When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If you have ever spent any time on social media it is likely you have seen someone talking about being blessed. Maybe they are blessed because they just got a new car, just moved into their dream home, or their children brought home a good report card. People
brag about being claim to be blessed because they get jobs that pay them significantly more money or they just got to go on an extravagant vacation. On the one hand it's nice to think that people acknowledge that these things are blessings - that not everyone has them. On the other hand, the not so subtle messaging can sometimes be, look how much God loves me, if you don't have these things...does God love you as much?
In today's passage from Matthew, Jesus gives us what has become known as the Beatitudes. Here we see who Jesus sees as blessed and what has made them so. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, those who are persecuted. Perhaps a few of those would make it into our modern-day Instagram definition of #blessed but most of them would not. No one considered these people very blessed in Jesus' time either - which is why what he says here is so important. He takes cultural expectations and turns them on their head.
So who are the blessed in today's world? Well, certainly the categories Jesus names still apply. But a living gospel invites us to expand the definitions, to think about who is most down and out and overlooked in our world today, and to think of how Jesus would see them as blessed. Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber has written a modern take on the Beatitudes that does just this. I highly encourage you to watch the video here.
God of all who are blessed, pour your blessings upon us. Help me to see and appreciate the blessings you have given me in my life. Moreover, help me to see the blessings of those around me. Help me to see that every single person I encounter is created in your image and blessed by your love. May these blessings fill and overflow this world. Amen.