Blessed are Those Who Mourn

Here’s the full audio of Pastor Michael’s sermon from October 1, 2017, reflecting on the second Beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount:

And here’s a written excerpt:

James Tissot, Jésus pleura

How do we hear these words of Jesus? “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” How can this possibly make sense of all our losses, all our grieving? How can those who mourn—including those whose grief is compounded by injustice—in fact be “blessed”? What kind of comfort can any of us really count on?

We’re in some very deep waters here. The kind of waters you don’t jump in and out of quickly. But let’s start getting our head above water by reminding ourselves of what these Beatitudes are all about.

In my first sermon on the Beatitudes two weeks ago I gave us three ideas that are important to keep in mind as we reflect on these upside-down blessings of Jesus.

The first of these ideas is that the blessing Jesus is pronouncing here combines both “divine favour” and “human flourishing.”

When Jesus says “These people are blessed”—the “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” the “meek,” and more—Jesus means that these people have God’s special favour. God’s eye is upon them, God’s ears are attuned to their cries, God is “especially fond” of them. As well, Jesus means that these people can experience all the thriving, flourishing life God desires for them. Not mere “happiness,” not “success” as we typically define it—but the deepest needs of body and soul being satisfied.

So “blessed” means “divine favour” plus “human flourishing”—but remember also from that first sermon, that this “blessedness” is viewed through the lens of God’s “already but not yet” kingdom perspective.

God’s reign of justice and peace has arrived in Jesus—“the kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus said. But God’s reign of justice and peace is not yet fully here—Jesus taught us to pray for “God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom is here right now, but not fully here yet.

These Beatitudes are part of that same tension: all these—the “poor in spirit,” the “meek,” “those who mourn,” and more—all these are “blessed” now with favour and flourishing, but the fullness of this “blessedness” is still to come.

So here’s a start to treading these deep waters of suffering and mourning, loss and grief. This isn’t “Happy are those who mourn.” Those who mourn aren’t “happy”—but they are “blessed”: favoured by God now, and sure to flourish one day. When you are stricken with grief at the losses in your life, this is Jesus’ benediction spoken over you: “Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.”

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