Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . (Matthew 5:1-12)
I was trying to figure out what to do with my life and I needed some help.
I attended church, but I really didn’t know my pastor. Right about that time Mercer University, where I was a student, had brought on a new Pastor to the University and he seemed to be a very thoughtful and trustworthy man. I made an appointment to talk with him.
Looking back, I don’t remember the details of my conversation with Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. What I remember now is the way he listened, his comfort with my angst and his counsel that didn’t tell me what to do. Years later during my doctoral work I came across a book he had written. That in itself wasn’t such a big deal. He had authored several books by that time. However the title of this one provoked my curiosity: A Soul Under Siege: Surviving Clergy Depression.
A quick glance at the back cover summarized the story. This man whose counsel I had sought and whom I admired for his wisdom and pastoral sensitivity had hit a wall in his personal and professional life. He had admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital to get help with his depression. He tells of a public “pastor” persona that didn’t square with his deeper inner realities.
Thankfully, he was willing to share the story.
Far too many of us spend our energies working hard to keep up the persona. In the Beatitudes we hear Jesus’s invitation to stop living that way. Jesus names things in us that we might be inclined to hide, the things we don’t admire in others, and he names them blessed. Everyone finds a place in God’s Kingdom. It took a hospital, not a seminary, for Welton Gaddy to understand this. He writes:
"Strange. Who would imagine that ‘equality under the law’ lauded by our most basic civil documents and the ‘equality under grace’ commended and commanded by Jesus Christ would be implemented most dramatically among people considered ‘not quite right.’ Yet here in the mental-health unit of a hospital, among people sometimes labeled as aberrations of society, was the realization of one of our society’s most elusive aspirations" (p.114)Gaddy then makes a direct application to the church. He notes that “no person is a member of the church because of superiority to other persons . . . In any community of God’s people two certainties persist – life can be put right for anybody and something is wrong with everybody.”
When we read the beatitudes let’s stop asking “who is Jesus talking about.” Let’s give up on trying to identify with “them.” The best response is simply gratitude, thankfulness that we too are included in this God–ruled reality because of Jesus and his grace.
Jesus speaks ‘blessed’ over you. The real you. All of you. Live this day in that confidence and be thankful. And show the gratitude by blessing someone else.
We give you thanks, O God, for the kindness that includes us in the community of your people. We give you thanks for the freedom that comes with knowing that something is wrong with everybody and that life can be made right for anybody. We thank you for the gift of your blessing, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.