Beatitude of the Week:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:16-19)
2 Corinthians 8:9
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
When I was a kid, my father took me to Six Flags Over Georgia.
I have always been a HUGE fan of anything that has to do with superheroes.
I was especially excited to check out the area of Six Flags where Batman supposedly lived: Gotham City.
When we got into Gotham City, I remember being stunned when I saw a replica of the batmobile just sitting in the middle of the park.
I wanted to ride.
My dad told me that I couldn't ride in the batmobile...but I could ride something like it.
I didn't know at the time that he was manipulating my excitement to trick me into riding a rollercoaster...
So, we waited in line to ride this thing that my dad had promised would be almost as cool as riding the batmobile.
The ride is called the Mindbender.
Many of you have probably taken a ride on it.
I got in the seat, pulled the safety hitch over my legs, and prepared to go on the ride that was like the batmobile.
Except it was nothing like the batmobile.
I had expected to go straight and fast, but no.
The ride went up.
It went down.
It went around.
It even went upside down.
It was nothing like I expected.
When the ride finished, I looked at my dad and said, "That was nothing like the batmobile...it was way better."
Before I make this comparison, I want to make something clear.
God does not manipulate us or trick us.
He does, however, know us more deeply than we know ourselves.
He also knows what is best for us and for the world at large.
My experience as a Jesus follower has been a lot like that day: I hopped in the seat because I trusted that Jesus was good.
I expected it to be a certain way.
It has been so different than I expected.
It has been so much better than I expected.
Before riding that rollercoaster, I would have told you that it was foolish to get in a cart with minimal safety straps and go upside-down in it.
Afterwards, I wanted to do it again and again.
It's interesting to me that Jesus often turns the way I think about the world upside down. .
So many people thought the Messiah was going to come as a conquering King in the way they thought about it, but Jesus said that He actually came to "preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed" (Luke 4:18).
Jesus turns the whole thing upside down when He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
Literally, in the beatitudes he is doing what he said he came to do: preach good news to the poor.
The good news is that the kingdom of God is here - and Jesus' announcement of that is a blessing to those who have been outcasts. Jesus' announcement also challenges us to become the outcasts in the eyes of the world.
This is upside down, but it is so much better.
When I was riding the Mindbender at Six Flags that day, my dad jumped in the seat with me.
He didn't just promise me that it would be good.
He knew it would be good and he wanted to have a part in it.
He showed me that it was going to be good by getting into the seat with me.
The Jesus story is kind of like that.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that Jesus became poor so that we might become rich.
Jesus believed every single thing he said.
Jesus also lived everything he said.
He believed that the poor were blessed in the Kingdom of God.
He became poor so that we might become rich in the Kingdom.
He hopped in the seat with us.
Can we trust that His way is better even if it seems foolish to go upside-down?
God, mold my heart to be more like yours. Will you allow me to become poor in spirit like you? Will you open my eyes to see the poor and the outcast like never before? Will you open my hands to give like you give? Will you open my hands in humility so that I can receive good gifts from you and from others? Will you open my hands wide to accept others the way you accept them?