Lent Devotions: Must We Struggle to Be Blessed?

March 6, 2017

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). 

By Adam Bradley 

Matthew 5:1-12

In a world seen in scarcity, we are desperate for blessings that do not seem to come.

The proud, the vengeful, the bully, the advocate for selfishness, the strict, the hard-hearted, the warmonger, the oppressor… these ways of being make it impossible to hear the still small voice of God in our midst.

The poor, the mournful, the meek, the yearner for righteousness, the merciful, the pure-hearted, the peacemaker, the persecuted… these are the ones that Jesus proclaims will receive sacred blessings, the privilege of known communion with God.

Are we vulnerable enough for the Spirit to work in our lives? Can we feel our way through the darkness, bearing honest witness to our struggles, until the light of God’s own dawn breaks?

The kingdom is not made for those who are satisfied with their own spiritual wealth.

                             We must be willing to struggle towards a new life in Christ.

The comforted are those who are willing to feel the fullness of their mourning.

                             We must be willing to admit when we feel broken.

Meekness is the key to being faithful stewards of the Earth.

                             We must abandon the superiority of our species.

In yearning for what is good, we open the space to be filled.

                             We must be willing to admit we are sometimes lost in sin.

Extending mercy guarantees mercy for all.

                             We must remember no one is born into their own bootstraps.

Those who walk this world led by their heart will encounter God. 

                             We must acknowledge that the rational mind is not enough.

The struggle for peace is what comes of being a child of God.

                             We must reject an unexamined faith that thinks in terms of us and them.

The kingdom is not made for oppressors, but the persecuted will occupy the realm of God.

                             We must proclaim that a legalistic faith is no salvation at all.

Must we know suffering in order to know blessing?

Yes… let the cross bear witness to this truth. 

Let us not relativize the gospel to our Joy… but to our pain. We are able to sing our hallelujahs precisely because we know the depths of sin. We are blessed when we have not turned away from the horror of evil’s work in the world, but have stood alongside those in need with courage and steadfast resolve. Because in the midst of witnessing the suffering of God’s own creation, we come to know the Divine capacity within us for healing, for love, for forgiveness, for testimony, for hope in the coming realm of God’s own peace.

As we look to sustain strength for the struggle, remember the Hebrew scriptures tell us: “Weeping may linger for the night, but Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)

In a world seen in abundance, we are grateful for the blessings that were always there.  

Adam Bradley is an M.Div. student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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