Summary: Christians are not isolated individuals who live in the world alone. We are connected. We pause to remember those who have passed on, but in whose memory we hold dear. We also remember their impact on us and our own impact as people of God.
handing it to a clerk at the cash register.
“Was it a gift?” asked the clerk. “No, I bought it for myself,” he said, “and I made a mistake.
“Didn’t you like the translation? Or the format?”
“Oh no,” the man said, “the format was clear and the translation was fine. I made a mistake”
The clerk said, “Well, I need to write down a reason for the return.”
“In that case,” said the man, “write down that there is a lot in that book which is tough to swallow.”
Sometimes it’s tempting to boil the whole Bible down to a few verses like the ones in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. This is an impossible task. There are some passages in the Bible that are tough to swallow. This is one of them. The burden on us is not to believe some astonishing miracle. There are events described in the Bible which stretch our credulity, moments which provoke us to scratch our heads in curiosity, but this text does not speak about any of them.
Jesus was speaking to those who were victims and oppressed. He is NOT telling them to roll over and play dead. His words are a form of non-violent resistance to oppression. All through the New Testament, Jesus showed compassion for the less fortunate of his society of his day-the same compassion he shows today. We as Christians are called on to show the same compassion.
This text is difficult to comprehend because the Lord describes the world in ways quite different from the ways we are accustomed to seeing it. The ones whom the world ignores are the ones who receive God’s blessing. The ones whom the world honours are the ones who are cursed. It is a complete reversal of the way we usually see things. God blesses those who are hungry for righteousness.
Jesus gives us a picture on how we SHOULD live. WE are the poor, the hungry, and the mourners. We are often poor in spirit. Our souls are often hungry for spiritual nourishment. We weep for those who do not know God. The key to looking at the Beatitudes is faithfulness.
Jesus told people to find new ways of resisting evil. “Love your enemies” does not make much sense in today’s world. It doesn’t seem practical in today’s world where people often do whatever it takes to get ahead. It’s not very practical, not in the sense of getting ahead in the world or doing what comes naturally.
Some of you may remember the story of Matthew Shepherd, the Wyoming man who was brutally neaten for being gay, beaten because one man felt that he had made a pass at him. The man felt foolish and unmanly so he got a friend to help him put the young college student in his place. The two of them beat Matthew over and over again, tied him to a fence on a country road, and left him alone in the freezing night. By the time someone found him the next morning and took him to the hospital, there was no way to save him. Matthew Shepherd died as hundreds stood in candlelight vigil outside the hospital.
The two men who killed Matthew were arrested, tried and convicted of the brutal hate crime. Proved guilty of first-degree murder, they deserved the death penalty in the state of Wyoming. But Matthew’s mother came before the judge. She asked the judge to spare the lives of these guilty men. Who can understand what she had gone through in all the agonizing months leading up to the trial? What mother could sleep with images of her beloved son tied to a fence, beaten and alone through the cold night? What sort of people could do this to another human being?
“Love your enemies,” Jesus said, “do good to those who hate you.” When we hear these words, we should remember Matthew’s mother, her own life shaped by a Gospel deeper than hatred, stronger than revenge. I don’t know that I could do what she did. But we should see her as a witness to the power of the Gospel. Such love is not practical, but it can change the world.
Luke was out to prove that Jesus came to do away with distinctions that made some people think they are better than others. His is a universal Gospel-and the universe is populated by the less fortunate. Luke and Jesus are on their side. The rich had problems hearing and rejoicing in the Gospel because it told them to change their ways and share. This was bad news to them. On the other hand, the poor heard him gladly because of the message of hope and liberation. This is where the Gospel is vital and life-changing.