The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
When a couple prepare to be married here at St. Paul’s, they choose the Bible readings for their wedding from a list of options. In doing this for their wedding today, Kristy and Jason chose as the gospel passage to be read the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
Only moments ago I stood before them and before all of you and read this passage with its refrain of “Blessed are.” Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, and so forth.
These Beatitudes are one of the central passages in the Bible. Consider where they appear. When Jesus begins his public ministry, he goes up on to a mountain top and sits down among his disciples and the crowds surrounding him. He speaks to them and to us, setting forth the charter for his kingdom, God’s reign here on earth. And he starts this charter with a series of blessings, blessings bestowed on certain categories of people.
These blessings, which we call the Beatitudes, sound strange when we dare to listen to them. For the people Jesus blessed are not the sort that this world honors and emulates. They are not the strivers, the aggressive, the self-confident. Far from it! They are instead the spiritually empty, those honest about their grief, the humble, people who want universal justice.
These are the ones Jesus blesses, and for them he unrolls a list of promises. They will be comforted. Their hunger will be satisfied. They will receive mercy. They will see God. It is this unlikely crew who are blessed, and they receive the promises.
It is good to remember these Beatitudes. It is good to remember them here on this wedding day. It is also good to remember them on a day that is the very opposite of a wedding, a day when we believe ourselves to be the furthest thing from blessed.
For sometimes that’s how it is for us. We feel forsaken. We feel overwhelmed by our grief. We are unable to be assertive. We desire justice, but do not see it. We’re merciful, while competition runs the world. We are innocent, even innocent to a fault. We work for peace, but our efforts are blocked. Though we take the side of the angels, we find ourselves ignored, dishonored, opposed.
It’s times like these when we can remember that Jesus blesses some unlikely groups of people. A reward waits for them. They are empty enough that God can move into their lives. God is their reward. It is people like these who come to know God.
Kristy and Jason, you chose the Beatitudes for your wedding today. My prayer is that you will choose the Beatitudes for your life together. Claim these blessings for yourselves. Dare to live the life they describe. Let the Beatitudes be the story of your marriage.
It’s easy for me to say these words. It may prove hard for you to live them out through the years ahead that await you. The moment may come when you want the prize that goes to the strivers, the aggressive, the self-confident. But what they get is only a consolation prize, a cheap replacement for the real thing, a life unworthy of the name.
Continue on your straight path. Go against the grain. Support each other in this, love one another, and your marriage can testify to the kingdom Jesus announces, God’s reign here on earth.
Make the Beatitudes your own, this series of unlikely blessings. Here is a project worthy of the next half century or more. It is a way to welcome eternity.
• Copyright for this sermon 2008, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and the author of “A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals” (Cowley Publications).