Of course it’s deeply a part of our human nature to be risk-averse. But security is not at the heart of the kingdom, Jesus says. To follow him sometimes entails taking a step outside of our comfort zones or risking life, resources, or reputation for what is right.
Many of our political leaders these days find themselves as empty-handed as the foolish bridesmaids and as stubborn as Amos’ people. They wait passively for God to sort out problems to which their actions and inactions have contributed. When tragedy strikes, they’re quick to offer “thoughts and prayers,” but slow to do anything constructive.
“Blessed” is also colored with those wonderful Hebrew Bible concepts of salvation and shalom—peace, wholeness, well-being. So you won’t get a list from Jesus on “9 Steps to Your Best Life Now” with these pronouncments. You will, however, get a sense for what life is like in the Commonwealth of God, in the coming reality of life lived under the Rule of God.
Another strength of this Reformation legacy is the notion of reform itself. There’s a Latin saying in church circles that expresses this; in English it’s “the church reformed, always reforming according to the Word of God.” We update our beliefs, in other words, with the help of the Spirit.
As much as we aspire to be God’s people of loving justice, we all have “Caesar in our pocket.” It’s a trap. The money in our 401ks; the carbon we burn; the racial, gender, sexual, abled privilege we rest upon; all of that has Caesar’s face stamped upon it. So what does one do? How do we express our allegiance to God? Give it back.
Because of how overwhelming the world can be right now, it’s so crucial that we re-center ourselves on true, lasting joy. We need a source of strength, we need some grounding to endure this journey. In that light, we turn to what the Apostle Paul, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have to say on the subject.
There’s a lot of guidance for us in this Book about how to follow a different path, with the help and the grace of God’s Spirit. There are alternatives to the violent cycles of the world within it: forgiveness, compassion, telling the truth with integrity. They’re painfully slow and they take a lifetime to practice, but they’re the only way out.
St. Mark’s, please do not underestimate the importance of your public witness of being a welcoming and affirming, More Light church. Thank you for sending overtures calling for ordination policy change and marriage equality…Thank you for connecting LGBT issues with all other social justice issues… While we appropriately honor this progress, the bending of the arc of history toward justice as Dr. King spoke of, we are also aware that in this time, being a Christian is complicated and problematic.
Maybe what Jesus is trying to teach Peter by replying with such an outlandishly large number is that mercy takes repetition in order to gather strength. In other words, forgiveness takes practice. Maybe it’s something we never “get right,” so we have to keep at it.
While they were in captivity in a foreign land, this is the story the Jewish people told about their history. Passover was foundational to their identity. This is how they were to remember the fundamental nature of who they were—God’s own people, a freed people. The Passover story prompts us to think about the various stories we tell.