“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: And when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: For they shall be comforted.”
This is the first of thirteen discourses on the Sermon on the Mount, I am sure Wesley preached on it more than that because this is the crux of the social justice & holiness threads of Methodism.
This is the Methodism I experienced as a child, the love of God expressed not only in church but in the way the Northern women in two-up, two-downs lived and loved with each other. Eileen was sick, her fifth child was under two, her eldest causing chaos around the village at seventeen, her world was falling apart, her travelling salesman husband was beginning to see the lodger’s eyes in the fourth and fifth children. The lodger seemed more at home there than the husband. There were bruises and much walking into doors. The women of the street took over. The children were sheltered in neighbouring houses, the lodger moved in down the road and Eileen and her husband were given time to themselves and with the local Minister. The result some months later was an amicable separation and two years later Eileen married the lodger who adopted all the children and began helping the oldest rehabilitate after borstal and prison. The women met Eileen and her family not full of false piety, they met them in love, and there was accountability and consequences but most of all was LOVE.
Wesley talks of the poor in spirit not in earthly terms of poverty but as humble people who know they have sinned, know they have fallen short and cannot do anything in themselves to gain righteousness. The humble who fall at the foot of Cross knowing there is nothing they can DO to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and lay themselves naked before the Lord confessing their sin, repenting of their sin and receiving forgiveness (which they did not deserve) and stand with a slate wiped clean.
Still sound hoity toity! Let’s make it personal. I is a good word to start with. I fell at the foot of the Cross, I lay all my sins before Him, I confessed over many days my sins, I repented of them and I received forgiveness and I accepted that I had been forgiven and I can stand with a slate wiped clean. Christ in dying on the Cross atoned for MY sin, for my sin that was, is and still to come. He atoned for all our sin. Because it was needed, there was nothing we could do to get back the relationship that Abraham and Moses and the prophets had with God. There was a gaping hole, and there was nothing anyone could DO to bridge it – except… God himself came down to earth, where he lived as a man, he was fully a man whilst being fully divine, he taught and preached, he healed, he met people in dire circumstances – he touched a leper, he came to fulfil the Law, and we – humanity tortured, battered and bruised him, we laughed and scoffed at him and we drove nails through his body and hung him on a tree. But in dying on that Cross, making it look like the world and the devil had won. He snatched victory, the veil was torn and he died to atone for our sin. When he rose again and stayed in resurrected form for some time he continued to walk with his disciples a small while before ascending to heaven. Mission accomplished. Relationship restored, there was now a way for us into the Kingdom of Heaven, the door stays open for us – all we have to do is turn to him, turn to Christ and begin that process of life ever after which starts with a humble heart and one word SORRY.