This Sunday we begin a new series at Darkwood Brew based on the above title.  The Beatitudes (the “blessed are …” statements from Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5; cf. Luke 6), can be understood as Jesus’ way of unpacking the phrase that framed his whole ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt 4: 17; cf. Mark 1:15 – “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news”).  As I explained at the 1/2/10 Darkwood Brew, this phrase is best translated, “Change your whole way of thinking, for heaven is NOW!”

With all the “hell” in the world, it would definitely take a complete change of thinking to believe that heaven is NOW – which is what the Beatitudes are all about.  I hope you’ll join us for some surprising takes on the meaning of these beatitudes and some very special guests who will be joining us via Skype.

This Sunday, we’ll be joined by Jeff Cook, author of an excellent book on the Beatitudes called Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes. Jeff has a delightful way of seeing connections between the Beatitudes, the Seven Deadlies, and all kinds of aspects of modern culture – from music, to film, to … well, just about everything!

Also joining us during this series are a bunch of folks all over the country who are members of The Beatitudes Society – including guest blogger (for this series) Kimberly Knight, who was our Skype Guest on the 12/12/10 episode.  The Beatitudes Society develops and sustains emerging Christian leaders as they build a progressive network for justice, compassion and peace as expressed in the Beatitudes.  Their Executive Director, Anne Howard, will also be a Skype Guest on an upcoming episode.  Anne has also written a nice book on the Beatitudes called Claiming the Beatitudes: Nine Stories from a New Generation. What’s distinctive about Anne’s book is that it focuses on the stories of a people, mostly in their 20s, who are living the Beatitudes in one way or another.  If you find theology intimidating and like to focus on inspiring, concrete stories from everyday life, Anne’s book is for you (and Anne’s no theological slouch, either!).

I recommend you go to your local bookstore, or get on or another online bookseller and pick up a copy of one or more of the above two books or two others we recommend below (I personally have all of them and love them for different reasons):

Erik Kolbell, What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life This book has a nice balance between scholarship and everyday life anecdotes.  It is less scholarly than Forest’s (below) and less attuned to contemporary culture than Cook’s (above), but is perhaps the most accessible of any of the recommended books to the general reader.

Jim Forest, Ladder of the Beatitudes This book is the “deepest” of the four.  I’m constantly amazed at all the great and insightful material from the past 2,000 years that Forest is aware of, and includes.  In fact, I kinda hope you don’t read this because I’ll probably be borrowing a lot from his book!  🙂  Forest’s book less accessible to the average reader than the others, but don’t let this put you off is you are seriously wanting to learn about the Beatitudes.  Forest is far from arcane, and writes well.  We wouldn’t recommend a book we thought most people wouldn’t understand or like (and there are plenty out there!).

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