In today’s reading from Luke’s gospel, Jesus presents us with a short list of the ways in which we can be blessed.
These blessings are familiar to many of us – although they are probably more familiar in the form they are given to us in the Sermon on the Mount, that forms several of the early chapters of Matthew’s gospel.
So – what are these ‘familiar’ blessings?
What do they represent?
What does it mean to be blessed?
I would suggest that the state of blessedness is characterized by the experience of ‘abounding joy’ – it is happiness that cannot be contained – it is a degree of joy and happiness that can only come from God himself.
But … Jesus’ list of blessings is so counter-cultural!
Jesus is completely contradicting the ideas and values of the materialistic society which equates house, car and bank account with happiness.
Jesus is introducing us, in his list of blessings, to a topsy-turvy world which runs in direct opposition to our ‘normal’ daily existences.
As well as presenting us with a list of blessings, Jesus also gives us a symmetrical list of woes!
- Blessed are the poor – but woe to the rich.
- Blessed are the hungry – but woe to those who are full.
- Blessed are the weeping – but woe to those who are laughing.
- Blessed are the rejected – but woe to those who are accepted.
As Jesus presents his list of blessings and woes, it becomes obvious that things are meant to change!
Jesus’ list of blessings and woes announce that God, in Jesus Christ, already sees the world in a strikingly different way from us.
The real world for those who profess the faith of Christ is one in which most of the major statements of worldly status are reversed.
What is interesting (and often overlooked) is that this list of blessings and woes is not given to us as some form of divine action plan. Rather, Jesus is just telling it how it is – or, rather, how it should be.
Jesus is painting a picture of the Kingdom of God – he is making defining statements about what life is like both inside and outside the reign of God.
In God’s kingdom of love the fortunes of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the full and the empty, are reversed.
Here is a story that is told by the Russian Rabbis –
In Krakov there lived a man named Isaac, son of Yekel – he was a very poor man whose family was often hungry.
One night, in a dream, he saw the distant city of Prague, noticing there a certain bridge with a great treasure buried beneath it.
The dream was so vivid that he could not forget it, especially when it kept recurring every night for two weeks.
Finally, in order to get rid of the dream, Isaac decided to walk from Krakov to Prague to see for himself.
After several days he arrived in Prague, found the bridge and went underneath to try to locate the treasure.
Suddenly he was grabbed by a soldier, who demanded to know what he was doing.
Being an innocent man, he told the truth – he was looking for a treasure he had dreamed was under the bridge.
The soldier roared with laughter, ‘You stupid man! Don’t you know that you can never trust what you see in dreams?
‘Why, for the last two weeks, I have dreamed that far away in Krakov, in the house of a man named Isaac, son of Yekel, there is a treasure buried beneath the stove in his kitchen.
‘Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I were to go all that way to look for it?’
So Isaac, son of Yekel, walked back to Krakov, where he moved the stove in his kitchen, found the treasure, and lived to a ripe old age in comfort and peace.
The reality is that the Kingdom of God is as close as the treasure beneath Isaac’s stove.
The Kingdom of God is a blessing that is not dependent upon anyone else’s judgement.
It is a blessing that God willingly offers to every one of us … then, as children of God we are called to impart that blessing on one another.
All that has to happen is for us to open our hearts and our minds and receive the blessings that God is offering us.
It is so easy to get hung up on the counter-intuitive nature of Jesus’ list of blessings and woes –
Instead of arguing with and about that list, we simply have to let go of our greed, our scepticism and our fear, and then we have to receive the richest of treasures –
- the treasure of the Kingdom of God, today and for ever –
- the treasure of the Kingdom of God, that really is close at hand today and for ever.
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