Scott, Clark and I had our first small group planning voice conference. It was pretty fun. Turn on my cell’s speakerphone, set it in the middle of Scott’s bedroom, and called Clark up. It worked pretty good and we got things hashed out in about an hour. That’s way more productive than normal!
So, here’s the next set of stuff our small group is going to work through. Feel free to join in the dialog…or just think about it. Focus alums will certainly find it familiar.
Check out the Beatitudes in Matt. 5:1-12.
There are two general understandings of what Jesus was getting at when he delivered the Beatitudes. The general interpretation is that he was speaking of conditions which qualify for blessing. We think of them as things we should strive after; i.e. “I need to be more merciful, for then I will obtain mercy.” We set up the equation: me + more mercy = me blessed.
A second understanding is that Jesus was speaking of the extension of his kingdom to people in all life conditions: good or bad. They aren’t necessarily desirable conditions (who wants to mourn or be persecuted?)…but there is hope of “thy kingdom come” in all conditions.
This message was especially refreshing for the crowd Jesus was speaking to, which consisted primarily of people who found themselves in the very situations he spoke of: poor, mourning, meek, persecuted…but also pure in heart and hungry for righteousness. They were blessed?!!?! That was news to them! They hadn’t been told that before…especially by the religious elite.
It helps to know what Greek word for “blessed” was used when recounting Christ’s message. Eulogetos is one origin of “blessed” and means “praised, well spoken of;” it was a compliment. This isn’t the “blessed” Jesus used. He isn’t saying “Good job when you’re a peacemaker…” (though…one could certainly argue that he likes peacemakers…)
The word used by the author of Matthew is makarios, which means “happy, fortunate, well off.” So you could say “You can be happy when you mourn, for you will be comforted.” Or maybe: “You can feel fortunate when you’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.”
Long message short: there is always hope in the Kingdom of God. That’s good news…the gospel! When you sin, there is the promise of forgiveness. When you’re sick, there is the promise of healing. When you’re broke, there is the promise of provision. When you’re tempted, there is the promise of a way out. When you’re confused, there is the promise you’ll hear his voice. When you’re dead, there is the promise of everlasting life. This is the upside-down kingdom, remember?! Things are never as they seem.
Add the beatitudes right in there.
So, with that long intro, we have two short sets of questions:
- What beatitude speaks to you most? Find scriptures that relate to the topic and reinforce God’s promise in it. How can you stand on the promise? How could it change your life if you did?
- Recount a time you found yourself in a situation suggested by Jesus in the beatitudes. How did you initially respond? How did God respond? Did you find the promises he offers to be true?
Come prepared to share and discuss.