“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.”
Notice how the passage begins: Jesus sees the crowd, and goes up the mountain. His disciples come to him.
As my friend and colleague in ministry, Mike Kinman, points out, “'the crowd' is a key player in Matthew: it’s the crowd that enthusiastically greets Jesus when he enters Jerusalem. It's also the crowd that shouts out 'Crucify him!' soon afterward.
“For the crowd,” Kinman says, “Jesus is a curiosity and one on whom to project their hopes and desires. For a disciple, Jesus is one on whom Christ is projected ... one who becomes the Body of Christ.”
What a fantastic distinction to be reminded of: the distinction between those who are disciples -- followers, apprentices -- of the ways of Jesus, and those who are disciples -- followers, apprentices -- of the ways of the world, part of the crowd.
But as disciples, we are not called to follow Jesus individually. We’re called to follow Jesus in community.
Kinman says, “We are used to seeing the Beatitudes, like the Ten Commandments, as a list of things we have to live up to in full. But [Stanley] Hauerwas [one of the most respected Christian theologians and ethicists heard today] talks of them being a “community constitution” --
"The Sermon on the Mount is a description of a way of life of a people, a people of a new age that results from following Jesus. That is what it means to be blessed... That Jesus declares such people 'blessed' indicates that the transformed world has begun with the proclamation of 'the kingdom of heaven has come near.' Each of the Beatitudes names a gift, but it is not presumed that everyone who is a follower of Jesus will possess each beatitude. Rather, the gifts named in the Beatitudes suggest that the diversity of these gifts will be present in the community of those who have heard Jesus' call to discipleship. Indeed, to learn to be a disciple is to learn why we are dependent on those who mourn or who are meek, though we may not possess that gift ourselves."
Again, a great thing to be reminded of!
Individual disciples are one part of the body, not the entire body. Each member of a faith community has a unique role to play, a unique part of the body to be.
The good news is, this means no one person has to be all things to all people as he or she lives out one's faith.
It also each individual member of a faith community needs others. We all need others; that’s part of what it means to be a faith community.
And to take it further, it also means that each faith community -- each church -- is one part of the body, not the entire body.
Each faith community has a unique role to play, or part of the body to be. No one church has to be all things to all people as it lives out its vision.
And to take it even further -- more about this another time -- it also means that each church needs others… other churches, other denominations, the perspectives of other faiths.
Blessed are those who remind us what it means to be a disciple, in community!