If I needed a reminder that God's ways are not my ways, the Gospel lectionary reading for today from Luke 6:20-26 provides it....
Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.‘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.‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.Luke gives a slightly different version of what we have come to call, in Matthew's Gospel, The Sermon on the Mount. Luke has it taking place on a plain, not a mountain. In Luke 6:17 we read, "He came down and stood with them on a level place." Rather than being like Moses who went up the mountain, Jesus comes down the mountain and identifies with us in all of our humanity, frailty, and poverty.
Regarding that last point, notice that in Luke Jesus says the poor are blessed, whereas in Matthew the poor in spirit are blessed. Luke's Gospel emphasizes throughout Jesus' ministry to the poor. What might this Gospel have to say to us about our attitude toward immigrants, especially given the current global refugee problem?
The thing that strikes me most from this passage is how different Jesus' view of blessing is from the world (and from my own view most of the time). The world says,
Blessed are the rich for yours is the kingdom of this world. Blessed are you who have a full refrigerator for you will never be physically hungry. Blessed are you who are laughing and constantly entertained because then you won't have to think about all the suffering in the world. Blessed are you when everyone likes you and invites you to their party and is never offended by your religion.This may be what we would sometimes like Jesus to say, but it is not what he says. His ways are so completely different, in fact, upside-down, when compared to our ways.
But there is good news in this. If we are poor, hungry, weeping, and hated now, we may just be on the right track. If we are Christians, if we are followers of Jesus, our reward is not in this life. But our reward is coming. And unlike the rewards of this world, if we follow Jesus, our reward will be everlasting.
Here is what Sacred Space had to say about the Gospel reading for today:
- The kingdom of God is mysterious, because it is God’s project working out silently in human history. But from this text we know some of those who will be in it. The poor and the hungry will be there. So will those who weep, and also the dominated, the persecuted, the outcasts of the earth. What an extraordinary group! Those who are at the bottom of the human pyramid will be rejoicing and leaping for joy at God’s goodness to them.
- When my heart is breaking because of the misery of so many today, I must not think that God has forgotten them. Instead I thank God that for them the best is yet to come, and I ask to be included among them, at least as someone who cares about them.