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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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 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. “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)

It’s been a tough time for everyone. Violence and hatred, right up in everyone’s face, so widespread that resisting feels like being up to your neck in the ocean and trying to resist the waves. It’s depressing, and one of the most depressing things is to see the arrogance of the powerful, how they lord their station over the ones they consider small and worthless.

The reaction to this condition is perhaps the most human thing imaginable: Rise up. Knock them down. Turn the tables. It’ll be different when we’re on top.

Except it won’t. The only thing that will be different is who is in the “Blessed are” camp and who is in the “Woe to” camp. The pendulum swings, the wheel turns round; and when the tables turn, all that changes is who is sitting in which seat. The despair and arrogance remain.

Despair and arrogance are perhaps the most enduring of human diseases, diseases of the soul. They are the diseases that Jesus is trying to cure here. No doubt leprosy was easier. I mean, we can handle that now—a few drugs, and good-bye leprosy. But despair and arrogance? Still no cure. They’re chronic conditions, and these days one might be excused for worrying that they might be terminal.

So how does Jesus treat these persistent and debilitating conditions? With copious applications of hope and humility, lifting up the lowly and leveling the privileged—not to turn the tables but to balance the scale, to make it possible for us to stand face-to-face with each other and look at each other and see one another, and in so doing to see ourselves in each other.

Seeing ourselves in each other is a prerequisite for Jesus’s clear and unequivocal command, given five verses later: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

The diseases are treatable. We need to believe in the cure, and take our medicine.

Level us, Lord. Help us to see ourselves in others, and in so doing to see you in every human face. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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