Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Reflections for Youth - Cattywampus Blessings

One of my favorite words is cattywampus.

It's just such a fun word to say. Try it! Say it out loud right now! See? It's one of those words that sounds like it's meaning.  Cattywampus means something that is out of order or in disarray. Something that is askew - not quite right. It's something that might not make sense.

I'll be honest - there are a lot of things Jesus said during his ministry that seem cattywampus to me. Things that I have struggled to understand how they make sense. 

The Beatitudes have always been confusing to me.  These are the sayings of Jesus that start with "Blessed are ..."

The Beatitudes are part of what's known as Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which the longest continuous stretch of teachings and sayings from Jesus in the gospels.  It's probably some of the most familiar and best-known teachings of Jesus (it also includes the Lord's Prayer.)

Jesus is traveling around teaching the crowds and his disciples around Galilee. Matthew's gospel says that Jesus took the disciples up on the side of a mountain and sat down and shared what we call The Beatitudes.   Here's what he said:
 "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 receive 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 for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

(You can read the whole passage here: Matthew 5: 1-12.)

This sounds nice, right?  But what do these statements really mean? What is he trying to say to the disciples?  To me, it seems a little, well - cattywampus.

What do you think?

Here is what I've been thinking about lately and maybe this will be helpful for you, too.  I don't think Jesus is giving the disciples (and us) a to-do list. Jesus is not asking the crowd to become poor in spirit, or mourners, or persecuted for righteousness'sake. Instead, this is Jesus recognizing people and meeting them where they are. He is offering comfort to those of us who find ourselves, poor, mourning, and persecuted. 

These are not statements telling us what to do. They are promises. They are blessings. 
So, what does being blessed mean? Well, one thing that is can mean is that God is close to us. Jesus lists some people that are blessed - or close to God. 

Maybe one thing that all the people have in common is they all want something that God wants, too. The peacemakers want peace, just like God does.
The merciful want mercy, just like God does.
And then there are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, just like God does.

I also think it's helpful not to focus on the statements individually - but to look at them as a whole.  Each one is related to the others and they build on one another.  What we can take from this list of statements are three main themes: simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. Maybe we can reflect on how we can focus on these three things in our own lives. 

There is a children's book that I got from the library recently to read to the Sunday school kids. It's called "The Catawampus Cat."   Of course, I picked it because it has one of my favorite words in the title.  The story is about a cat that walks with a lean. As he walks about town some folks try to straighten him out so he doesn't lean.  But that doesn't work.

So, in the story, the people that he meets in the town decide that they will just tilt their heads when they look at him.  So the book is filled with stories about the people that encounter the cat and begin to see things in a new way - because they have tilted their heads and altered their view. The painter looks at his art differently and is inspired. A woman finds a lost ring when she is looking at the ground from a new perspective. All throughout the book there are people in the town whose lives are transformed by just changing their view.

I am thinking that Jesus was like the Catawampus cat. His teachings offered new perspectives on may topics like outsiders, status, and worry. The disciples and people who followed him responded to his message in ways that transformed them.

A question to think about:
How can the Beatitudes transform your view of life and others?
How can these teachings help us see things in a different way?
Who are the people that you see in the world that are "The Blessed?"

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