a certain town, a man walked into a bookstore to return a purchase. “It’s a
Bible,” he said, handing it to a clerk at the cash register.
it a gift?” asked the clerk. “No, I bought it for myself,” he said, “and I made
you like the translation? Or the format?”
no,” the man said, “the format was clear and the translation was fine. I made a
clerk said, “Well, I need to write down a reason for the return.”
that case,” said the man, “write down that there is a lot in that book which is
tough to swallow.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
asks us to reverse the normal way of thinking and let our hearts and minds be
ruled by blessing, loving and forgiving those who persecute us. As we do those
things to others, we learn not to do them ourselves. The Beatitudes MUST be our attitudes. If not, why not?
The Beatitudes call on us to look at our lives and accept the blessings God
gives us as a sign of God’s faithfulness to us and return to live in such a way
that we show by word and example our faithfulness and commitment to proclaim
the Good News of God in Christ to others.
All Saints Day, we remember those ordinary people of extraordinary commitment.
Saints are ordinary Christians whose lives reflect the life of Jesus. The
Beatitudes call us to live lives that reflect the life of Jesus. In so doing,
we become saints on earth. This will not be easy, just like it was not easy in
Jesus’ time. He spoke these words to encourage people, and they can encourage
us today. When bad things happen to good people, they must rejoice, because
they will receive their just reward in heaven. When the going gets tough, the
tough get going.
build on the foundation that the saints of the past laid by passing Christ’s
message on to the next generation. To do so, we need to be ordinary people of
extraordinary commitment as well. We all need to be counted in that number,
like it says in the old song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
are rich materially and we are full materially. We might not think we are rich
if we compare ourselves to professional athletes, entertainers or corporate
CEOs who have more than we do, but we ARE
rich if we compare ourselves to most of the world’s population. Our
stomachs, closets, drawers, basements, attics and garages are full. Jesus is
sad when he sees us make decisions that are contrary to what is best for us,
for what he has in store for us. He teaches us to see the world’s sorry little
treats for what they are compared to God’s heavenly banquet. The poor in this
world will receive God’s blessings.
behaviour is a natural expression of an inward goodness. In other words, you do
as you believe, and you believe as you do. Those who satisfy only their
physical needs will experience a terrible spiritual famine. You take control of
your life. Don’t let someone else or something else determine it for you. Don’t
let the world squeeze you into its mold. You make your part of the world into YOUR mold.
in this life will be reversed in the next life. God will win over all the
forces that take away a person’s humanity. If God embraces us, the world can’t
take that away. To grow into becoming a Christian is, in no small part, to be
converted into seeing the world as God sees it. It is to be given new eyes to
look upon people and events from an eternally loving perspective. Christians
have responded to the Beatitudes by becoming advocates for the poor. That’s why
we have organizations such as the food bank and the Salvation Army.
do we share the blessing of poverty? Here are some ways:
freedom, hope and salvation that is coming.
forgiveness of those we have exploited
Know that God has
rescued us form sin, death and the grave
Learn from the
poor that there is joy in the Gospel-a joy for which we are longing
outlines what it means to be a Christian. Christianity is to work among the
people and not from a faraway spot. That is why Jesus came down from the
mountain to deliver the Beatitudes to the disciples-and, through them, to us.
Our obsession with wealth tends to get our values out of whack. It deadens us to
the spiritual rewards that will await those who serve God. It takes practice to
change our ways and love the less fortunate and live the Christian life. When
we die and fall to the earth, what energizes us is not our old self, but a new
creation, eternally bound to God. Jesus is our higher standard, and the closer
we are to him, the more ready we are to love the poor.
comes from within. When people look for happiness elsewhere, they are less
happy, rather than more. If we live according to Christ’s plan for our lives,
we would have a zest for living that would know no bounds.
should we treat our enemies?
day long ago, when things were looking darkest for the free world, Adolph
Hitler was addressing a large audience in Germany. In the front row sat a man
of pronounced Semitic appearance. Following his address, Hitler came down from
the platform, walked up to this man and said, “While I was speaking, you were
laughing. What were you laughing about?” The man replied, “I wasn’t laughing. I
was thinking”. “What were you thinking about?” asked Hitler.
was thinking about my people, the Jews, and that you are not the first man who
didn’t like us. A long time ago, there was another man who didn’t like us. His
name was Pharaoh, and he put heavy burdens on us down there in Egypt. But for
years we Jews have had a feast called Passover, and at that feast we have a
little three-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Pharaoh”.
later there was another man who didn’t like us.
His name was Haman and he did his best to get rid of all the Jews
throughout the realm of King Ahasuerus. But for years we Jews have had another
feast called the feast of Purim and at that feast we have a little
four-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Haman”.
while you were up there speaking, sir, I was sitting here thinking and
wondering what kind of a cake we were going to eat to remember you by”.
Jewish man had a point. We must love our enemies if at all possible, but
sometimes we need to heed the words of an old Irish blessing that goes like
this. “May God bless those who love us, and those who do not love us, may He
turn their hearts. If he does not turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles
so we may know them by their limping.”
All Saints Day, we remember that 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 on the whole world. Following Jesus
involves a particular kind of politics-the politics of love. This is in
contrast to the politics of our world today-the politics of hatred, supremacy
and “me first”.
show grace to others because God has given grace to us. Those who have been
redeemed by God are able to be generous toward others. People who hurt us may
themselves have hurts that are causing them to act in ways that they never
would otherwise do. When we hurt, it may affect how we respond to others. The
only way we can heed Christ’s command to love like he loved us is to surrender
to his spirit. If we surrender our hearts to him and ask him to come into our
hearts and love there, we can heed his command to love one another as he loves