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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 6:12–26

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

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. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he 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. (NRSV)

Can I confess something to you? I have always found this type of polemic to be one of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of Jesus’ teaching. As a kid, I particularly struggled with the alluded suggestion that we should want to be reviled or bullied, and I also struggled with the idea that our laughter or joy in the present moment would lead to some sort of eternal sadness. Having been raised in a fairly affluent community, I worried that I was somehow automatically failing at following Jesus. As a young child, none of these things sounded like “good news,” nor did they make me eager to sign up as a disciple.

Over the years, I have, of course, grown in my understanding of the world and of Christ’s teachings. Though I still find passages like this one a bit disconcerting and uncomfortable, I’ve come to believe that such discomfort is part of the point. It seems that underneath the extreme juxtapositions that Jesus makes, he is ultimately asking us to resist becoming too comfortable with the world as it is. To sit too comfortably in circumstances of wealth makes us complacent to the rampant poverty around the world. And though I don’t believe we are asked not to ever be joyful or laugh, I do think the point here is to not become blind to the brokenness of this world. If we truly commit ourselves to following what Jesus teaches and working for the world he calls for, there will undoubtedly be times when we find ourselves at odds with the world that is. In such moments, we can take comfort that this world and its brokenness are not ultimately where we belong.

God of challenge and love, we give you thanks for your Son and his teachings. We give you thanks for the ways he challenges us to dream of a better world. Embolden us to work for such a world and to never settle for less. Amen.

Written by Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident

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