This past Sunday I preached on the Lukan Beatitudes. As usual with Luke I was left quite touched, convicted and comforted. Blessedness in the Kingdom of God is much different than the blessedness of the world. See here:
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Jesus spoke these blessings to a community of disciples that were battered, bruised and beaten up. They were poor because they had been rejected by their families for following Jesus which meant that they lost their inheritance and their security. They wept because their lives continued on without their loved ones, the people they had known from birth. They were hungry because they had left behind their wealth and were ostracized. And of course, they were hated, reviled and excluded because they followed a peasant Jew who hung on a cursed tree, rose from the dead, and called into question many of the things that the world values. Yet, despite of all this Jesus says that they are blessed.
Have you ever witnessed someone post something like the following with a hashtag?
My family hates me.#Blessed
I am poor.#Blessed
My church is dying.#Blessed
Just gave birth to a premature child.#Blessed
Probably never, right?
Rather, talk of blessing usually comes with good things like buying a home, having a healthy child, getting a job promotion, growing a church. In Western Christianity, it’s really not a huge leap from conservative theology to the prosperity gospel.
So what can the blessedness of the Lukan disciple community teach us today, 2,000 years later? Maybe that blessedness is not to be found in the center of society but on the margins and amongst the seemingly unsuccessful. Remember that the woes come to the rich, the full, the happy, those who are spoken well of. On the surface such things don’t seem bad. After all, who doesn’t like a good laugh? But on a deeper level these are all things that can encourage less dependency upon God.
There’s a mystery when it comes to blessedness but on another level there is something that is quite clear about those whom Jesus says are blessed. Because of their predicament they go to God. While being a beggar is not glorious, it forces one into a very specific relation to the Creator. That’s the mystery of blessedness, it’s often not what it seems. The “unsuccessful” are often forced to go to God because they have no one else to go to. “The successful” have the resources, the people, the influence. They have won friends and influenced people.
Strangely blessing comes in the midst of pain, loss and tragedy. In such places we are the least likely to think we or others are blessed. In the mystery of this thing we call life, though, that’s where transformation is more likely to take place. The Cross was a cursed place in the mind of any normal Jew or Roman but we now know it as a blessed place 2,000 years removed. But this was a horrible place for anyone to go. In fact, it would probably be best if we spent time contemplating just what happened there: execution, death, torture, mockery, abuse, nudity. Clearly, this is where the bad people ended up, at least that’s where the terrorists of the day went and for good reason. It was considered cursed for good reason.
And that’s where Jesus ended up too. #Blessed