Guess What? You’re Blessed: Exploring the Beatitudes in Matthew 5

P. Solomon Raj, Luke 4: The Lord Remembers the Hungry, 2016.

It’s in the context of all the everyday people with everyday problems gathered around Him that Jesus begins to speak about the good life in Matthew 5:3-12.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)

Contrary to appearances, the broken down and poor in spirit, actually belong in God’s kingdom – they are flourishing with God because they know their need and are looking to God.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (5:4)

Those who lament and cry out have the promise of comfort because God, the comforter, is near at hand. In the future, He will wipe away all our tears, and in the present, He is the God of all comfort. He will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3).

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (5:5)

Those who depend upon God instead of their own strength, who don’t throw their weight around, but wait upon Him with meekness will find their fortunes reversed because God is their provider in the future and for today. “The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:11, NLT).

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (5:6)

Those who are hungry in their spirits for what God desires often will see what’s lacking in the world. Those who look with a clear-eyed desire for things to be made right – for God’s deliverance to come – for justice to roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24) – oh, Jesus says, those will be filled. The day is coming when God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), but even now God’s kingdom is at hand in Jesus. You’ll be stuffed to overflowing with God’s righteousness and justice. But you’re blessed now even though you’re hungry…live into that blessing now.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (5:7)

When you have a generous heart, even toward those who don’t deserve it, you’ll be shown that same generosity from others, but also by God. For our God is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in compassion, mercy and steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (5:8)

Those whose hearts seek after God actively, who move beyond just outward actions of ritual purity, and toward undivided hearts set on God above all others, they’ll see God. Even if it’s not acknowledged by others, we will experience a transforming vision of God in our lives. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (5:9)

In a world of strife and division, where hatred and violence abound, those who promote peace, who listen with ears of love, get messy in the midst of conflicts to bring the soothing presence of God’s shalom, are blessed. Such people look like their Father. They’ll enter the everlasting kingdom of peace, but even now they will be kept in perfect peace because their minds are steadfast as they trust in God (Isaiah 26:3).

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:10)

Those who live for what God requires, shouldn’t be surprised when opposition comes. That opposition isn’t a curse from God but the reality of a world opposed to God. It means such people have made the decision to enter the blessing of God’s flourishing kingdom more important than worldly blessing.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:11-12)

With this last of the Beatitudes, Jesus personalizes the statement, helping His disciples know that in this world they – and all future followers – will have trouble, but they can take heart. The prophets, who lived and spoke for God and His blessed life, also faced the same thing. These are the heroes of the faith, who looked for God’s kingdom and lived in the now in light of that kingdom reality. That’s what it means to flourish and be blessed, even if persecution comes.

Jesus says to all those people gathered around Him, the everyday people with everyday problems, “Wake up, turn around, pay attention. God’s kingdom is right here. Come on in and find your place. God is bringing a blessing in the fullness of time. But even now you are blessed. In God’s kingdom your life is a μακάριος life: fortunate, flourishing, happy…blessed.  Live now in light of that reality.”

“Healing for the Earth: The Flood, part 2”

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we contimued our preaching series, “Fractured,” drawn from Genesis 4-11. This is the second part of a two-part series on Genesis 1-11 that will stretch from January through Lent up to Easter. You can access the first part of this series on Genesis, “In the Beginning,” here. This fourth week of the series Pastor Jim Caler preached from Genesis 8:1-9:17, walking through the second part of the flood narrative with Noah and his family.

You can find the message outline and video below. You can access the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” (Genesis 8:1)

Remembered = “Zakar” Used to indicate God taking action on His promises

            Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19:29), Rachel (Genesis 30:22), Israel (Exodus 2:24)

“He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations,” Psalm 105:8

  1. We know God remembers us, so we wait patiently for God’s direction (Genesis 8:1-19)
  2. God stops the waters (1-3)
  3. The Ark comes to rest (4-5)
  4. The Birds (6-12)
  5. The Hatch/Covering is opened (13-14)
  6. God speaks (15-19)
  7. God told them to go in (7:1)
  8. God tells them when to come out (8:15-16)

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.” Psalm 130:5

“Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” James 5:7-8

  • We know God remembers us, so we worship Him, grateful for His faithfulness (8:15-22)
    • Worship thru Obedience (18)
    • Worship thru an Altar and Sacrifices (20)
    • The Worship was pleasing to God (21) 
  • We know God remembers us, so we welcome a new relationship with Him (8:21-9:19)
    • A new humanity (9:1)
    • A new relationship with creation (9:2-4)
    • A new law (9:5-7)
    • A new covenant (8:21-22; 9:8-17)


            How will you remind yourself that God remembers you?  

