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Rector's Reflection: Great Expectations, November 4, 2023

Beloved Members of St. Martin’s,

This weekend we will observe the transferred Feast of All Saints and All Souls. This weekend also begins Native American Heritage Month. As Diocesan Mission for Indigenous Engagement, I will be posting every day on the Diocese of Missouri’s Indigenous Ministry page, as well as using Native prayers and translations of scripture at the 505 all month. I hope you come and worship with us in this special liturgy, and join in some beautiful prayers.

Our gospel reading for this weekend in Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12, which is a part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Eight specific conditions are listed by Jesus as being particularly blessed, and they all seem paradoxical, once again illustrating the upsides-down, counter-cultural message of Jesus, then and now.

The values expressed here—blessed are the meek? Blessed are those who mourn?-- are the opposite of those dominant in the Mediterranean society of Jesus’s day, and even today. Yet Matthew’s author has Jesus stating that those groups he lists are blessed now for what they will attain in the future.

Further, many of the blessed statements reflect blessings mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-3. In Isaiah 61:1 the anointed one would bring “good news to the oppressed” corresponds to vv. 10-11. In Isaiah 61:2, “all who mourn” will be comforted just as in corresponds to v. 4. Jesus’s teaching, therefore, would sound familiar, if shocking, to many in his audience. But the overall tone is one of high expectations—the kind of hope that helps people persevere through obstacles, guided by faith and a loving heart.

The Beatitudes show us that those who are blessed of God are not the high and mighty ones, but those who are on the side of those the world esteems little: the poor, the weak, the suffering, the innocent, the peacemakers, and those who persevere in discipleship even when they stand at risk of unjustly losing all the things the world values. The beatitudes are addressed to the Church, those who proclaim that they are disciples of Jesus. Those who are blessed are those who look beyond themselves, and have hope not just for themselves, but for the future. They’re the ones who are willing to keep their expectations high—and that leads to seeing blessings we most certainly would otherwise miss.

It's all too easy to be cynical. But cynicism is NOT the way of Jesus. What kind of world do you think we would have if a goodly proportion of the people around us had that attitude of hope and looking forward? What kind of community would we be if we adopted that attitude of great expectations? That is, after all, what our stewardship campaign has been about, all along, because those who believe something is possible will also be willing to make that expectation a reality. 

We are called to live our lives as Christians by having great expectations—about God’s love for us, about our ability to love each other in DEED rather than just by flimsy emotion. Jesus’s Beatitudes call is to take seriously the hope and grace that is at the heart of God’s relationship with us. When we are transformed by this good news, this outpouring of blessing even upon those the world denigrates or overlooks, we move into the realm of the power of expectation—beyond the tension of what IS, to the assurance of what WILL BE.

In Christ’s love,

Mother Leslie+

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