As we were reminded by the recent presidential inauguration, after being sworn in, the new president delivers the traditional Inaugural Address. In this speech, new presidents outline the goals and hopes for their administration. The Inaugural Address typically presents the philosophy that will be the foundation for their presidency.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the first speech that Jesus gives beginning his ministry is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). In it, like an Inaugural Address, Jesus outlines the foundation and key points of his ministry.
Presidential inaugural themes usually include promises for prosperity, security and all kinds of ways things will be better throughout the land because of the new president. In his talk, Jesus takes a radical departure from these themes. His message is that God’s blessings will come to those who are lacking. Those without property, status, joy, holiness, peace and respect are the blessed ones. In other words, the blessed are those who are poor in spirit.
Being poor in spirit means acknowledging what we do not have. This recognition is not a complaint. It is an honest declaration that nobody, including us, has everything. At various times, we all lack something. We may be short of patience, tolerance, openness, compassion or sensitivity. Sometimes we are without money, health, a certain skill, a talent, understanding, confidence, trust, energy, creativity, balance and the list goes on and on. Once we name our poverty, some blessed and wonderful things can happen. Poverty of spirit can help us really see how much we need God, how much we need others and how much others need us. Poverty of spirit can help us to seek assistance from those who have what we do not have. It can also help us to be mindful of those who do not have what we have and could use our help.
How rich being poor in Spirit is! What better way to live than to know how much we need God, how much we need others and how much others need us. Who would have thought that naming our poverty could be such a blessing? Jesus did. No wonder this was the theme of his first speech.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher H. Smith, Rector