A New Blueprint
Topic: Blessings Scripture: Matthew 5:1–5:12
The game of baseball is America’s pastime. It truly is something special. Many of you know I love football and you can bet this pulpit that I’ll be watching my Eagles take on the Seahawks in the playoffs tonight. But baseball holds a really special place in my heart, as I know it does for many of you. Some folks will complain that baseball is too slow, that it’s boring. But real fans of the sport know those critics are missing something. You don’t even have to be an avid fan to love the game of baseball. Going to a ballpark, enjoying a beautiful summer evening, grabbing some grub from the concessions, getting all caught up in the excitement. It’s special. But even at home, watching baseball can be a lot of fun. Isaac and I watched the Phillies together almost every night they were on last summer, and one of the first things he’d ask me each morning when he woke up was if they won and what the score was. And just like me, and every other baseball fan, he’d get more excited when our team would pull out the win. But that’s the tricky part, isn’t it? Building a winning baseball team.And this reality, how hard it is to form a winning baseball team, lead to the formation of what is called sabermetrics or more commonly called Moneyball. There are dozens of books written about this data-driven movement of statistical evaluation and predication. But the most popular is likely the one that coined the term and even fostered a movie on the subject. It was Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The hit movie was nominated for 93 different awards, and I want to share a quote from that film. It comes from a character named Peter Brand who thinks there’s a better way to build winning teams. He says this, “There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads to people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions.”
This statistically oriented new approach leads to a significant change in the way almost every team runs their scouting and player evaluation departments, and it has even changed the way the game is played. People will argue the pros and cons of this shift, but there is no denying that there is A New Blueprint when it comes to the game of baseball.
Now I can’t tell you if Jesus is a baseball fan, but I can tell you that when he arrived on the scene and began teaching, healing, and inspiring people - that he too offered A New Blueprint. Only in Christ’s case, it was not about recreating a game. Jesus shared how to recreate the way that we do this thing we call life. There are dozens of examples of moments where Christ offered inspiring wisdom or controversial truths through both his words and His actions. This morning I want us to look at a specific teaching He offered, one that is maybe known by many of us. This portion of Christ’s teachings is called the Beatitudes and we find them in Matthew 5:1-12. Let’s read.
These words from Jesus make up the focus of our message this morning, but, this is only the intro to Christ’s sermon, His longest and most well-known sermon. Often called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reflects upon and engages a staggering variety of subjects like prayer, divorce, murder, and more. And he starts it all off with this: The Beatitudes. The word Beatitude comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word for blessing. And that’s where we need to begin. We talk about blessings a fair bit in the church, and it’s used all over Scripture. But it’s important we have a grasp on what it means to be blessed. It doesn’t mean being happy. It doesn’t mean getting what we want or having our dreams come true. And it doesn’t mean never going through difficult moments or experiences. Blessing is a term more associated with relationship than it is circumstances.
Think about it this way. I have a relationship with my wife, Caitlin. A relationship that gives me life, joy, and hope. A relationship that helps me grow and become the person God created me to be. A relationship that means the world to me. That relationship doesn’t change if I fall upon bad luck or if something wonderful happens to me. My circumstances might shift, but that relationship is stable and consistent. When Jesus talks about blessing in the Beatitudes, He is not saying “if you are this, you will be happy”. No, instead Jesus is saying that those who find themselves within or defined by these realities will be in a place to enjoy a lasting, consistent, life-giving relationship with the Lord. So, with that in mind, let’s try and run through these blessing statements.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The use of the word poor here does not refer to monetary wealth. It refers to the amount of spirit. Classically, this refers to those who have a spirit that is worn down and weakened. This includes those who have felt the eroding effects of a difficult chapter of life. Those who are weary and feel like they are running on fumes. One scholar claims the way this phrase is formed in the Greek actually points to an idea of spiritual bankruptcy. The poor in spirit are those who feel like they have nothing left to give, those who feel they have nothing to offer and no hope is in sight. It’s those people, the ones who are worn out, exhausted and barely hanging on, that Jesus says will inherit all the fullness and richness of God’s heavenly kingdom.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourning is a part of the human experience. And I think our minds first relate this to the loss of a loved one. And that absolutely applies here, but mourning can be broader than that. Some might be mourning the loss of a new opportunity or the loss of a job they loved. Many of us have had moments where we mourn the loss of our “normal” way of life. Whether it’s having our routine changed, or seeing our children grow, or transitioning to a new school or neighborhood. We are capable of mourning more than just people. Mourning focuses on our awareness of an emptiness that has come into our stories that causes us feelings of sadness, pain, or regret. It’s an awareness of our own neediness and our inability to keep that which has been lost. It is those people, the ones who are wrestling with that gnawing sense of loss, that will receive comfort.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Very important here: Meek does not mean weak. This is not a celebration of people without strength but rather one of people who possess a rare and increasingly ignored form of strength. Meekness is related to gentleness and humility. This is, maybe, the beatitude that flys the most in the face of our culture today. We are told that only the strong survive. That you have to be assertive and stomp your foot for what you want. But the people who Jesus says will inherit this place and be the ones to lead this world in God’s name are not those who bluster, or who have to always be right or win every conversation or dispute. No, it is those with a humble heart more focused on listening rather than speaking. It is those people who possess the inviting and reassuring warmth of gentleness and compassion rather than those with the steely, cold self-assuredness that turns others away.
The Beatitudes go on. Those who thirst and yearn for God’s righteousness will be filled. This refers to those who have an aching desire to see justice offered to all people and to see this world and every human being within it treated and valued as the God-breathed creations that they are. Those who are starving to see an end to violence and prejudice and ignorance. They will receive their fill. Mercy is the concept of not receiving the punishment or consequence that you deserve. From the soil of mercy, forgiveness blossoms in all its beauty. Those who are able to practice this virtue and ignore the cultural demands for condemnation and vindication will be the first to receive the mercy they personally know they are in need of.
Those who labor in keeping their hearts pure and fixed on the person and values of our Creator will have the eyes to see God move in this world in ways other will miss. The harbingers and messengers of peace will be the ones who are known and seen as the children of God. This refers to those people who can foster a presence of hope and who seem to be able to share the truth of God’s presence in any situation. And the persecuted. The ones whose lives are made more difficult and painful because of their faith in God. They will receive the same reward as the poor in spirit, likely because their persecution causes that spiritual bankruptcy I mentioned. Regardless, those who suffer for their faith are the ones who receive the greatest prize that can be afforded.
I began this morning sharing about the way baseball has and is changing. One part of that quote (from the movie Moneyball) that I shared with you spoke about how misconceptions and bad ideas lead to owners of baseball teams misjudging their players and mismanaging their teams. I would argue that the society in which we live has done much the same thing to the way we understand value, success, and accomplishment. We misjudge people because they don’t fit some cultural norm and we can end up mismanaging our own lives as we try to desperately succeed in a system that is holistically and deeply broken. We need what baseball needed: A New Blueprint. I don’t think there is a better place to start than the Beatitudes.
This New Blueprint emphasizes tenderness over authority. It celebrates humility instead of supremacy. It is focused on healing, not winning. And it knows the difference between growth and progress. And we all have a choice. Will we remain in a system that forces us to be ignorant experts and empty authoritarians? Or, will we choose a different path, the one set out by Christ Himself? We are all building lives and fostering stories. Maybe it’s time to use A New Blueprint.
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