This morning, I am reminded of the glorious time I spent in the Holy Land, two years ago in January. One of the places we visited was the mountain where Jesus is said to have given a new law, the Mount of Beatitudes. He was telling the crowd listening to him that his God—our God—is a God who can, and does, turn things around. Especially for those who are in deepest need. Listen again, to Jesus’ words:
“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” —Matthew 5:1-12
My seminary group was standing along the balcony of this beautiful church built on the Mount of Beatitudes in 1938 while our tour guide, Gershon, was telling us every last detail about the place. The lush, well-manicured grounds surrounded us; brightly colored flowers and huge date palm trees made it seem like paradise. It was difficult for me to hear Gershon because I was standing at the back of the group. What I heard, instead, were voices singing, beneath us. I looked over the ledge and saw three men.
A short while later, we were allowed to explore the grounds on our own. I noticed that each Beatitude was written on the path, along the way. My friend, Beth, and I hadn’t walked far, when we ran into the same three men. “So you are the ones we heard singing!” I commented, not intending to stop for long.
I noticed that each man was holding a piece of paper. They explained how they were singing a song written by one of them, back in the States. They were Christian pilgrims like us, from a different denomination.
“Do you sing?” they asked.
“Why, yes!” I said. “I was raised in a church choir. Grew up singing in school choirs. My home church even let me lead ours, briefly.”
“Great!” they said. “Can you sight read?” They explained how they were missing the third part, and needed someone to sing along.
“I can’t promise anything, but I’ll be glad to try,” I replied.
One of the men offered to teach me the third part. We sang it together, to start with. Eventually, the two other men jumped in, with their parts. Finally, the one who’d taught me my part jumped to his part, and the four of us sang the song as it had been written.
Then they explained how this was significant… that the one who’d written this piece had dreamed of singing his song, right here in this place. No sooner had we reveled in our accomplishment than we started hearing voices beckoning us back to our tour buses. We said our goodbyes, and I never saw the men again.
This remains one of my favorite memories of the Holy Land, even though it was never on the itinerary. I had no idea this would happen, when I got up that morning. While I have some regret that I never saw the rest of the grounds, I did get to experience something I’ll never forget: playing a “part” to help fulfill a stranger’s dream.
Being distracted is usually seen as a weakness. But it can lead us to things that we might never imagine. Have you ever felt moved to spontaneously join a group of people you’ve never met? I want to encourage you, on this day, to be open to what is going on around you. Let your mind be curious. Be bold enough to start a conversation with someone you’ve never met. You might be greatly blessed, in the process.
Blessed are those who dream, and keep dreaming, even though it looks like their dreams may never happen. Blessed are those who just show up, anyway, trusting in God to make it happen. For the kingdom of God works to complete and fulfill, in ways we can never imagine.
Those men knew they only had three parts when they got off the bus. And yet, they still took their sheets of music, and sang, trusting in God to complete it.
Whatever dreams you have, that remain unfulfilled, know that God can still make a way where you cannot see—a way that includes and blesses those you may not have known, just moments before.