Jesus, that man’s got attitude!

Sorry, couldn’t resist that… so this morning we were looking at the Beatitudes, which crop up in Matthew chapter 5, at the beginning of the sermon on the mount. I had the interesting challenge of doing a talk that was for all ages at the beginning, with children hiving off after a few minutes, and if that wasn’t hard enough I was speaking on a passage which, the last time I did some teaching on, took 5 evening sessions and even then seemed crammed. I’m going to have words with the guy who sets the preaching rota in our church…

Anyway, here’s the gist of what I said:

Attitude- good attitude, bad attitude, someone with ‘attitude’… it’s a word that describes how what is inside you can be seen…  (dictionary- a settled way of thinking, a physical position of the body showing a mental state, uncooperative behaviour, individuality and self-confidence.  a good attitude isn’t necessarily being good at something, but its how you carry yourself- whether you’re a champion or a steady mid grade… Sometimes people refer to the beatitudes in that way- as Jesus’ description of how we should be- the ‘be attitudes’. If that’s so, what do you think are some important attitudes for us to have as Christians? How should we be? And what attitudes would we be wise to try and avoid?

 

Here’s a few- Proud   Humble       Kind    confident        uncertain        grumpy

 

Or if we want a list from the Bible-in Galatians 5 these are called the fruit of the Spirit, but they’re also the attitudes of a Christian:

 

Loving     joyfilled       peaceful         patient        kind     good     faithful        gentle     self-controlled

 

In this passage Jesus talks about how his followers should live- not so much the way to be, but the way to blessings… some translations actually use the phrase ‘happy are you when…’ but its not really a kind of ‘don’t worry be happy’ or a Pharrell Williams song, its about something much deeper… if you want… the chances are that for most of us, something this past week made us happy- made us smile and lifted our spirits… it might have been a joke or a flower or child or whatever… but what makes us feel deeply blessed- content- joyful… that’s the kind of happiness Jesus means (and actually I think its what Pharrell Williams is trying to talk about)…

 

Its actually quite a radical manifesto both in terms of what it talks about and what it asks…

 

This is a manifesto for the kingdom of heaven- which is not a place on a map but a place in our hearts- its our attitude… when we take these phrases, those virtues listed as the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians, and we live them out- as we begin to try and live by those values ‘the kingdom is near’.

 

As we hear the beatitudes, the intention isn’t that we should pat ourselves on the back… yup, got that one, nor that we should beat ourselves over the head for our failure- I’m not hungry enough for righteousness, but that we should recognise our intentions and that they fall short of our own hopes. By recognising that we fall short, we come without pretence or false confidence to God… and because of God’s grace we are provided with all we need… to take the first phrase ‘poor in spirit’… is one of those phrases that we ‘get’ without often understanding- what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Poor… lacking in what you need- not just a bit short when it comes to the holiday fund, but struggling, unable to pay the bills or for necessities… but we live in a world of credit and short term loans… the poor are fooled or forced into behaving as if they haven’t a worry… Spiritually poor, means without the spiritual resources to get by- and those who understand that they are spiritually poor are those who’re most eager to receive all that God has for them- if I know I’m poor, then I want all that God has for me… and I’ll grow in faith etc… the kingdom of heaven becomes clearer in my life and my actions… Those spiritual resources being the basic disciplines of the Christian life- intimacy with God, worship of God, sharing the love of God in the world…

 

Intimacy through personal prayer, fasting, Bible study

 

Worship through corporate acts, glorifying God through our lives, putting God first

 

Sharing God’s love through practical action, through being with people, through standing against injustice, through sharing our personal stories of God…

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit- does that mean I should avoid those things so that God will bless me? No- when we realise we are poor, we’re open to receive… God blesses us when we realise we have held back from a real, close relationship with him. God blesses us when we worship fully in all our lives. God blesses us when we give all we have… we receive things we never hoped for.

 

By raising the bar, Jesus isn’t making a relationship with God even more exclusive than the Pharisees or the religious authorities he so often clashed with. No- he’s making it clear how impossible it is for us on our own, and promising that God will help us to reach those heights- so let us mourn instead of feeling a bit sorry, lets humbly recognise our own spiritual poverty, lets desire a right relationship with God as if it was water in the desert, lets offer mercy when it sticks in our throat, lets be willing to step into a conflict and create peace, lets be persecuted for our faith… because Jesus promises that we will not be let down by God when we do.

 

Oh, and I was very well behaved- the idea of including the sermon on the mount scene from Monty Python’s the life of Brian was very tempting… but I didn’t. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, or just want to see it again, here it is:

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4 thoughts on “Jesus, that man’s got attitude!

  1. The readings we had in church today were Romans 12: 9-21 and Matthew 16: 21-28. Both with a similar theme to the Beatitudes. I was thinking today how clear and straight-forward and easy to understand this ‘guide for life’ is but how difficult to keep to – at least some of it I find difficult to keep to – some I can manage and some is getting easier the older I get. Oh to be a little braver!

    1. most of Jesus’ teaching had that quality- clear, straight-forward but difficult and challenging. Being a Christian is much harder but also rewarding than many people realise. Be brave today- even just a little bit!

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