Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Yesterday we waved our palms in worship as we began this week those in the Christian household call Holy Week. During this week we will once again tell the stories of Jesus’ last days and we will try to make sense of them once again. Over coffee and donuts after worship, I listened to a full-of-life teenager tell us that she loves the Good Friday service but she doesn’t like the music because it is too sad. In some ways it was a throw-away comment between bites and other trivial conversation. But later I thought that this is one of the central lessons we encounter if we pay attention to this season of Lent. The grief and sadness of life holds hands with the hope and promise of it. And if we are engaged in reflecting on this we have the opportunity for some kind of movement in our spiritual walk.
This particular Lent has been full of this hand holding. There are many in our community who are walking the grief road. Loved ones have passed from this life into eternity and they are grappling with how grief and hope dance together. Others are trying to absorb the shock of illness and the fragility of these earth homes we call bodies. Fear and uncertainty thread through the ordinary moments, the metered breaths of their days. The world news doesn’t help, holding us in a suspended state….planes lost, fathers and children missing, yet more violence by guns wielded in places we have called sanctuaries….supposed safe places.
All this had a particular scripture streaming in and out of my thoughts this last week. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…..for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words we often recite for the sweetness they sprinkle into a room have a greater power than we often admit. Placed on the lips of Jesus as he taught a gathered crowd, they can be a balm. This seemingly random thought that flowed through the stream of all the other things that filled up my brain became just that. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…..blessed are the poor in spirit……”
To be honest I don’t know that I have ever given much thought to what these words really mean. But this Lent, these forty days, have provided a canvas on which ‘poor in spirit’ has been painted. Being one who has what in one personality evaluative tool is called the ‘strength of empathy’, I have found myself knowing in a real way what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’. Being present to those whose grief and sadness is so real, I have found it taking up residence in my own life. The richness of spirit has become wanting.
And so, like those who love the ritual of darkness and light of Good Friday, I am also in full recognition of the sadness. But this blessing of Jesus….blessed are the poor in spirit….is not finished. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven….completes this phrase we can find so healing. This poverty of spirit comes to us all and at different times for different reasons. Perhaps the gift of this blessing is that we are provided the opening for heaven….how ever we imagine it….to shine in.
This has certainly been my experience. As the lives of those who have passed were celebrated and witness was made to their living, the light of the Holy shone all around. As illness made itself known, friends and family have circled the wagons and prayer has begun, meals have been prepared, people have been reminded once again, as we all must be, that this living is precious beyond knowing. Each time something is lost, something is also found. And slowly, over time, and with attention, the impoverished spirit is renewed.
Perhaps that is as good a way as any to begin this week we call holy. Over the weekend, my heart was full with much. Driving near our house with the window down I came near a small pond of water. The spring peepers were singing their song of newness. My spirit was lifted.