A surgeon walked into the operating theatre to begin his work and greeted the patient who was being prepped. To his surprise he recognised the sadistic PE teacher from his school years. The patient looked up at him and said, “Aren’t you the fat kid I used to make run round the school field in the freezing cold?”


“No,” said the surgeon, ‘That’s the anesthetist.”


How we behave and treat people matters. There are consequences! But it is not that easy. Follow the Ten Commandments people say. But they are a set of rules, and aspirational at best. As St Paul says in Romans, they are intended to expose our need of God’s Grace, his undeserved favour, so we ask him for it. The Ten Commandments are a pretty joyless bunch, rules to be kept, but the Beatitudes of Jesus are a creative mindset for daily life. That is very important, so I am going to say it again, the Ten Commandments are rules to be kept, but the Beatitudes of Jesus are a creative mindset for daily life.


Luke 6:20 Jesus looked up at his disciples and said, ‘Blessed are you…’


Indeed each of the Beatitudes begins with ‘Blessed are…..’ and ends with a payoff:


‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ These are those who know their need of forgiveness and accept God’s offer of free pardon in Christ. Last week and old lady said, ‘Tim, you are not a very good person, but you are a very kind person.’ I will take that. I know my need. The payoff? We inherit the Kingdom of God.


‘Blessed are those who mourn.’ Not just for loved ones but for the state of the people of this world. God expects us to do something. Can we send aid to the Tsunami victims in the far east? Take your choice of charity. The payoff? We will be comforted.


‘Blessed are the meek’. God hates pushy self-importance in people, which is why someone like the Queen is so impressive; she is interested and polite to everyone despite her exalted status. The payoff? Such will inherit the earth.


‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Truth and justice matter to God. Refugees are damned in our national press as some kind of enemy. Whatever the border issues should we not be offering help and at least a fair deal for all? The payoff? We too will be filled.


‘Blessed are the merciful.’ God extends his mercy to those who ask and expects us to do likewise. No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus can fall out with a friend or relative and say something like ‘I will never speak to her again.’ The payoff? We too may receive mercy.


‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ General Synod is about to fall out once again about Equal Marriage. Whatever our current views, in death all the dross of our existence will be burned away. The payoff? That way, we may see God.


‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’. Jesus is king of peace, he does not command his followers to engage in violent crusades. The payoff? Peacemakers are true children of God.


‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the right thing.’ This goes with the territory, like master like servant. In the ‘Me too’ revelations, are the victims of harassment right to tell the truth? Some sections of the press would say not. But the payoff for telling the truth? The kingdom of heaven.


‘Blessed are those reviled falsely on my account.’ The diocese is about to put up a new fence between my house and the churchyard. The PCC and Town Council are going to have to sort out the yew trees outside the church which have got out of control. I confidently expect that every day several angry people will buttonhole me outside or bang on my door and demand to know why this is. OK a trivial example but you take the point. And the payoff? A great reward.


The point today? The Ten Commandments are rules to be kept, but the Beatitudes of Jesus are a creative mindset for daily life. The will make all the difference.


In schools we talk a lot about ‘Growth Mindset’ helping young people deal with challenges that come their way; not giving up but thinking things through and developing strategies to succeed. Just like the Beatitudes!


A couple of years ago I was inspecting a school in Cowley, a not very nice part of Oxford. The school was full of various nationalities. At lunchtime I got chatting to a boy aged about 10. He was quiet and thoughtful. He told me how his family had fled the Taliban in Afghanistan, made their way to Europe, and ended up here?  “What do you like about life here?” I asked. He looked up and said, “the education,” then looked down and got on with his lunch. I was very impressed. Given the trauma of his early years, with a growth mindset like that he will go far and do well!


During Lent I invite you to join me in using Bishop Steven’s little booklet ’40 days of reflections on the Beatitudes.’ Each day there is a Bible verse, a thought, a prayer and suggested action. Remember, the Ten Commandments are rules to be kept, but the Beatitudes of Jesus are a creative mindset for daily life. And they will make all the difference.