Consider this question. (You don’t have to write an essay, but just think through what your answer might be.)
- What five things do human beings need most?
Read through Matthew 5:3-4 (either alone or as a group). As you read, look at the notes you made when you read the Beatitudes last week:
- !! for that which makes you think;
- those things you agree with, or approve of;
- those things you find difficult to believe or understand;
- ?? those things which require you to go a little bit further.
A note to help you:
In the Old Testament “the poor” has a complex meaning. Look at the way various English bible have translated Isaiah 61:1:
- KJV : The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek
- CEV : The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me! The LORD has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news
- RSV : The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted
- GNB : The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor
The Hebrew word is ‘anav, and the King James Bible translates it ‘meek’ thirteen times, ‘humble’ and ‘poor’ both five times, lowly twice, and once as ‘meek’.
Can you answer these questions?
- What does it mean to be ‘poor in spirit’? Write a definition.
- Read Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-25). What light does it shed on the first Beatitude?
- Is there any relationship between spiritual and material poverty? How does one illuminate the other?
What do you think of this quotation:
- It is hard for us to say, ‘Yes, I am poor,’ and to say it simply, and it is even harder to say it and then leave it at that, without the rider, ‘And something has got be done about it.’ Simon Tugwell : Reflections on the Beatitudes (1980)
- Why might Jesus’s disciples be mourning?
- In what way would their mourning be comforted?
- What things do you mourn over?
- What is the effect on people and communities of refusing to mourn? Can you think of examples?
- What is the connection between mourning and repentance?
What do you think of this quotation:
- For the Christian, the starting point in… mourning is personal confession and repentance. We dare to face and own our wounds before attempting to help others, and take the beam out of our own eye first before helping to remove the speck in the other person’s eye. So mourning is the capacity to face the gap between present reality and perceived good. Robert Warren, Living Well (1998)
Simon and Garfunkel : Blessed – Sounds of Silence (1965); Paul Simon (b. 1941)
Simon and Garfunkel were, for many years, producers of the best selling record of all time with their final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon’s work has suffered by being if anything too familiar: it is hard to hear the original recordings as if for the first time, with fresh ears. ‘Blessed’ is from their early break-through album, recorded after the unexpected success of The Sound of Silence. Written during his stay in England (hence the reference to Soho in the first verse).
Two versions are included here. The first is the original album version, complete with jarring electric guitars and drum backing, which add to the sense of alienation and dislocation Simon conveyed by his lyrics. If that is too loud for your ears the second version, recorded live, unaccompanied except for Simon’s acoustic guitar, at a concert given by the pair in the Lincoln Center, New York City in early 1967 shows a mastery of weaving harmony lines and the precision of their performance.
What do you think of the people Simon mentions in the song? Can they be ‘blessed’ too? Are you ever able to “bless the church service which makes me nervous?”