The Wednesday evening adult class at church is discussing prayer. We are now looking at the model prayer, or the Lord’s Prayer, as it is more commonly known. When we finish with the study of the model prayer, I’d like to take the group to a different, but related topic.
The most common version of the Lord’s Prayer is found in what we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. That dissertation contains much more than just the model prayer, and I’d like to explore that a little more fully. To that end, I’ve obtained some resources from Randy Harris, professor of Bible at Abilene Christian University, regarding the sermon.
One of the first things he talks about is what we call the Beatitudes. These sayings are what we think Jesus opened his sermon with many years ago. And the first of those sayings is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Those of us who teach like to take things like this, pick them apart, and delve into the nuance of each word and phrase. But I’d like to, with just a little explanation, take this first beatitude to a level of understanding you may not have thought of before. I’m using information from Randy Harris for the background.
There is a Hebrew word for the folks Jesus is talking about here. That word is “anawim,” and means those who have been left behind. It means those who are NOT chosen when teams are chosen for a volleyball or softball game. It means the losers. It means those who have no value. It comes from the time when Israel was taken captive by a foreign power. The conqueror would take out of Israeli society only those who were useful to serve them in their land, and would leave all the others, the losers, in Israel.
Jesus’ very first words were that these people, the “anawim”, the losers, were blessed by God and would be given the kingdom of heaven.
Does that do anything at all for you? Can you relate to that? Have you ever felt like an “anawim”? Do you know what it feels like to feel worthless, not needed, and useless? Can you imagine the God of the universe blessing you and giving you a kingdom that cannot be shaken, cannot be moved, cannot be defeated?
This is something that is not only to be believed intellectually, but also absorbed into one’s heart and soul. This is something that we are to embrace, to cherish, and to treasure. Jesus gives us a gift that cannot be taken from us and for which we cannot possibly repay him. And he does it in his opening words, we think, in this the most loved sermon of all.
The next time you feel like a loser (and that probably will be later today or at the latest, tomorrow), remember the words of God Incarnate when he blesses the losers, the unwanted and unneeded, the “anawim”.