Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blessed Mourning (Sermon on the Mount #4)

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." - Matthew 5:4

Jesus does not want us to live our lives in an artificial, "Pollyanna" existence.

Biblical hope is certain, and faith lifts our eyes to look at that future hope with full assurance that what we see now is not the end of the story. Christians have many reasons for joy, and we are right to recognize and celebrate them. However, it seems that in western Christianity, the emphasis on the promises of God sometimes leads us to believe that mourning is a lesser expression of faith - that God puts up with it, but tries to move us beyond it as soon as possible.

This beatitude reminds us that there is a time to mourn - and according to Jesus, there is a mourning that is not only acceptable, but "blessed". A mourning that ushers us into the fullness of satisfaction found in God alone.

“Mourn” in this passage literally means “sorrow-bearing”. It’s a word signifying the outward manifestation of grief; a grief too deep to be concealed. The tense used indicates an ongoing action – mourning as a way of life.

Jesus is not encouraging us to be depressed or morose. A quick look at a concordance reveals more than 200 uses of the word “joy”; in fact, we are specifically commanded to “Rejoice” over 100 times. What, then, is the mourning which is blessed because of the comfort that is assured? The wider canon of Scripture unveils at least two specific types of mourning that God honors.

Mourning over sin. Whether our own sin, sin in the church, or sin at a societal level, Scripture consistently records that grieving over sin is always appropriate. Paul actually chastised the church at Corinth for NOT appropriately mourning over sin in its midst. The opposite of mourning over a sin doesn’t always mean openly engaging in that sin. Scripture records a range of non-mournful reactions, including passive acceptance (1 Corinthians 5), active promotion (Matthew 5:19), and inappropriate humor (Proverbs 14:9). Isaiah and Daniel, two of the prophets Jesus refers to frequently, each faced times when an awareness of sin led to mourning and deep identificational repentance (Isaiah 6; Daniel 9). The only appropriate response to sin is mourning and repentance.

What is the blessing that comes with mourning over sin? Jesus promises that those who mourn “will be comforted.” The word for comfort is parakaleo; it’s the same word used for the Holy Spirit. When we mourn over sin, God comforts us with His Holy Spirit. This comfort isn’t to make us feel better about the sin; instead, in His comfort we are reminded of the hope that we have even in the depth of sin. He never leaves us or forsakes us; He promises to forgive and cleanse us; and His transforming power means that we can move beyond our own sin and be made more into His likeness. On a societal level, the Holy Spirit’s comfort reminds us of the message of redemption that we have been given – a message that transforms individuals, families, and nations.

Mourning over circumstances. Jesus cared deeply about people’s temporal needs as well. On several occasions, Scripture records that He was “moved with compassion” because of people’s hunger, loss, or sickness. In Luke 4, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 a description of His purpose. The Isaiah passage reveals much about God’s heart for both eternal and temporal needs.

(Isaiah 61:1-4 NIV) - The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
What is the comfort that comes from the Holy Spirit for those whose mourning is temporal? Certainly God wants to give them an eternal hope, but the example of Jesus as He walked this earth shows us that He also wants to make a difference in their circumstances. How does He do that today? Simply put: through us.

In Psalm 132, the people recall God’s purposes for Zion: For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it-- I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food.” (Psalm 132:13-15 NIV). Throughout the New Testament, God makes it clear that in His new temple, the church, all that He intended for Zion would be fulfilled – including meeting the needs of the poor through His people (2 Corinthians 8-9). As Christians, we should mourn over heartbreaking circumstances like human trafficking, hunger, deep poverty that leads to unnecessary deaths, hopeless diseases, the effects of war on the innocent … and we should pray for God to show us how we are to be part of His Holy Spirit’s comforting ministry to those in need.

“Now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Faith and hope rightly look beyond the present circumstance. But love reaches into the present circumstance and embraces the hurting. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The disciple-community does not shake off sorrow as though it were no concern of its own, but willing bears it.” May we willingly reach into our hurting world, make their pain our business, and allow our hearts to be broken with the things that break God’s heart.

I see the King of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes, the whole earth shakes
I see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing, the people sing

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest (x2)
[ Lyrics from: ]
[Verse 2]
I see a generation
Rising up to take the place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees, we're on our knees


Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

More lyrics:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good as usual. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us.