17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of 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. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
Hmmmm. Luke declares to us that Jesus had some sharp words for his followers. Sharp words for them also means sharp words for us. In terms of how the estimated 7+billion people on the earth, I am a rich person. I also wear an XL shirt size so I am obviously not and have not been hungry. And I laugh loudly and often. Woe is me. (and probably you too).
So, what to do? Where is the gospel in this? I think an important thing to do when reading this text is to look closely at what vocabulary words and what they mean and what their original meaning was. The word “blessing” is a good place to start. As 21st century people in the USA, we tend to define “blessing” as receiving a God-given favor or benefit, or experiencing a level of prosperity greater than others. It is not the same understanding as being “happy” or having a nice life. I think the original meaning meant more along the understanding of being satisfied, unburdened, dignified, and/or at peace.
I resonate a lot with the understanding of being unburdened and at peace. I feel most unburdened and at peace after a significant project or goal has been completed. I absolutely love worship, but I am always nervous before/during worship. I want worship to be smooth and meaningful. I want my sermon to be a good sermon. I don’t want to forget anything. I worry, that through my actions, worship will fall short for some. Despite my worries, worship always happens and the Holy Spirit guides people to where the Spirit desires them to be. Even when I make mistakes or forget something, the worship service still resonates with people. I always feel great after worship during coffee hour. I feel at peace. I feel blessed. I have the same feeling every year on the Monday after Holy Week/ Easter and after Advent/Christmas is complete. In my sense, the feeling we get when we have goals, work toward them, and achieve them is what blessing means. When do you feel blessed?
For people who are poor, hungry and sad, to be declared “blessed” by Jesus is a big deal. I think it means that God has a goal of elevating the lowly and discarded. And he is currently working towards accomplishing this goal – and God will complete this goal.
You are a blessing to God. You are a blessing to God’s church. You are a blessing to others. You are a blessing to me.
Your co-worker in Christ- Pr. Erik