I try to teach on the beattitudes every year with high school and middle school youth. Even if it is simply one night when we read and engage them in all their complexity and mystery, we at least ponder together as young and old(er) disciples.
I have been convicted of late that Jesus' sermon on the mount, particularly this first 12 verses of Matthew 5, are to be regular meditations for all those who profess to follow Jesus as their teacher and perfect practitioner of the kingdom of God. The beatitudes are the prologue to the Jesus story, a prelude to the Messianic anthem, and a bold roll call for all those invited to adventure along this absurd parade route whose final destination is a world made new and right again.
I have even written my own rendition of these subversive announcements made by Jesus of Nazareth, contextualized declarations whose intended hearers are beloved high school and middle school youth. See Beatitudes Remixed.
I guess you can say I am kind of obsessed with these upside-down invitations. So when I watched, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I was drawn in to Patrick's toast to Charlie and could not help but here faint echoes of the ancient blessings.
Blessed are the wallflowers, for you see things and you understand.
That's right, if Jesus were to have delivered this epic sermon in 2013, I think it may have looked a lot like what took place in Patrick and Sam's basement. A toast delivered, with red and blue solo cups raised, to modern-day peacemakers, heart-broken mourners, irrational justice-seekers, timid skeptics, bullied outcasts, youth on school lunch meal plans, and all wallflowers who have wondered if anyone noticed they existed.
Yes, the beatitudes were first-century celebrations of all those trampled by systems bent towards the powerful, pretty, popular, and rich. Jesus was taking notice of those the rest of the world had dismissed and declaring them worthy of participation in what he was doing in and for the world.
Perfect. A clip worthy of a Sunday night youth talk. (go ahead, use it all you youth workers)
Then I was emailed this poem by the mother of one of my ninth grade girls (used with permission).
Day and Night by Brianna Emrich
Under the bright sunlight,
There never was a fight.
The little children laugh and play,
In the warm, sunny day.
They run and jump in all that is known,
In a light world they call their own.
You can see happiness all around,
It seems to be seeping from the ground.
Suddenly there is no one to be found,
Silence becomes a deafening sound.
Everyone has left for fear,
Of the darkness of night which has arrived here.
The darkness of the unknown,
Has them all rushing home.
Now is the time to be out and about,
For those who will always be cast out.
It seems like things may never change,
For those considered to be strange.
It always seems that from the first sight,
The lonely only belong in the night.
But when the light returns again,
The outcasts find a caring friend.
They prove the doubts are wrong,
And they find a place where they belong.
Out of silence comes a song,
Which had been playing all along.
A song of never-ending hope and love,
A song of dreams and the peace of the dove.
It rang throughout the bright daylight,
And continued into the darkness of night.
There is a light to every dark and a dark to every light,
And so continues this perpetual cycle of day and night.
That's even better! Thank you, Brianna, for this fresh beatitude for all those considered strange.
May the blessed poetry of this high school teen and the sacred lyrics of Jesus prove doubts wrong as we all here again, or for the first time, the good news: you belong!
May this never-ending song of hope and love strengthen you in your brightest days and darkest nights as we all draw closer to the day when God's dreams of peace and eternal welcome become our only known reality.
Blessed are the poets. Blessed are the wallflowers. Blessed are __________.
We all belong. That's something to meditate on day and night. That's worthy of a toast.
Helpful reads on the beatitudes:
- The Hunger Games and the Gospel: Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God by Julie Clawson. This book comsiders how the popular novel can be read as satire in a similar way to Jesus' teachings on the mount. Rad a related post, The Hunger Games: Prophetic Satire in Pop-Culture Story.
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- Down We Go by Kathy Escobar