Yesterday at Collective Church we started a new series called Frequency. The series will revolve around the Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew. This is the series of phrases Jesus uses to describe people as “blessed.”
We have this idea about the word “blessed” that seems to assume it refers to something tangible that we receive—money, a new house, a good parking space, etc. But when Jesus uses this word, he’s describing something wholly intangible.
For Jesus—and all Jewish rabbis of the 1st Century—to be blessed to be tuned in to the frequency of God. To be blessed is to live with a heightened awareness of who God is and what God is doing in the world.
In fact, it could be argued that the tangible things that we assume are a result of some kind of “blessing” are, in fact, the very things that make it harder for us to truly be blessed. A new car, a full bank account, and a tropical vacation home have the power to distract us from the activity of God in the world. When life becomes about receiving more and building bigger personal empires, it is quite difficult to find the frequency of a God who so often voices support for the poor, the powerless, the foreigner, the hungry, and the disillusioned.
When it comes to blessing and spiritual awareness, no one is more suited to articulate this journey than the great Richard Rohr. In his book The Naked Now, Rohr says this:
“All you can really do in the spiritual life is get tuned to receive the always present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only the inner resonance and a capacity for mutuality. The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station” (101-102).
And so, with this in mind, Jesus begins with a paradox: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). And that is where our sermon series begins.
When it comes to writing sermons, I've had lots of different teachers with lots of different philosophies on what makes a sermon "good." I spent several years being told that every sermon needed "Application Points"--that people needed to be told what to DO in order for a sermon to be effective. While there are times when this kind of preaching can be helpful (people sometimes need something concrete in order to hold onto an abstract idea), this impulse can become self-defeating.
So when I was writing yesterday's sermon about "Blessed are the poor in spirit," I realized early on in the process that to include any Application Points would kill the sermon--it would defeat the purpose of what Jesus was saying in that phrase because "blessed are the poor in spirit" is a statement about grace.
And grace--by definition--has no Application Points.