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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 6:17–26 

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)

The Beatitudes, as told in Luke, are signs that help us to identify what it means (and does not mean) to follow Jesus. They answer the questions “What are the characteristics of a faithful life?” and “How do I know I am living it?” Many of these affirmations and warnings will read as familiar or even obvious. They seem almost proverbial for those steeped in the stories and virtues of Christian life. Those who hunger will be fed. Those who are persecuted will be redeemed. Those who are poor will inherit the wealth of God’s reign.

But rather striking among these signs is the notion that those who mourn will laugh. After all, comfort often feels the most appropriate way to redeem grief. Laughter seems like a luxury. But Jesus seems to tell us that in the eyes of God what seems lavish and unexpected is indeed what God desires to give. Laughter is a signpost of supreme comfort and delight. When we trade barbs and jokes, it is an indication that we have shed our fear and distrust. Our anger or pain has softened.

In the everyday experience of following God and being church, where have you shared humor or given it to another? When you recall such times, perhaps you can glimpse what it means to experience the blessings of which Jesus speaks in this passage. We tend to think of the Beatitudes as in the future tense. These are promises yet to come for those who have risked following God. However, they are also present-tense signs of an unfolding reality. As we share in laughter, as we are unafraid to delight in each other’s company in the pursuit of love and justice, we fulfill God’s promises in real time.

God of blessing, who overturns suffering into joy, increase our awareness of where your beatitudes are not just a future hope but a present reality. Help us to find and create precious signs of joy for one another as we seek to be faithful. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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