Reflection Sunday 23 August 2020
Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven (Matthew 16:17).
The New Testament Greek word ‘makarios’ is usually translated into English as ‘blessed’ but in some modern Bible versions it is translated as ‘happy’. We tend to seek happiness through achievements and fulfilling needs and desires. How often have we convinced ourselves with thoughts like: ‘If only I had a new job, or more money I would be happy’ or lamented, ‘If only I had married the right person, or studied harder in school I would have been happy’? This kind of thinking can easily fill our minds each day and therefore direct our lives.
According to Brian Stoffregen the ancient Greeks believed that the gods were truly happy because they lived above all the worries and cares of this world. They also believed that the dead were truly happy because they no longer had to endure the suffering and pain found in this world; and they believed that the only living humans that were truly happy were the rich and powerful because they didn’t have to struggle in life. So, for the ancient Greeks, the gods, the rich and the dead were happy. In Judaism, people tended to believe that those who lived a righteous life were blessed. Blessing was the reward for a good life. Therefore, if one was ill or poor or lived with a disability etc., this was evidence of not being blessed but rather of being cursed and evidence of not living a righteous life.
Jesus comes preaching how all people can find this blessedness, this ‘happiness’ on earth. In fact, Jesus says that it is the poor who are blessed not the rich. And Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed because something has been revealed to him by God, something that has not come from human thinking but directly from God. Peter has been awakened. He has a new consciousness. Rather than seeking happiness for happiness sake, Peter has discovered that being blessed is something far deeper than the things that we associate happiness with. Jesus uses the word ‘makarios’ in a different way to show that true blessedness is not what human (flesh and blood) thinking associates with happiness. And Peter has come to find that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and that in Jesus is life. And this is greater than an earthly thing that can bring us joy. Blessed are those whose hearts and minds have been awakened to life.
How is it that some came to see and believe that Jesus was the Messiah and others didn’t, especially the religious leaders? Why did they remain asleep and others were awakened? How about today? Who are those who are asleep and those who are awake? How come some people come to church all their lives, talk about God, work hard for the church but don’t seem to get who Jesus is? How come so many people remain miserable? They believe in their heads that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God but what about their hearts? Someone asked me recently why some Christians who sing in church, pray, even preach can then behave so badly when not in church? That question challenges me. It is not enough to know or believe something about Jesus, awakening is allowing the life of the risen Christ to live through us, to awaken our hearts to love, to love as God loves. Awakening is to have the awareness to live with words and actions in harmony both in worship on Sundays and at work on Mondays.
As the day’s light breaks the darkness of the night,
as the first movements of the morning pierce the
so a new waking to life dawns within me,
so a fresh beginning opens.
In the early light of this day,
in the first actions of the morning,
let me be awake to life.
In my soul and in my seeing
let me be alive to the gift of this new day,
let me be fully alive.
-from Praying with the Earth: a Prayerbook for Peace by John Philip Newell
Photo: A for Awakening. I took this photo in a graveyard in Norway in 2007 and only noticed the A afterwards
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation