O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP p. 233)
One day as the crowds were gathering, Jesus went up the mountainside with his disciples and sat down to teach them. This is what he taught them:
“God blesses those who realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are gentle and lowly,
for the whole earth will belong to them.
God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice,
for they will receive it in full.
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”
“And what is it which He is teaching?” John Wesley asks. “The Son of God, who came from heaven, is here showing us the way to heaven; to the place which he hath prepared for us; the glory he had before the world began. He is teaching us the true way to life everlasting; the royal way which leads to the kingdom; and the only true way” (Sermon 21, Prol.3).
In a few short words, Jesus offers us a complete reorientation of human values. God blesses the gentle, the lowly, the meek? They will inherit the earth? God blesses us when we’re mocked and persecuted? When we’re slandered? We’re supposed to be glad about it? How could it be? We’re used to searching for happiness elsewhere. But he offers something completely different—indeed, as Wesley puts it, the way we have so long sought in vain, the thing our souls long for…
“Blessed,” or happy, “are the poor in spirit.” Happy are the mourners; the meek; those that hunger after righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart: Happy in the end, and in the way; happy in this life, and in life everlasting! As if he had said, “Who is he that lusteth to live, and would fain see good days? Behold, I show you the thing which your soul longeth for! See the way you have so long sought in vain; the way of pleasantness; the path to calm, joyous peace, to heaven below and heaven above!”
—John Wesley (1703-1791)
Sermon 21, Prol. 8