Anne Sutherland Howard is executive director of The Beatitudes Society, a new organization building a national network for progressive Christian seminarians. The author, who is also preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California, uses Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount as a spur to consider afresh the meaning of discipleship:
"These brief sayings give us a lens through which to see Jesus and the God he proclaimed. Through these words, and through his alternative way in the world, Jesus points to a God who is always doing something new, a God who engages this world with healing mercy, endless compassion, and liberating justice. We see a God who is most concerned about those who have the least. The beatitudes give us not only a way to see God, but a way to see our world, and they give us something concrete to do about what we see, as they call us to participate in God's kingdom."
This inspiring and thought-provoking paperback looks at each of the Beatitudes and one person's way of living it. She has chosen various members of the Beatitude Society seminary students, divinity school graduates, and people serving in churches and organizations around the country. Most are in their twenties and thirties. Each chapter also contains further reflections by Howard and a series of study questions.
• In "Blessed are the poor in spirit," Chris Wendell offers a "third way" to see the relationship between poverty and wealth while also pondering the meaning of the beloved community.
• In "Blessed are those who mourn," Stefani Schatz acknowledges the deep loss and grief people feel and calls the church to become a place of radical hospitality and inclusion.
• In "Blessed are the meek," Alex Carpenter emphasizes taking care of the earth and creating right relationships.
• In "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice," Greta Leach challenges Christians to change the world through working for justice and building bridges between people and groups.
• In "Blessed are the merciful," April Blaine reveals that it is often more difficult to receive mercy than to give it to another.
• In "Blessed are the pure in heart," Mary Emily Briehl Duba finds the face of God in the practice of compassion.
• In "Blessed are the peacemakers," Kent Sensenig explores many ways to practice peace.
• In "Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice's sake," Jeremy Scott sees a link between this advice by Jesus and the fight against the global slave trade.
• In "Blessed are you persecuted," Obadiah Ballinger discusses the value of an activist-contemplative practice in a world where injustice is rampant.
Howard ends the book with a plea to Christians to be salt and light in a constantly changing world. The beatitudes, she reminds us, are both an invitation and a gift. They offer us a path of transformation if we only take a chance on growth and change.