Happiness is… Those Who Mourn

By: Donnell Wyche – September 22, 2019

Preamble

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Introduction

Jesus has gathered a large crowd because of his proclamation and demonstration of the kingdom of God. In the crowd are all sort of folks, folks from every walk of life. The crowd is full of sinners of all types, sizes, and colors–there are tax collectors (modern day terrorists), prostitutes, Gentiles, and the really really religious. As you enter into the text with me, imagine that this audience represents the full spectrum of the human experience. Each of them there with their own story, their own understanding of God, themselves, and how they fit within God’s larger the story of creation. When he saw the crowds that gathered to hear him teach, he went up on a mountainside, a hotbed of terrorist activity, and began to teach them. It’s here that he announces… 

Blessed… or Happy….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3–12)

Jesus wasn’t giving us a new list of moral virtues that mark the person who is welcomed in the Kingdom. He wasn’t laying out new boundaries markers of who’s in and who’s out. 

Instead, I believe that Jesus was announcing something that already was. Last week we considered the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” today we consider,

“Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Or as the Good News Bible translates it,

“Happy  are those who mourn,

God will comfort them!” (Matthew 5:4, GNB)

Just like last week, I’m offering that we read the beatitudes as a condition we are in instead of something we aspire to. Jesus, in giving us this list, isn’t inviting us to find ways to suffer in order for us to be blessed or happy. Yet, we are invited to recognized that suffering often can be a helpful teacher. 

Suffering and mourning are a part of the human condition. Jesus understands this. This is vitally important. Jesus, God’s anointed messiah wasn’t even exempted from the experience of suffering, something we all share with him.

The prophet Isaiah in describing God’s anticipated messiah put it this way,

He was despised and rejected— 

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. 

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. 

He was despised, and we did not care. (Isaiah 55:3)

When considering that Jesus is a man of sorrows, if we know his story, we often jump to the garden story before the cross. But Jesus was acquainted with deep grief before ever having to consider the cross. He wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35) and Matthew noted that Jesus, when considering Jerusalem, remarked,

36They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36-38)

Most of Jesus’s ministry activity can be attributed to his compassion, deep loss, grief, and mourning. Often we we are moved to do something for another person it is because of our sorrow or grief over what they are experiencing. As the prophet Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was a man acquainted with sorrow and grief and reminds us that,

33“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b)

Therefore mourning is the expected response to the reality that the world isn’t the way we want it to be.

Anne Lamott in her helpful little book, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers says, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and baggage you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.” 

Often it is in these moments of desperation where we discover that we can’t do it on our own, that we need God, and this realization gives way to our mourning. 

It’s the cry of everyone who has been overlooked/ignored. 

It’s the cry of everyone who has been treated unfairly.

It’s the cry of everyone who have been treaded upon.

It’s the cry of the brokenhearted.

It’s the cry of the defenseless.

It’s the cry of the weak.

We all suffer and the Beatitudes tell us when we mourn, we will be comforted.

So, how can those who mourn be happy or blessed? Especially if that mourning is the result of some amount of suffering?

It may be helpful for us to acknowledge that pain rearranges our priorities. 

Bike accident, burnt down house, the loss of loved one…

There’s a way that going through a painful situation opens us to gratitude. We don’t look for painful experiences to learn gratitude, there’s just a connection between having experienced something and overcoming something. 

Hear Ecclesiastes 7:2-4,

2It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. 3Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad. 4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:2–4)

Those who mourn have a gift for the rest of us. They can teach us what to do with the disappointment, pain, and suffering that we will all undoubtedly experience.  There is a treasure hidden in the field of our lives when learn how to give up on protecting ourselves from sadness, disappointment, and suffering.

Hear Jesus,

“Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Because our mourning expresses what we are struggling with, our complaints, our sense of being treated unfairly. Mourning includes the deep grief caused by the personal sins we participate in, the tragedies we experiences, the losses and sets-back across our lived experiences, and the social evil and oppression that is around us. It’s the vocalization of the injustice we feel and the injustices that we bare witness to.

“Mourning that is other-centered is, then, a manifestation of our protest against the evil and injustice that causes the massive suffering of our human family, as well as our demand for restorative justice.” Mourning makes the voice of the sufferers heard and their unjust suffering know. When we mourn and lament, we shine a light on the plight of others by giving rise and validation to their pain and suffering. When mourn with others, we are also participating in the comfort in those who mourn.

STORY: I was invited to join a friend who was advocating for a better resolution to a situation that had gone south for them. We started the meeting by listening to this friend share their story of pain and suffering. Let me say this was in a business context, we were in an official meeting that was being recorded and HR was present in the room. After this friend shared, I was asked by the other participants to comment and/or clarify, but instead, I just wept. I was so overwhelmed by this friend’s story of pain, suffering, and misunderstanding that all I could do is cry. Those tears surprised me. But all I could do was mourn the misunderstanding, mourn the pain, mourn the suffering that my friend had experienced. I cried for awhile so everyone sat there and let me cry it out, as it were, before the meeting continued. I can say that the whole tenor of the meeting changed, instead of what might have been an adversarial meeting, we were able to get on the same page because something had shifted.

One of things I think Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes is giving us a picture. A picture of community. I’m grateful to this friend that they invited me to this business meeting to bear witness to their pain and suffering. While my tears didn’t solve the misunderstanding, the suffering, or erase the pain they experienced, it did offer comfort. Comfort because this overwhelming suffering wasn’t experienced alone. There was something freeing that occurred because my tears validated as real what they had experienced, what they went through, what had happened to them.

Hear Jesus,

“Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

I have one more reflection, and it is that our mourning goes further because it can actually help us undermine our scheming, our taking matters into our own hands, that we do when we find ourselves powerless. We mourn what we cannot change, which allows us to surrender to God, and God’s just reign. 

Jesus promises us that we will be comforted. This comfort includes the salvation and redemption of God (Isaiah 61:2, Jeremiah 31:13), which includes healing, forgiveness of our sins (Isaiah 57:18, 40:1-2), and our liberation and return from exile (Isaiah 49:13). 

“Happy  are those who mourn,

God will comfort them!” (Matthew 5:4, GNB)

Prayer Senses

Healing from torment and abuse for someone’s daughter. The Lord is watching over her. He is guiding her steps. Her steps are ordered by the Lord. He’s with her. He is releasing mercy and breakthrough. 

Encouragement for those struggling to hear His voice. If you want to hear His voice, get in the Word. He will show you where to start. 

Courage for those navigating transition. 

Humility. The Lord is inviting us to repent of the idols we construct (of our work, of our children, of our efforts, of our scholarship). God seeks to center you and your work/family in His wisdom and authority. 

Courage and breakthrough. The Lord is releasing courage to tell ourselves His truth. He’s calling you to level up, to not settle for moments of partial freedom. 

Blessing for leaders. If you are in a leadership position where you work, the Lord would like to release healing, wisdom, and wholeness to you. He is calling you to pray for your workplace and to seek His guidance and vision for what He wants to do through you there. 

Forgiveness and freedom from shame. The Lord is releasing love to those struggling with secret sin. He is calling you to confess to someone, that you may be freed from shame, and receive His love and mercy as you take steps towards freedom. 

Scriptures: Isaiah 55:8-9; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Genesis 15:1.