Reflection: It’s All About Grace (with a little help from mirrors!)

Mirrors! We use them all the time but …. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What is unusual?


Reflections 

Now, I have to admit I’m a bit of an Agatha Christie whodunit fan. She often used Mirrors, or more importantly, reflections in mirrors as a pivotal feature of solving a crime. Someone has seen something happen, reflected in a mirror, or its only by looking in a mirror, that our sleuth realises what’s happened in a particularly complicated plot. And the reason is this. When you look in a mirror, everything you see is not at all how things really are. The image is completely back to front - the wrong way round.

Being Different

And that seems to be the case with our gospel reading today  (Matthew ch’ 5, vs’ 1-12) – the start of Jesus’ Sermon on the mount - a passage we call the beatitudes. Jesus has the false teachings of the religious leaders of the day in his sights. Just like John did in our first reading today (1 John ch’ 3, vs’ 1-3). John’s letter was sent to the early Christians warning them strongly against false teaching, which was creeping into the church and twisting scripture’s meaning – as though looking in a mirror.  Jesus turns such teaching on its head, often reversing it, making himself very unpopular with the religious leaders in the process. So it was with the sermon on the mount. If there was one word that summed up what Jesus taught His followers to be, it was different. Different in their relationship with God and different in their relationships with each other.

Huge crowds were following Jesus around, so he took them up a hill and what does he do?  Well he doesn’t organise a rally or a protest again the oppressive Roman authorities. He simply teaches them … about God His Father and His Kingdom. If you like, He gives them a big dose of theology in chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew’s  gospel account – do read it - in one sitting!


Back to Front

Listening to Jesus was like looking in a mirror and suddenly realising that what you believed up to that point was back to front, and being turned on its head. For many people, coming to faith is a bit like that when they really meet Jesus and see Him as Lord and Rescuer,  whether that’s a sudden encounter, as with the apostle Paul, or more slowly, as is the case for many of us. Christians, as His followers became called, originally as a nickname, are to be different. 

Relationships…

And Jesus started by teaching his followers – including us, the true nature of our relationships in the Kingdom of Heaven. His followers can be assured that no matter how difficult things are, we are loved and blessed by God and this affects the way we are with God and with each other.

Relationship with …God

The beatitudes are a series of blessings, eight in all. The first four can be thought of as largely about the relationship we each have with God, 
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit
  • Blessed are those who mourn
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Let’s look at them in a bit more detail:

1st - When you are struggling and feeling your poverty before a holy God, you aren’t insignificant and useless, so often the world’s response.  You are blessed because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to you – its yours.

2nd - When you are grieving; either the loss of a loved one or grieving the state of the world around you, you aren’t pathetic and hopeless, you are blessed because you will receive eternal comfort in the arms of the one who is THE comforter.

3rd - When you put others first in genuine meekness, without drawing attention to your actions,  you aren’t a drip or a wet blanket, or someone to be down trodden and ignored, as the world might do. You are blessed because when Jesus comes again in judgement, you WILL inherit the new earth. 

And 4th …when you just hunger for those in charge to do the right thing and you’re mocked by those around you because you seek to do that too, you aren’t odd, you aren’t a misfit. You are blessed - that hunger will be satisfied. God’s Kingdom will come and change everything. And you are part of that kingdom.

Relationships… with others

The second four beatitudes tend to relate more to how we are with other people. 
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are the pure in heart 
  • Blessed are the peacemakers 
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness 
Again let’s apply those to our lives a little.

5th - When you’re merciful, you aren’t a soft touch. You are blessed because despite everything you get wrong, you will be shown mercy by a God who is full of grace and whose nature is love. 

6th - When you seek to be righteous and pure in heart, you aren’t a Goody Goody to be mocked and despised, you are blessed because you will see and be with your one true God for ever. The God who is absolutely righteous and pure.

7th - When you seek to bring peace into a situation, you aren’t an appeaser, trampled over by bullies, you are blessed as children of God living in the strength of the Heavenly Father.

And finally, are you bullied, mocked gossiped about and persecuted (and it does happen to Christians, even in this country) because you want to do the right thing before God? Well you aren’t weak, useless or irrelevant,  you are blessed. The kingdom of heaven is yours.

It’s all about Grace

The situations we, as followers of Jesus,  might be in which sap our hope and result in weariness and our hopes being dashed, are just those that God says can give us hope. 

How? 

BECAUSE OF GOD’S GRACE - because each blessing comes with a massive promise from God. And God is true to His promises.

Listen one more time:

  • Are you poor in spirit? -Yours is the kingdom of heaven – an amazing promise!

  • Are you mourning? - You will be comforted – a wonderful promise.

  • Are you meek? - You will inherit the earth – another awesome promise!

  • Do you long for what’s right? - you will be filled with righteousness – yet another great promise.

  • Are you merciful ?- You will be shown mercy – one more comforting promise!

  • Is your heart pure?  - You will see God – most certainly a promise!

  • Do you try to keep the peace? - You will be called a child of God – another  delightful promise!

  • Are you persecuted for your faith? - Yours  is the kingdom of heaven – can you believe it: Yet another encouraging promise.

God’s mission for us now

And before I finish: The people who listened to Jesus were from all walks of life. He taught them all. So, we too are all called to bring God’s light into unlit places, hearts and situations; places outside these church walls.
 
We can best do it by showing the beatitudes in action to those around us. They may yet know nothing of Jesus, except that which we bring in His name. By His Grace, they too can know His blessings and promises. Like the image in the mirror, their lives, too, can be changed; turned inside out, back to front. Dark to light.
 
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall have eternal life." (John 3, 16) That’s Grace!

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