Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The sermon on the mount offers a summary of the Gospel. An even more precise synopsis is contained in the Beatitudes. We read here a counter-intuitive life that begins in the struggle with and death of pride and self-salvation.  Wisdom is discovered in sacrifice; strength in service and humility; purpose in generosity; power in gentleness; blessing in suffering for the right reasons; greatness in being least and last; peace in turmoil; generosity in poverty.
The sermon on the mount passage ends (Mt. 7) with Matthew describing the astonishment of those who heard Jesus. They could tell he was speaking with authority, which is different from credibility--an earned position, like a degree. His words hit the target of the heart and ring the bell of truth. What he said made sense, the kind of sense that is confirmed in the trust one has in the speaker of truth. He wasn't telling his listeners anything that was self-promotional or self-advantageous.
And the truth begins in the defeat of self-idolatry, which manifests itself insidiously, in ways we can't even imagine or expect. In truth, our self-idolatry expresses itself even as we try to not be self-idolatrous, that we believe we have the power to overcome our own sickness.
It is only in our spiritual poverty that we are baptized in the grace we so desperately need.
The following is a poem I wrote in an attempt to illustrate the truth of Jesus' words: "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Prelude to Beatitude

A grief too great to bear
A weight one cannot share
A wound that will not heal
Your strength all these will steal

To slay the foe one must
The persona you most trust
Before the sun does set
Or die of deep regret

The face one sees reverse
Forever wears this curse
Doomed to lose it all
To the master of the thrall

Beware the lair of fools
Refuse the liar's rules
It's a game that none may win
The charade of mortal sin

For impoverished souls receive
Relief from all they grieve
These beggar hearts shall hold
The gift of soulful gold

To utter the bankrupt prayer
The proud will never dare
Till gain becomes their loss
As riches turn to dross

Ne'er gained through toil of greed
Till on swine swill you would feed
And trade deceitful swear
For a humble robe to wear

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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