For the next three weeks, we dip into the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps the most famous extended teaching from Jesus from the gospels. This week, we look at what are called the Beatitudes, the first part of the Sermon. The preaching notes begin with a question about posting the Beatitudes instead of the Ten Commandments. What if we began by posting the Beatitudes in the church? Maybe you could post a list, a poster sized list of all the Beatitudes in the worship area or entrance. Or maybe you could make a poster of each individual statement and scatter them throughout the whole church. A visual representation of these powerful statements of blessing and promise, glimpses of what living in the kin-dom of heaven is like, could be transformative for the whole congregation.
But the emphasis needs to be on the blessing. Jesus isn’t condemning folk for not living into this promise; he is blessing those who already have a vision of what it means to be fully alive in Christ and encouraging those who haven’t yet caught that vision to lean into the possibilities.
How do we balance blessing and challenge? How do we offer gratitude and exhortation both? Both elements can be encouraged during worship this week. Make sure the blessing is clear; we all need to feel that blessing, that presence of spirit and affirmation of our desire to follow Christ. At the same time, we can issue the challenge to continue in the way that leads to the kind-dom. We can grow in faith and witness. As always, it is most helpful to give suggestions as to what the next steps might be. “Where do we go from here?” is a common question following an exhortation to grow in faith. If there is no direction after such a call, then it is better to not issue the call.
Are there groups to join for further study? Is there a mission effort that can use help and hands? Where can I plug in, how can I be useful? These and similar questions can guide the direction efforts of the worship team. Don’t assume everyone knows how to be a part of the life of the church. There are those for whom church life seems alien, no matter how long they might have attended. Be clear, provide help, notes if possible, something to hold in their hands and refer to later.
We are celebrating the church throughout this series. And we are recognizing the church as a gift that we dare not keep to ourselves. We are not blessed to feel better in ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.