This turning to follow Jesus takes us – from time to time – into retreat; into a place apart to be with Jesus, to listen. We listen to many voices in our world, voices which sound in the world around us, and voices which sound within us. Now we are invited to listen to Jesus.
Jesus withdraws away from the crowd, and walks up “the mountain” – a familiar place of retreat and solitude for him and those he invites to join him (see Matthew 5:1 and Mark 3:13) and the disciples come to sit with him. As Jesus sits, he indicates that he has something to teach them. As we enter the gospel narrative, we are also invited to sit alongside the disciples and to listen as Jesus addresses them – and us.
He begins teaching us about happiness, the happiness of this “kingdom come near”, the gracious Way of God. What he says is in direct contrast with what the world tells us about finding happiness. To begin with we may find what Jesus says rather impossible: wise, maybe, but not reachable in some way. But Jesus is not looking for instant results. He knows that as this kind of teaching, this light that he brings into our darkness and deep longings, works and brings transformation over time—even for these early disciples this was so. And so it is for us.
This is the New Order of Happiness – the great joy we discover and experience here in the midst of this present world order – this side of Eden. For in this present world we do know what is like
to be poor in spirit – to be vulnerable, disabled.
to mourn – to grieve many losses
to experience the power of meekness and gentleness in surprising ways
to long for everything to be put right, to thirst for peace and justice for all
to experience mercy, forgiveness in the most surprising places
to be blessed by those who work for true peace: within and without
to hear the stories of those who have suffered persecution, hate,
retaliation, because of their love for Jesus, for the Way of God.
Sometimes those stories are our own.
What we are surprised by is how Jesus opens up the door of heaven and ushers hilarity and great happiness into these empty, dark places of weakness and disability, loss and grief, meekness and gentleness, deep and painful longing for peace and justice, the grueling work for peace within and among us, and even into the places of suffering, rejection, hate, retaliation because of love for Jesus.
We may wonder where the link is. How could this happen? Even our question is a prayer which Jesus hears. We learn to follow Jesus, to speak our questions, to live with the questions and the unknown – until Jesus guides us, helps us live into the answers. For this light he sheds upon the deep shadows of the world system, also brings light to the inner rooms and corners of our soul and understanding.
This is the work of the Spirit of God within and among us.
The invitation is to keep listening – as we sit with Jesus, and as the Spirit of God indwells and sits with us.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence,
And your call
To follow you.
Guide me, us as I learn to walk in your way.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Epiphany: Week Four
- 1/24 Monday: Matthew 5:1-12
- 1/25 Tuesday: Matthew 5:1-12
- 1/26 Wednesday: Psalm 15
- 1/27 Thursday: Micah 6:1-8
- 1/28 Friday: I Corinthians 1:18-31
- 1/29 Saturday: Matthew 5:1-12
- 1/30 Sunday: Matthew 5:1-12