            Where do you most need to wait for God’s direction, instead of racing ahead of Him?

            How will you encourage others with the truth that God remembers them?

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

Eastbrook at Home – March 19, 2023


Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our preaching series entitled “Fractured” based on Genesis, chapters 4-11, by exploring the ways that God brought healing to the earth through the flood as described in Genesis 8-9.

Here is a prayer for this fourth Sunday in Lent from The Book of Common Prayer:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

If you are able to do so, let me encourage you to join us for in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus.

If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 March 2023

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.

anna-cicicic-GYfb3xirQPQ-unsplash-1536x768“Where’s the Next Brick?: Finding God Among the Ruins of Christianity” – Francis Spufford in Mockingbird: “Once there was a great building. Mighty with towers, spiky with spires, a-bubble with domes. Inside it opened into gallery after gallery, vault after echoing vault, so high that human beings who set off across its marble pavements sometimes mistook its roof for the sky and the building for the world itself. And though it showed signs of many styles, and had been built by many different architects over many centuries, it had been standing so long than no one could remember when it wasn’t there, or suspected that it could ever fall. But it did. Whether it was the rain that got in and dissolved the mortar, or whether the foundations had been questionable all along, or whether the maintenance had been neglected, people are arguing still: but in any case, down it came with shocking speed, the collapse of one part setting off the tumbling of the next, and the next, and the next, until all of it lay in rubble. Some of the rubble was gathered up by those who had particularly loved the building and assembled back into a much smaller structure — somewhere in size, say, between a cottage and a garden shed. The rest, however, lay where it had fallen; and the grass grew over it, and creepers disguised the biggest pieces of the ruin till they looked almost like outcrops of rock; and with a speed just as astonishing as the collapse had been, those who walked there forgot there had ever been a building, and took the bumpy hill beneath them for the plain and natural ground.”

133660“Christian Conservationists Sue to Protect Ghana Forest” – Ryan Truscott in Christianity Today: “A Christian conservation group is fighting the Ghana government in court over plans to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve. The protected highland forest north of the capital, Accra, is home to more than 700 species of butterflies, 239 different birds, and 1,134 plants and also provides water for millions of people. The government reportedly granted a license to the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Corp. to mine bauxite and build a refinery for the production of aluminum to pay back a $2 billion loan for infrastructure projects across the country. Experts say the mine would be catastrophic for plants and wildlife, not to mention the climate and clean water. ‘We thought that if we didn’t take this step of faith, then we would not have acted well as Christians who are stewards of God’s creation,’ said Seth Appiah-Kubi, the national director of A Rocha Ghana. ‘We’ve done all we’ve done because we are Christians.’ A Rocha Ghana is leading the legal challenge, joined by six other civil society groups and four private citizens. The case was filed three years ago and made its way to the Accra High Court in February. The conservation group has never filed suit before. ‘Even though we’ve done advocacy and campaigns as part of our work, this is the first time we’ve taken legal action,’ Appiah-Kubi said. ‘It’s a big learning curve.'”

4dab1690-e352-450e-a693-58ec03e0968a_1600x891“Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest: Evidence for Lukianoff’s reverse CBT hypothesis” – Jonathan Haidt in After Babel: “In May 2014, Greg Lukianoff invited me to lunch to talk about something he was seeing on college campuses that disturbed him. Greg is the president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), and he has worked tirelessly since 2001 to defend the free speech rights of college students. That almost always meant pushing back against administrators who didn’t want students to cause trouble, and who justified their suppression of speech with appeals to the emotional “safety” of students—appeals that the students themselves didn’t buy. But in late 2013, Greg began to encounter new cases in which students were pushing to ban speakers, punish people for ordinary speech, or implement policies that would chill free speech. These students arrived on campus in the fall of 2013 already accepting the idea that books, words, and ideas could hurt them. Why did so many students in 2013 believe this, when there was little sign of such beliefs in 2011? Greg is prone to depression, and after hospitalization for a serious episode in 2007, Greg learned CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). In CBT you learn to recognize when your ruminations and automatic thinking patterns exemplify one or more of about a dozen “cognitive distortions,” such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, fortune telling, or emotional reasoning. Thinking in these ways causes depression, as well as being a symptom of depression. Breaking out of these painful distortions is a cure for depression. “

