
Yet knowbody’s cries can turn into wails It’s a whale of a tale rehearsed to cat’s tails.
Then round and round the kwestions go When they stop knowbody knose
Cause everybody whales and nobody tales.
Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Psalm 28:1 To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Philippians 3:20 (KJV) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
I find this to be remarkable: that God is in constant conversation with us who are His own, even when language fails, as it often does. Especially when we feel as if we’re talking in circles around the same things, and it feels like nonsense to our own ears, as we wait on God.
We would be less than honest if we stated glibly that we can be articulate when in pain. That is a luxury most of us are denied. Pain drives us insane. It unmoors us from all that we know. Language becomes meaningless. We become a series of moans and groans and outright wails.
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:4
Yet the Word who became flesh to tabernacle among us knows each of us, reads us like a book of which He is the Author. And whatever our wordlessness, our communion with Him continues.
It continues in the language of faith. Of which He is the Giver.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
It continues in the language of love. He is love.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:16
It continues in the language of hope. He is the God of hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
It continues in the language of peace. He is our peace.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
It continues in the language of life. He is the Author of life.
. . . the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Jesus, the Word of God, is in constant communion with us. Everything we do, say, think, is in the context of conversation with Him.
Prayer is more than words for believers. It is trust. We live in an attitude of trust even when we are bereft of all else, including words. Because we know who He is, the One who first loved us and gave Himself for us.
Our wordlessness, in suffering or in pain, is not an impediment to Him. It is a grace.
Dig deep in communion with Him who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Dig deep in His word. He is not silent.
The one who gave us mouths to speak, speaks to us. The One who gave us ears to hear, hears us.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27)
There is no nonsense about them These increments of light Sun-warmed stalks and petals, Reducing to ornate shabbiness, palaces and temples, Gaudy shacks of industry, mirrors of acquisition While these Easter-birthed seeds burst otherworldly All-gathering the vindicating Light The Being uncanny borne by fragile forms, mortal all, Sometimes dowdy, bent, dreary, Sometimes bold, speckled, flashy, Zealous, winsome, or hard-pressed Between cracks of broken pavements Yet there all the same: Seven thousands of unbowed knees Introduced by design, awakened, sent out As an offense to be discarded or tolerated, Eliciting smile, laughter, scorn, booted heel, These refugees offering refuge immortal These exiles rushing homeward This desire of sun: These lilies of the field.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. (Psalm 26:3)
[And the LORD said to Elijah:] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)
I know this music, she said, her bow singing across the riggings of the ship, vibrations of string, quivering, a Stradivarius on seascapes wild, Colmcille’s blessing on her lips. Her petaled fingers close on each note, wind-whipped, prayer stinging her eyes, cutting grooves calloused by play, tonal cry of pregnant labor for a birth where words and sounds attuned once only to elemental spirits, now midwife new life, the dead burying the dead, but the people of the Way hearing, come dancing.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Luke 9:60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Image Credit: cocoparisienne from Pixabay
Ingrid at dVerse: Poetics Tuesday asks us to "write a poem using only concrete nouns, subject matter and imagery." Click on Mr. Linky and join in!
Gladsome we, though our end be to your eye decaying fury our first blooms a surprising mystery: purple-centered flaming glory darkening to what you didn’t foresee autumn’s legion embers a dreary inventory.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD) October 17, 2021:
check out her incredible photography.
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt #231 - "Legion"
write prose or poetry in 32 words using the above word.
I watched you go, the empty sleeve of your coat brushing my cheek long before the final goodbye
on riddling ground east of Eden, west of the moon, where dead roam among the living as infernal winds sweep through like furies spitting over our destinies
in the wasteland where visions die where banshees howl, half-formed men bay round fires of Cain’s wandering offspring; yet the eternal revelation, tri-folded, goes forth to the hungry and the poor in spirit
on ground riddled with the treacherous dust of history, walking as quickened ones, lilies of the field, dandelions harboring the unsearchable riches of Christ showing forth the unassailable purpose of God
as dumb to the world’s riddles, we carry on, spinning out of bereft arms into shrouds or across canyons of a diseased mind losing each other to time’s grasp, till time stops, and we, with joy unspeakable, walk on new ground.
