February 28, 2012: The Seventh Day of Lent
February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5.4 ~
Jesus continues his teaching by using another feature of Hebrew poetry: progression. The Beatitudes should not be seen in isolation of one another, like bullet points; rather, they are best viewed as stepping stones, with one leading to the next. Jesus teaches these truths of blessedness as parts of a process or steps in a sequence. Jesus tells us of the realities connected with events and feelings we will experience and shows how true believers, those belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven, will respond. For example, we are faced with our own spiritual poverty. At that moment, we have a choice: we can ignore our brokenness and carry on as best we can or we can recognize our state and commit ourselves to God’s care. Those in the Kingdom of Heaven have committed themselves to God’s care, and so they are blessed: they are living a reality that joins brokenness and grace. The next point that Jesus makes will build upon this one.
In this teaching progression, mourning comes next. It may be easiest for us to associate mourning with human loss, and this certainly held true in the time of Christ. However, mourning also encompassed current states of affairs and future events. The Psalms in the Old Testament feature many examples of this, especially those written while the nation of Israel remained in exile. The Biblical world recognized mourning as appropriate and made time for it, something we struggle with in the world of today.
What do the poor in spirit mourn? Their mourning is a response to their own brokenness. They have seen themselves as they are, and they are responding to what they see – that they are broken, frail, dependent creatures. True spiritual mourning leads to repentance. When we are faced with the gravity of our own sin, we must repent. Shelton says: “A symptom of the lack of this beatitude is a flippancy toward sin, a lack of seriousness about its consequences, and a presumption of God’s forgiveness – ‘cheap grace,’ as Bonhoeffer puts it.” (LitSNTC, pg. 151) If sin means nothing to us, then forgiveness means nothing to us.
Yet, those who mourn are blessed. Why? Because those who recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy and truly repent receive immediate forgiveness for what they have done as well as grace to lead a changed life. This is the comfort of the Kingdom. Christ tells us, “If you are my disciple, if you are in my Kingdom, mourning and comfort go hand-in-hand.”
We find ourselves in Lent; such a timely truth to hear. During this season of repentance, let us mourn. Let us mourn our own brokenness and for the brokenness of others. Let us mourn the ways that we have denied God and rejected his grace. Let us mourn the state of the world in which we live, a world that desperately needs God’s touch. Let us mourn, knowing that we will be comforted.
Lord Christ, now that I have seen myself for who I am, I can only mourn my broken state. I have sinned against you; please forgive me, Lord. Each and every time I come face-to-face with my false, flawed self, help me repent and place myself in your care and grace anew. Amen.