Sandor_Katz_credit__Joel_Silverman_WEB_crop“Fermentation as Metaphor: An Interview with Sandor Katz” – By the editors of Emergence Magazine: “In this interview, Sandor Katz discusses his new book, Fermentation as Metaphor. A world-renowned expert in fermented foods, Sandor considers the liberating experience offered through engagement with microbial communities. He shares that the simple act of fermentation can give rise to deeply intimate moments of connection through the magic of invisible forces that transform our foods and our lives, generation by generation.

Emergence MagazineYou describe yourself as a fermentation revivalist so I wonder if we could start by having you share a bit about what that means to you.

Sandor KatzWell, sure. The reason I started calling myself a fermentation revivalist is from my sense of how common fermentation has been in the not too distant past and it’s so integral to all of our food traditions. Whatever part of the world our ancestors came from, fermentation is an essential part of how people make effective use of whatever food resources are available to them, but in the last several generations and at different paces in different parts of the world, people have become increasingly distanced from the production of food and all of the processes that we use to transform the raw products of agriculture into all of the foods that people eat and drink. And it so happens that the same time period where these processes became more mysterious and distanced to people is also the time when the war on bacteria developed.”

18 readers on religion“18 Readers on Their Relationship With Religion” – Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic: “Last week, I asked readers to describe their relationship with organized religion. What follows is but a fraction of the outpouring of responses—in fact, I’ll be sending another email next week with more replies. (And I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s conversations and provocations.) Andrew loves his big-city church: ‘I was raised and still consider myself an evangelical Christian. For the last nine years, I’ve lived on the South Side of Chicago and attended a small church in my neighborhood. I have worshipped side by side with people raised on the South Side and people born on four other continents, people with multiple doctorates and others who have not finished high school. We have eaten together, been at the bedside of newborns and in the ICU together, grieved over untimely deaths together, and celebrated triumphs small and large together. We have supported each other when experiencing homelessness and joblessness, returning from or entering prison, suffering deep mental-health crises, and seeking justice for violence done. It is with my church that I experienced the tragedy of lost learning for kids left behind in under-resourced schools, the struggle against rising gun violence, the harms of police brutality, and protests for reform….'”

Cormac McCarthy“A Brutal Cosmos” – Jonathan Clarke in First Things: “Cormac McCarthy seems firmly established as a canonical American novelist, but it may be several decades before we determine the precise nature of his achievement. His career has taken an odd shape. His early, Faulknerian novels, set in his native Tennessee, bore ample evidence of his talent but didn’t find an audience. His first Western novel, Blood Meridian (1985), set in the mid-­nineteenth-century borderlands, is now widely regarded as his greatest achievement, but it initially confounded critics, who recognized its brilliance but were puzzled by its apparent celebration of violence. His next book, All the Pretty Horses (1992), the first volume of his Border Trilogy, brought him broad recognition. ­Unperturbed by success, he completed the trilogy, erecting his monuments even as he remained pointedly aloof from public life. And then, following the publication of the noir No Country for Old Men (2005) and the visionary, apocalyptic The Road (2006), he stopped publishing….For whatever reason, though, he could not—or at least did not—stop writing, only publishing. His two new, intertwined novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, seem to have had their creative genesis in the same period as The Road. They arise out of the interests ­McCarthy has developed at SFI, including ­theoretical physics, the human capacity for language, and the role of the unconscious in mathematical problem-solving. Such subjects are not easily dramatized. These novels are intermittently fascinating, and they form an interesting coda to McCarthy’s career. They are also frequently frustrating.”

Music: Poor Bishop Hooper, “Psalm 1,” from Every Psalm Project