Ingrid at dVerse's "Poetics: From a place of pain" asks us to "try your hand at writing your way out of a place of pain" which I have done combining fragments of poems from the past. Join us by clicking on Mr. Linky.
Jesus said:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’d been talking with her on the phone for quite a while. Now I had come to the end of myself, not simply physically weary, but spiritually. She was still anxious, overwrought, doubtful of her salvation, overrun with the voice of the Accuser undercutting the gospel she had known and believed for most of her life. Painful circumstances had brought her to the end of her rope. And I was at the end of mine, spiritual weapons blunted and defeat looming.
I was, in effect, poor in spirit. Impoverished, like the woman who said to Elisha: “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil” (2 Kings 4:2). Destitute.
But Jesus had said this was a characteristic of those in the kingdom. So I was good, right?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)
Blessed/Happy: μακάριος “makarios” mak-ar’-ee-os (Gk.) – “blessed,” “happy,” “possessed of peace (shalom), well-being” — in the Amplified Bible: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions”
This is the very first beatitude, a statement of blessing. Jesus’ eight beatitudes are the dramatic opening to his teaching in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. The beatitudes are the tour de force of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, consummate prophet, priest, king, knows how to grab the attention of his listeners by describing the happy, fulfilled life, the desire of every human being. He describes “the makarios life,” that is, the “blessed/happy life,” of those who follow Him. This life is available to every believer. The kingdom of heaven had already come with His appearance, even as it will come fully on the day He returns. As believers, we are citizens in His kingdom, and as kingdom-dwellers, we should possess all the qualities that the beatitudes describe.
The makarios life is the life of someone described in Psalm 11, and in Christ Jesus, we possess its qualities. So, as Jesus says, happy are we! And this first beatitude gives the foundational characteristic that leads to all the other attributes listed of the blessed life. Living the makarios life means we are first and foremost “poor in spirit.”
Well, I was certainly feeling my spiritual poverty on the phone with my desperately anxious friend.So why didn’t I feel blessed?
Simple. The kingdom of God is not a matter of feeling. It is knowing and believing and trusting that God’s word and promises are true. It is a matter of taking with both hands God’s revealed truth and turning around continually to Him, looking to Him, and relying on Him to provide for all that we need to apply that truth in our lives and our relationships. That is kingdom-living. That is happiness-producing. That is blessedness. That is the makarios life!
So I acknowledge my spiritual lack and gather the riches of the kingdom in Christ Jesus. And I give my friend what Christ gives me: His love.
Do you remember the song we grew up with as children, the one we taught our children? I ask her. We used to sing “Jesus Loves Me”?
Yes, she says.
Can we sing it together?
Jesus . . . loves . . . .
Her voice fades pitifully. I can feel her anguish, hear her cries of panic and uncertainty, powerless to hope, powerless to believe. She can’t bring herself to say “me.” Jesus loves ME.
She hardly has the breath to sing through her cries, so I sing it for the most part alone. She is silent while I sing. Listening. Then I ask her:
Can you, dear one, say “Jesus loves me”?
Patiently we repeat the words of the song. Simple words. Words at the heart of the gospel.
She stumbles many times, as if in unbelief at the immensity of the statement, that Jesus could love her, even her.
Yes, I remind her, Yes! Jesus loves you. Yes! Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones — us, you and me – to Him belong. You are weak and I am weak but He is strong. Say it, dear one: say, “Jesus loves me.”
And when at last she does say it, substituting her name for the “me,” it is as if another gate of hell had been broken through, and the Accuser driven back in defeat.
It is a moment of great victory. You see, the kingdom of God is ours, the poor in spirit, in the person of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself on the cross for us. And He gives us the kingdom He won for us.
I am weak but He is strong. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Sister! Brother! Preach it to yourself, to each other. We are living the makarios life. Hallelujah!
1Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.