“What is your sermon on this week?” The stand-in secretary asked.
“The next beatitude ‘Blessed are the Pure in Heart.'” I replied.
She said. “Aren’t you done with those yet?”
I laughed. I think she did too once she thought about what she said. Like many satirical punchlines it was funny because it was all too true. I know many church members do not like “sermon series” type of preaching. For a pastor they make planning easier. For a church member that attends every other week, it means they will miss something. That is if they really care that they miss anything.
My ministry has seen a lot of the Beatitudes both according to Matthew and Luke. I have had church members and church visitors ask me where they can be found in the Bible. Most people are familiar with the Ten Commandments (there was even a movie) but know nothing about the Beatitudes. Because of this lack of knowledge, I have adopted a few catch phrases. “I will see you ten commandments and raise you eight beatitudes,” is one such phrase. It encapsulates my counsel that the Commandments are where we begin while the Beatitudes are our goals in Christian living. If the “big ten” commandments make one uncomfortable wait till I introduce you to the Beatitudes. These eight should make one really uncomfortable because they eventually got Jesus killed.
Practicing Christian faith should make us uncomfortable. On one level it would be wonderful to live life in constant communion with The Way. On the immediate level we might miss everything about life right now. Salvation is wonderful. But, do we wish to see people we know to be evil receive it? Justice is wonderful too. Do we wish to see our best friends feel that wrath? These are uncomfortable questions. And we want most of all to be comfortable in our life with God.
The practice of prayer becomes especially difficult if we are praying. I have known people who ask for other people to pray for them simply because they never pray themselves. I know others who fear they don’t pray correctly and do not try. Still others practice prayer and find themselves empty when they once were filled with joy in their communion with God.
It is not that they have sinned against God or do not pray correctly. It is a sense of needing to find a new prayer way. Unfortunately, there seems to be more in church life about doing than there is about staying in peace with God. The changing life of prayer for those who practice prayer daily or even many times a day is important in the growth of the person. Prayer is connection. It is communication. It is talking. It is listening. Prayer is being pure in heart and doing purity of heart. It is calling on the transcendent to become immanent. It is asking. It is answering. It is seeing because we are searching.
Essentially prayer is running toward God. Sometimes we are exhausted because we are running in place. God is there to meet us. And God meets us when we respond to any of the divine invitations to be in God’s presence. Once again, I must add is it is often uncomfortable. Many people prefer God meet them in preferred places. Those places may be churches, private homes, or in an out of doors setting. God never promised to meet me where I wanted to be met. God never promised to keep my schedule or respect my boundaries. God promises to be with me. I am not certain what that means.
I have reached a place in my life where I can let God be God. My image of God may be a mere image. However God chooses to have communion with me, it is left to me to respond. The same is true for all of us. If God afflicts my comfort so that God’s glory may be shown, so be it. My life lies with God.