Matthew 5:1-9 (5:9) – August 21, 2022
We are drawing near to the end of summer. For some of us, summer is already over! I remind all of us that we just blessed the backpacks for the children and young people going back to school. And, I can remember my children going back to school – they missed those days of summer vacation, even though there was excitement in being in a new grade, with new classes, new teachers, and new books. We are drawing near to the end of our summer sermon series, too. Only two more Beatitudes, and our weekly examination of these Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus will come to an end, as well.
With our focus on the children and young people today, with our blessing of backpacks, I am reminded of one of my favorite bible commentators. Carolyn Brown, retired Children’s Ministry Director from the Presbyterian Church (USA), has tremendous insights in her weekly lectionary series Worshiping with Children. Listen to her version of the Beatitudes: first what the world considers great and powerful, and then what Jesus says is important to God.
“In today’s world…
It’s good for the rich, they can buy whatever they want.
It’s good for the strong, they can take whatever they want. They will also make the team.
It’s good for the winners, they get all the prizes.
It’s good for the smart. They get straight A’s, get to go to college, and get good jobs.
It’s good for the beautiful. They will get their pictures in magazines and get to be in movies.
It’s good for the grownups. They get to make all the plans.
Jesus says that in his kingdom…
It’s good for those who know they do not know everything. They belong in God’s world.
It’s good for those who are terribly sad. They will be comforted.
It’s good for those who obey. They will be in charge.
It’s good for those who don’t get justice now. They WILL get it.
It’s good for those who forgive and care about others. God forgives and cares about them.
It’s good for those who are pure in heart. They will see God.
It’s good for the peacemakers. They will be praised as God’s own children.
It’s good for those who are hurt because they stand up for God’s ways. They will be called heroes and heroines. 
What kind of topsy-turvy teachings are these? We are looking at Jesus’s blessing for the peacemakers this week. Certainly, most of the world today does not promote peace. Looking at the military and armed forces all over the world, I don’t think most of the national governments worldwide promote peace, either. Oh, they might SAY they are for peace, but what would happen to the big corporations and all the bombs and tanks and fighter jets and military equipment that keeps getting produced and sold, all over the world?
If we go back to Matthew chapter 5 and double check today’s verse, we find “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” How marvelous is that?
Many people use the word peace to mean stopping conflict, or being free from disruption. Those things are very desirable! But, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom: much more than calm, quiet, or a lack of conflict. “True peace is what Jesus and his followers called “shalom,” which means wholeness and wellness. All of your needs—physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.—are met and lovingly cared for. Have you ever felt that kind of peace?” 
Sadly, large, powerful countries have taken over smaller, weaker provinces and states, for thousands of years. We can see it right now with Russia trying very hard to take over the Ukraine. (And, the Ukrainian people are putting up one huge fight!) Many countries are holding their collective breath, watching the worldwide wars, conflicts, and rumors of wars.
Look at peacemaking from another direction. When you and I are willing to make peace and to be peaceful, that way of thinking is alien to the world. Worldly people think, “How will that affect me? I want mine! To heck with anybody else!” This sounds exactly like the worldly system, not God’s way! Exactly what Carolyn Brown said: “In today’s [crooked, self-centered] world, it’s good for the strong; they can do whatever they want.” This selfish, self-centered way of thinking and acting is so negative. That is exactly the starting point of all quarrelling, fighting, arguing, and when it gets big enough, going to war. Not God’s way, at all!
Sometimes, governments say they will bring peace to a neighboring province or country, but they end up as conquerors, imposing harsh laws that hurt and oppress. But, how can you and I bring about peace, when we face such overwhelming forces? We can create peace with one kind and loving act at a time. We need to use our voices “and what power we have to bring justice, not just say we want peace. People have been chanting “No Justice, No Peace” during protests since at least the 1970s. It means there won’t be wholeness or peace until there is justice among us.” 
God is not pleased with warfare, that is for sure! Instead, God wishes peace! Shalom! Peace is not only the stopping of warfare and conflict, but wholeness and wellness in all ways. Shalom is to be among all people: “young and old, disabled and non-disabled, among all genders, between nations, and among all expressions of faith. Remember, God’s peace is not fake peace.”  This peace, this shalom is a deep and abiding wholeness that can sometimes be surprising, even disruptive. This is why Jesus blessed the peacemakers. This is why Jesus blesses each of us.
I ask again: what would Jesus do? Go. Do that. Go and be a peacemaker, like Jesus.
(Thanks to illustratedministries.com for their excellent family Sunday school curriculum on the Beatitudes. I will be using this curriculum all summer as source material for a summer sermon series on the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)
 Illustrated Ministries, Curriculum for Summer Sunday school family series, “The Beatitudes.” Summer 2022.