Blessed Are you When
by the Rev. Steve Pults,
minister of the Swedenborgian Church
 of Puget Sound, Washington
in the January, 1995 Issue of Our Daily Bread

I mentioned last week working as a part-time chaplain in the emergency center overnight. I wanted to begin by sharing an impression that really struck me at the time and has stayed with me.

It was watching the nurses, doctors, and staff in the dark morning hours walking silently to their cars in the employee parking lot at the close of their shifts. It made such an impression on me because I had watched them during the night deal with everything from a six-month-old baby who had stopped breathing to frozen street people brought in by the police, to a husband and wife both with gunshot wounds from an argument that got out of hand.

Heavy-duty stuff. They had put everything of themselves into that long night - saving some lives, helplessly unable to save others. And now here they were walking alone to their cars to go home and fall exhausted into their beds while the rest of the world zoomed off to work in a frenzy of daytime activities. And no one had said, "Thank you."

Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for relieving me of that unbearable pain. Thank you for finding out what is wrong with my body. Thank you for putting up with my obnoxiousness, my complaining, my impatience.

I resolved that one of my duties as chaplain would be to affirm those good people in any way I could. I would learn later that the emergency center staff had the highest incidence of alcoholism, drug addiction, and divorce in the entire hospital staff. I can understand that.

While I lived in Michigan I was also active in my local pastors' association. Each Thanksgiving we would join together in a service for all of our congregations. At one such service I heard  a Congregational minister, Rev. Jim Lyons, give his sermon on the Beatitudes. He shared a perspective that has stayed with me ever since - a perspective of each and every human being having a birthright of God's love.

With zeal and excitement in his voice he spoke of the kind of joy you can know - 

  • When in your own poverty you realize you are not alone.
  • When you truly mourn for all those who do not receive their own birthright of unconditional love.
  • When you can accept allowing a power higher than yourself to work through you in all meekness and humility.
  • When everything about your life hungers and thirsts for justice and righteousness.
  • When you experience the wonder of mercy in the face of your own imperfections and in an imperfect world.
  • When you can know the freedom of nothing to hide within a pure heart.
  • When you can not only make peace outside yourself with others, but learn to make peace within yourself.
  • And when you can freely and joyfully accept persecution in its many subtle forms because you will stand up for those and be counted with those who know rejection and persecution all too well.

In looking at the context of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we can discover a depth we might have missed in those words. I just want to touch on that world blessed. It is not just a simple statement; it is an exclamation! Not a future tense, but a present tense we can know now. Its root isn't based on the kind of circumstantial happiness we might know when things go our way for a while, but rather speaks of the kind of inner joy that sorrow and loss, pain and grief are powerless to touch, the joy which shines through our tears and which nothing in life or death can take away...the joy that is serene and has its secret within itself.

And as we look at each example of experiencing "blessedness," the message comes through of discovering a way of living where we can completely put our whole being within God...where we can allow ourselves to feel what God feels - a heart that is broken for the suffering in our world...where we learn gentleness and yet the ability to be angry at the sight of injustice...where we long for a world of integrity and compassion in the same way a starving and perishing person longs for food and water...where we are able to get right inside other people and see through their eyes, think with their thoughts, and feel with their feelings and understand...where our motives become seeking only what is good and true and suddenly recognizing God's presence in countless ways that we never saw before - like buying a car and seeing dozens just like it on the road that you never saw before...where we recognize that what we give birth to embraces us, including mercy, compassion, and peace.

My point this morning is to let you hear of your own blessedness - remind you of it - and invite you to share your own affirmations with each other. I've come up with some. Let these spark your own thoughts as you hear them. For right this moment, we are allowing ourselves to see each other as God sees us.

Blessed are you when...you hear from a friend you haven't talked to in months or years and delight in the sound of that person's voice. Blessed are you when...you call them!

Blessed are you when...you pay your bills on time. Blessed are you when you can't pay your bills on time but do the best you can anyway.

Blessed are you when...you go to work every day and do your job really well without anyone ever saying "thanks." Blessed are you when every day, ever week you drive your kids to their countless activities and programs and feel more like a taxi driver than a parent. Blessed are you when...you do the wash, the dishes, the vacuuming and sweeping and all those chores that never end. That is a loving act.

Blessed are you for giving so much of your time for others. Blessed are you when...you take some time for yourself and just do what you want to do.

Blessed are you when you keep trying and trying despite having doors slammed in your face again and again...and when you let go and try another direction.

Blessed are you when...you take time to visit someone who is lonely. Blessed are you when you take time to pet a cat or dog that looks to you for a friendly touch. Blessed are you when you give someone a hug, especially children. Blessed are you when you get hugged.

Blessed are you when you admit you're wrong...and when you admit you don't know the answer. Blessed are you when you stand up for what you know is right...and when you continue to be open and continue to learn. Blessed are you when...you are flexible and listen to the other person's point of view and work out a good compromise. Blessed are you when you are true to yourself.

Blessed are you when...you keep trying to give up those difficult bad habits. Blessed are you when you forgive yourself for not giving up those habits.

Blessed are you...when you refrain from saying unkind things about someone who speaks unfairly of you. Blessed are you when you stand up for yourself.

Blessed are you when...you pay your child support month after month. Blessed are you when you receive your child support month after month. Blessed are you when you do the best you can.

Blessed are you when people know you're an honest, caring person because in the end that's what they'll remember.

Blessed are you when you fail. At least you tried and probably know a whole lot more now that those who never even do that. Blessed are you when you succeed. Sometimes we're just as afraid of succeeding as failing. It's okay. You did it!

Blessed are you when...you learn to see beauty and youth as something within a person no matter what their age or what they look like the outside. Blessed are you when you're not ashamed of who you really area. God don't make no junk!

Blessed are you when...you create something special that really reflects you. Blessed are you when you continue to discover your own unique gifts. Blessed are you when...you refuse to accept limits put on you. Blessed are you when you can accept your limits and recognize you really do need other people.

I'd like to close this reflection by asking you what affirmations you would like to share with the rest of us today. Blessed are you when you have a spiritual home like this. Amen.

Scripture:

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to speak, and taught them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Matthew 5:1-12

Reading from Swedenborg:

I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. That this signifies the presence of the Divine then, and influx, is evident from the signification of "coming unto" any one, when it is said by Jehovah, as being presence: and from the signification of "to be blessed," when by Jehovah, as being gifted with faith and charity, thus also their flowing in, for faith and charity flow in from the Lord. These things are "a blessing" in the internal sense, for they are what render us blessed and happy to eternity. During our life in the world, the things which we call blessings are those which render us blessed and happy in time, such as riches and honors. But the things which are meant in the internal sense of the Word are not temporal things, but eternal things, compared with which temporal things are of no account. For there is no ration between what is temporal and what is eternal, not even if the time be extended to thousands of myriads of years, for these have an end, but that which is eternal has not end. Wherefore that which is eternal is, for that which is without end is, because it has being from the Divine, which is infinite, and the infinite as to time is the eternal. But that which is temporal relatively is not, because when it is ended it is no more. Hence also it is plain that "blessing" in the spiritual sense is that which has within it being from the Divine, thus the things of eternal life, consequently those which are of charity and faith.

Arcana Coelestia (Heavenly Secrets) #8939

    

 

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