The Beatitudes Blueprint. Day One: A Ladder, Not a Ski Lift

The beatitudes blueprint

My grandmother’s dressing is a traditional dish on our Thanksgiving table.  My mom makes it every year, and I have made it a time or two myself.  The dressing has been tweaked, modified, and an ingredient has been added or removed here and there through the years, but there is one thing that remains constant:  taste testing.  In order to know that the dressing is just right, all of the ingredients must be tasted together.  If some pecans, eggs, celery, or cornbread are left off of the spoon then it is up for grabs whether or not the dressing is ready to serve, because the dressing is meant to be tasted as a whole, not as individual ingredients.

The Beatitudes are like my grandmother’s dressing.  They are meant to be read as a complete thought, not as individual proverbs.  However, in order to contemplate and savor Jesus’ countercultural claims on the Kingdom of heaven we need to carefully examine each of His statements of blessedness.

Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you…on account of me,” (Matthew 5:11) underline His whole message that identifying with Jesus brings blessedness.  The sort of blessing that Jesus pronounces is not happiness or luck though, but a grander thing where God’s Kingdom indwells the one being blessed.  It means that one is fully satisfied in Jesus.  This satisfaction is not circumstantial or temporary, but it is a lasting work that does not begin when we pass from this life into the next with God, but actually begins once Christ indwells a believer upon salvation.

So, before we look at Jesus’ first word of blessing we must look at every word of blessing- the whole will help us understand the parts.

Read Matthew 5:1-12:

The Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A Ladder, Not a Ski Lift

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

ladder

I commemorated my senior year of high school by rappelling off of a mountain.  It was not a very big mountain, more like a hill really, but it was big and rocky nevertheless.  I found two challenges with this endeavor.  The obvious one being that I would need to shimmy my way down a steep incline without plunging to my death, and the less apparent one being that I do not like to climb things.  I avoid the elliptical at the gym, and I manually set the treadmill to “no incline.”  I confess, I am a wimp.  So, the rappelling part was a thrill to me that I looked forward to except for the climbing part that it would take for me to get there.  I would have much preferred a ski lift than a hike up a hill.

The Beatitudes are structured more like a ladder and less like a ski lift.  It is progressive.  Jesus begins proclaiming blessedness over the “poor in spirit.”  This is the bottom rung of the ladder, so to speak.  We must start here, acknowledging our spiritual helplessness apart from Christ.  The “I can do it all myself” motto of self-sufficiency must die if we are to experience the kingdom of heaven and grow in intimacy with Christ.  We cannot go up until we go down.

Think of some spiritual giants- Jim Elliot, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Lottie Moon, and others.  You may know of some personally.  Besides a relationship with God, what else do they all have in common?  Lowliness.  Jesus Himself was brought low: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).  If we really want to be like Jesus like we say we do, then we need to actually be like Him, and the starting place is humility.

Take some time this week to assess your relationship with God.  Are you looking for a ski lift, 3-step program kind of faith, or are you stepping on the bottom rung of humility on the ladder of intimacy with God?  Self-sufficiency is not always obvious.  Sometimes it looks like more time devoted to our at-home business, online craft site, playgroups, Netflix marathons, books, and less time devoted to prayer.  Sometimes it looks like a phone call to mom or a best friend before conversation with God.  Sometimes self sufficiency masks itself as personal achievement when our accomplishments and met goals become our gods.  Self-sufficiency says, “I don’t need God.”  Sometimes we are stuck because of our past failures and feel as if God is just too far from us now to reach or would not want us near anyway.  Because this is self-sufficiency too- believing that our failures disable God from restoring us as if even our own rescuing is up to us.  One who is truly poor in spirit says, “I can’t, but God can!”    When we place our insufficiency into the hands of the All-Sufficient One we will receive the kingdom of heaven and as the hymn reminds us, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Here is my mom’s adaptation of our family’s Thanksgiving dressing recipe:

MIMI’S DRESSING

Ingredients:

Corn bread- Make 2 pans (11×13) without sugar

1 box prepared Corn Bread Stove top stuffing

Celery ( 2 bunches) cut

Onion- 1 Lg. chopped

Chicken broth ( I use Campbell’s and Swanson’s) 2 cans Campbell’s and 1 lg. can Swanson ( more or less to consistency you desire) Also reserved turkey drippings- about ½ to 1 cup.

Sage, Poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper about ½ to 1 tsp. each to desired taste. I use lots of pepper. So did Grandmama. But little ones may not care for.

Pecans (1 lg. bag chopped)

Eggs- hard boiled- 8

Butter

Instructions:

*You can make cornbread day ahead and save time.

1.  Take cornbread and crumble in large bowl or two.

2.  Add Stove top stuffing to mixture.

3.  Heat turkey drippings and chick. broth in skillet.

4.  Add wet ingredients to dry crumbled corn bread.

5.  Add celery, onion, eggs and pecans.

6.  Add seasoning to taste.

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