Not a very espero blog this one but live with a theologian long enough and something is bound to rub off. These thoughts started banging around my head about a year ago when I did a class on ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and have been marinating there ever since. Time to let them run wild….
‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted’
Maybe like me you have skipped over these verses or tucked them away for a time when bereavement comes your way. It’s a nice sentiment, Jesus helping out the sad people but not exactly one that gets you between the eyeballs. Unless Darrell Johnson is explaining it and then the world starts to tip upside down.
It all starts to change when someone explains that what Jesus meant was not him coming into a town and comforting those who have lost loved ones but Jesus coming into a town and calling people to him who then begin to mourn deeply. I mean what the flip? Why on earth does Jesus choose mourning to be a characteristic of the gospelized, those who are part of his kingdom? What happened to happy clappy Christianity?
It all happens in the gap. As we tag along with this guy Jesus, invite him into our present and let him participate in the way we live we start to notice that the picture he paints of this new community of faith, this new paradigm for living that he has ushered in is beautiful but foreign. We are blown away by this vision of freedom and wholeness that we have tasted but the contrast just gets starker. Because still we do ’not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing’ and we feel an ache somewhere. We lift our gaze to the world in which we find ourselves in all its intolerable cruelty and pain and it’s hard to bear after that vision of a new kingdom and the ache gets deeper. Then back at our own hearts and the painful experiences, the disappointments, all the broken relationships and heartache and we start to grieve. Because this is not the way it was supposed to be and in the reality of that truth we start to mourn.
We are given in this beatitude the freedom to grieve, not to stuff it down or ignore it but to feel the pain we see in the world and ourselves and grieve it deeply. How can we receive deep comfort unless we have really let ourselves grieve?
Blessed are those who are vulnerable before the pain of the world and dare to feel the pain.
And I want to run. Run far away from mourning or grieving or sorrow. I have created for myself a bubble of contentment that works very well thank you. I do a nice surface job at examining my heart which goes along the lines of ‘Must try to be more patient with the kids, maybe should stop throwing things when I argue with Jayber’. There is a careful filter on books and media which cross my path, put there to protect me from really engaging with the reality of the pain in the world I live in. I can feel myself disengaging as soon as the news comes on and I’m much more of G2/T2 kinda girl when it comes to reading the papers. Gets a bit trickier when it comes to managing all those disappointments and hurts and painful memories which still come back to bite but to heal those would mean grieving them and grieving would mean feeling them and pain has no place here in my bubble of contentment.
But, but, but. This is not a place I can stay. Because what I really long for is comfort and freedom and joy and none of these can get into the bubble. They are the fruit of engaging with the pain of this broken world, of my broken heart and they bring dignity to the disaster I see around and within me.
A wise friend who I was downloading all of this onto made a comment that was enough to lure me out of the bubble and has been circling in my head for the last year. She said this:
‘As we mourn the ‘death’ we see in ourselves and the world we remember that it is a natural God-law that death always leads to life’.
Now maybe that seems staggeringly obvious to you, and of course we know that the Resurrection gives us the hope in the future that life will follow our own deaths. But when we start to think of this God-law not just being something we look forward to God activating when Jesus returns but something that he activated on the cross, that it is a God-law meant to provide comfort and power in our lives now then it becomes a whole other story.
Because if I believe that in these things I mourn, these deaths I see as I look around the world and within myself, that God will bring life now, then it changes how I live, how I behave. If death always leads to life then the gospelized can be bringers of hope to the darkest places in our communities. When heartache comes to call I can bring it to Jesus knowing that even though the circumstances may not change I can hang on to this God-law and expect to see life somewhere in the middle of it all. I can prick up my ears and scour the landscape of my pain for hope.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.