Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . (Matthew 5:2-12)
For at least one more year I’m still driving carpool in the mornings.
Next year my son will be eligible to drive to school and park on campus. The key word in the sentence is ‘eligible.’ Whether he’ll actually have anything to drive and park there remains to be seen, but the possibility exists nonetheless.
What I’m noticing this year is that my route to the carpool line takes me past the other carpool lines of years gone by. I drive by the middle school line, always lengthy and slow, and I’m thankful to no longer be a part of that. After a right hand turn I drive by the lower school line, somewhat amazed at the years that separate me from that experience and how it only seems like weeks now. The final stop is at the upper school where both of my kids are now students.
Having two ‘high school’ students means that the college horizon looks much closer than it used to. Within a year we’ll be making real college visits, something we’re already talking about. With every such conversation there is an underlying theme, constantly present though not always verbalized: “Who gets in?”
What will it take for my child to be a part of that community (name the school)? Do they have the grades to get in? Are schools looking at test scores or leadership potential or personal initiative – and will they find those things in my son or daughter?
Who gets in? This much can be said with certainty: Not everyone.
Living with this reality may explain why we have a hard time with the way Jesus opens his Sermon on the Mount. He begins by pronouncing a series of ‘beatitudes’ or expressions of blessing, telling us what it takes to be a part of a God-governed community. Jesus is telling us that this community is for everyone; those with the least impressive transcripts can get in.
Dallas Willard explains, “The religious system of his day left the multitudes out, but Jesus welcomed them all into his kingdom. Anyone could come as well as any other” (Divine Conspiracy, p. 116)
That sounds nice, but the longer we think on it the less we like it. Deep down we know that this isn’t the way the ‘real’ world works. So we tend to take Jesus statements and make them goals to achieve. As if we get in by being poor in spirit or merciful or meek or pure in heart. But Jesus is not giving us goals or providing us with a checklist for admission.
Jesus’s beatitudes leave no place for our craving to achieve and the pride that comes with it. The doors to this community are opened wide. The hard question: Does that sound like good news to you?
This week we’ll focus on the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12. Take time to read them now. Which of Jesus’s statements least stir your admiration or aspirations? And which do so the most?
By your grace, O God, teach us to see others as you see them; help us to bless those whom you bless; make us willing to embrace all whom you have embraced. And remind us that we ourselves have been included in your blessed community only through Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.