Date: January 29, 2017
race Covenant Presbyterian Church
Asheville, North Carolina
29 January 2017
I wonder if Jesus ever
Did his voice ever crack, did his hands ever twitch?
d his eyes wander when he spoke
or did he shift his weight from side to side?
s throat over and over again or twist his fingers through his black beard?
Had he obsessively practiced w
hat he wanted to say
that day on the
e forty days in the wilderness?
Or was he surprised that his world
shifting words suddenly poured out of him in the
with the mystery and gentleness of baptism water?
Was he terrified or delighted?
Did his voice carry through the hills or did everyone lean in closer to catch every word?
What we do know
is that Jesus was stepping into com
pletely new territory that day.
us who have ever spoken before a crowd know
that it takes practice. And Jesus didn’t have
what we would call “quality public speaking experience.”
He never had the privilege of being
an animated captain of the Basketball team
or playing a cool Danny Zukko in community theater,
or attending a Toas
tmaster’s class each week
or running for president of the Condo board.
His life had bee
n one of a seasoned introvert.
small, his dreams
learning his father’s business, cooking alongside his mom, hearing the stories of the
praying steadily every day, being mischievous with his cousin John,
disheartened by the many abuses his people faced.
And now, here he was
fresh out of temptation and baptism,
tanding front and center hig
h on a mountain beside the sea,
a crowd of poor, marginalized strangers and friends, over
worked fishermen and
farmers, hungry children and weary parents,
people from Judea and Jerusalem and towns
beyond the Jordan. They all came to see Jesus and to be seen by Him.
Some scholars call the Beatitudes Je
sus Christ’s inaugural address.
For it is in this moment that Jesus
in a loud or soft voice
sets the tone for his entire
Like Moses p
resenting the ten commandments,
Jesus offers a radical vision for
God’s inclusive kingdom of heaven
He presents a controversial, counter
His words are preparation for the hard work and troublesome road ahead.
Maybe this is wh
y he wants his closest friends beside him that day
so that he can look them in the eyes,
make sure they take in every careful word
nd they in
help him have courage to speak God’s bold truth to power.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for thei
rs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”,
Let’s narrow in on the word “Blessed” for a moment. It’s a word we hear quite often. We
express feeling blessed all the time, we bless one another,
of us end our emails with
“Blessings” (myself included). But in this particular instance this word “Blessed” is more
complex. It is sometimes translated to “happy are those” or “peace to those”, but these
options seem to fall short. I think Father Greg Bo
yle puts it best when he describes
as being “in the right place if…” or
we are in “r
ight relationship with God when..
We are in the right place if
the meek inherit the earth.
We are in right relationship with God when
and thirst for righteousness, shall be filled.
Jesus’s opening remarks are not meant
to serve as an entrance exam to
heaven, or a recipe
for success, or a set of steps we need to
Jesus isn’t even calling upon people to
elect to become weak or mo
urnful or hungry.
The Beatitudes serve a much more radical,
they are promises.
Sacred, freeing promises.
Promises of a God who
recognizes us, needs us, and cherishes us when we are
in our most vulnerable states.
promises of a God
who longs for us to recognize, need, and cherish Her also.
On a recent trip to New Orleans, my friends and I took a stroll through various historic
houses across this captivating, gritty city. At first glance, New Orleans is this exciting,
a celebration of French
nglish culture. A
wild Mardi Gras city
where all are welcome as they are. But behind the curtain is a place
with a complex, painful history and still uncertain present. Wounds are raw there
hear it in the wailing jazz music, and the sharp taste
of chicory in the coffee, and see it in
the boarded up homes of the eighth ward.
On our self
guided tour, my friends and I came upon a beautiful yellow mansion
serving as a hotel called “Creole Gardens.” I asked the manager sitting outside, “Excuse
who used to own this house?”
smile, he said, “It was actually owned by a Presbyterian minister.” My face lit up,