Perhaps some of the most profound words Jesus ever spoke might have come from his Sermon on the Mount. Recorded in the gospel of Matthew, he writes that Jesus walked up a nearby hill, close to the sea of Galilee, sat down, and began to speak with those who were with him. He begins this well known moral address through what is called The Beatitudes.
"Blessed..." From the very first word, I am captured in the beauty of his imagination. With his eyes gazing over the people who were watching him, it was as though he was describing the very scene he was sitting in; the man with a dirty face from the soil he was working in throughout the morning, the woman who looked as though she was aged by the trials she had endured over the many years of keeping her home and raising her children. Jesus wasn't just speaking about the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, & the persecuted; he was with them!
Several years ago I came across a video Eliot Rausch had created called 'Sermon On The Mound'. It begins with a aerial span of a community & city while slowly coming in closer to the streets... the buildings... the people. To often I think this is the spacial plane we choose to exist in when it comes to the people of the Beautitudes; at a distance. Close enough to perhaps catch a glimpse of them but, far enough that we can avoid the disruptions of their speech, the smells of their humanity, the dangers of knowing who they are and being known to them.
I come back to the very first word Jesus spoke again; a realization that this is the true nature to which Jesus wants to address within us... "Blessed... BLESSED!". What is the meaning of this word?! When we look at the outer appearances of these people, when we see them from a distance, can we truly call them blessed?!
The word blessed comes from the Hebrew word hesed or chesed. In the direct sense, it is speaking towards God's love or kindness towards humanity but, in the Jewish cultural sense, to be hesed is to be known in the most deepest and intimate way. When God blesses another, he is in communion with them, he is interwoven into their identity & understanding. He is saying, "I know everything about you."
Deb Hirsch describes this desire and need for humanity to be blessed as, "a vast longing that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to probe and to understand our world. And beyond that, it is the inner compulsion to connect with the Eternal Other, which is God. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by God." If we are then to be known and blessed by God, we must also move beyond the distances of safety and enter into the spaces of knowing and being known by the others of the community in the Beautitudes. We no longer just know about the poor in spirit, the mourning, & the meek. We become known to & cast ourselves as part of the community of the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek...
This is the message of The Beatitudes: it is in our willingness to enter into the places of hearing the different and often overlooked voices & stories of the people next to us; the embracing of the grime in daily work as our shared holy calling; and our courage to truly knowing our neighbour, not as a stranger, but as a brother... a sister; that we can truly discover the kingdom of heaven, feel comforted from communal loss, find beauty in a remarkable created earth, experience righteousness, significance, & purpose, receive mercy that expounds unconditional grace, see and be known... blessed by the one true creator & God.