Jeremiah 17: 5-10; Luke 6:17-26
Blessings and Woes
One of the advantages of a late Easter is that we get to spend more time looking at Jesus’ early ministry. The sermon on the mount is a familiar scene, Jesus, on the hillside, sharing his wisdom. The version of this in Luke’s Gospel is a little different from the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel as the short list of blessings is mirrored by a short list of woes. These blessings and woes are significant especially because for those who hear these words, both two thousand years ago, and today, they seem to be the wrong way round.
Blessed to be hungry?
Woe to be full?
Blessed to be poor?
Woe to be rich?
Blessed to weep…
Woe to laugh.
It seems all wrong doesn’t it?
Turned upside down… wrong way up.
The prophet Jeremiah also has warnings of who is cursed and who is blessed: these on first glance seem more acceptable: cursed are those who trust in human things; blessed are those who trust in God… and a warning too: God sees into the heart – God knows what it is we really trust!
Those who heard this proclamation first-hand struggled: their society believed in the rule of you reap what you sow; that good things happened to show you were favoured by God, and if bad things happened it must be because you had done something bad and God was punishing you.
And we sometimes fall into that trap too: we hear others saying, what have I done to deserve this? Or, we say, you don’t deserve that; or, we ask, why didn’t God prevent this, or that from happening.
Well, truth is, stuff happens. Bad things happen to good people; good things happen to bad people, and vice versa. Stuff happens.
Jesus was turning it round to help us move beyond the ‘stuff’, and into a real God relationship.
If terrible things do happen – find the blessings – because those who suffer are blessed, known and loved by God.
These blessings. The Beatitudes are not a list of conditions to aspire to; nor are they some weird contract Jesus is setting out for us to strive after. There is no condition attached.
It is part of our human condition to believe we are not worthy; that we are not special enough, good enough. Yet, what Jesus is telling us is that we ARE worthy.
We ARE special. We ARE loved.
If we find we are suffering, that our spirit is hungry, that our lives do not feel worthy, we are blessed.
Not, we will be blessed at some point in the future, once we’ve repented or apologised, or made good.
But we are blessed
Right where we are.
Jesus' teaching was to show people who were marginalised, who were constantly feeling unworthy and unacceptable, that God loved them.
Jesus' teaching was aimed at those who felt they did not have a place in God’s Kingdom. To tell them, that their place was now. That they were indeed part of God’s kingdom; that they were indeed part of God’s family.
That teaching stands the test of time; and we hear it again today: we are part of God’s story now. Today.
We are part of God’s kingdom.
Do you have things you are unhappy about in your life?
Do you have things that make you feel unsure, uncomfortable, unacceptable?
Does that exclude us from God’s kingdom? Does that bring us woe?!
That blesses us; that confirms the blessings that God wants us to receive.
When we hear the Good News of the Gospel again, we are reminded we are part of God’s Story.
We are: beloved. Blessed. Known. Loved. Forgiven.
As we strive to live as well as we can.
We live into our blessedness
We take up the blessings God bestows
We accept that God loves and blesses us
The blessings – the beatitudes are not a statement of intent; they are not even a promise.
They are a statement of what IS. Now.
The beatitudes tell us, without condition
Today, you and I, are blessed.
If this seems all wrong and for others but not for you… remember, Jesus turned everything upside down and wrong way round.
You are blessed