The story of King Arthur is a fascinating one, whether you believe that the legends are true or that they are just simple stories of virtue and honor. The story of the sword and the stone has stood apart in literature. It’s a story that has had countless retellings, but overall it’s the story of Excalibur. A mythical sword is stuck within a boulder or anvil and though the strongest men come to extract it with brute strength they are all completely unsuccessful. Finally, Arthur, who is perceived as a weakling, comes to the sword and, because of his internal character, he is able to quite easily take hold of Excalibur and claim the rights of the kingdom. The sword is then seen to have amazing powers for Arthur such as blinding light and powers for the one wielding it. Arthur will not bleed when he is struck. The sword is protective of its owner due to the owner’s virtuous character. While this traditional English story is engaging to us modern thinkers, there is a reason it has stood through a millennium. This virtue story only takes up one branch in an ancient tree full of legends and stories about the weak honored over the strong or seemingly imposing. I cannot help but think God has influenced humanity to be constantly reminded of this principle!
Jesus opened his mouth to the people saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2). The term ‘blessed’ is not simply another word for happy, but the word for human flourishing. Jesus is preaching to disciples and followers that if we are to be a flourishing people, a protected people, a people who represent the power of citizenship in God’s kingdom, then we must be poor in spirit. As you read your way through the section of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes (or blessings) you will pick up on the difficulty, the challenge of living out these virtues.
What does it mean to be poor in spirit? When we look through the other blessings listed we see there is a bit of overlap regarding these characteristics. We are to be a meek and humble people. We are to be a people that desire after God’s righteousness and mourn for the effects of sin in our lives and the world all around us. We are to seek after peace. Through all of this we will expect and anticipate a difficult and challenging journey. Isn’t it difficult to know that sin makes each and every single human being equally dependent on God’s grace? But we will have the kingdom, we will have satisfaction, we will have comfort, we will be called sons of God, we will experience mercy. Notice how in every instance we have both the present and the future blessings together. The kingdom of Christ is here now and someday we will experience it in fullness! We will experience mercy that moves through us into others. We will find comfort in Christ even though we mourn. We are given the instructions that will allow us to flourish as redeemed people.
God calls us to come before the impossible task, the boulder of our own will, and to lift our hands to the sword and pull. In humility we give to Christ our labors and stresses and in his mighty power we wield the emblem of the kingdom that saves us from the storm of both wrath and circumstance – the cross of ultimate humility. The cross that we are to imitate. In desiring after Christ we begin to imitate the blessedness of God’s kingdom. It is our task as Christians to give ourselves wholly to God, in word and deed. When we do so we experience the Spirit working in us to bring peace and satisfaction. Isaiah says, “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (Isa 26:12). The One who began the work of grace will make you a display of his complete power if you let yourself be wholly used today (Phil 1:6)!
Too often we try to add our own assertions, our fallible teachings to the simple truth of grace. Arthur did not presume that it was his strength that pulled the sword from the stone. We should not presume that we, by ourselves, can do anything to merit our salvation, peace, or flourishing. We humble ourselves as we speak to others not from pride or resentment, but in mercy and comfort. Humility allows for others to see the peace and strength of Christ within us. They will see the kingdom and desire after the king!
Do we strive to live out the virtues of the Beatitudes? Let us pray this week that we will humble ourselves no matter who or what crosses our paths. Let us be a people wholly devoted to You, our Father, and in that way wholeheartedly and unashamedly extend Your kingdom to others.
Praise You Lord of Hosts.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.