Lent, Day 10 — Sexual Ethics

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Sexual Ethics

You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery.  But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman [to covet her] has already committed adultery in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into [Gehenna]. And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into [Gehenna].
(Matthew 5:27-30)

  1. Because so much Christian religion has been negative toward the body and sexuality, these verses have been used to do harm. Some people have taken this verse literally and mutilated themselves to avoid lust. Needless shame and guilt have been piled on people in order to make them pliable for religious manipulation, even while religious leaders have been shameless in committing abuse and harassment.
  2. It must be pointed out that Jesus is talking to men. He lives in a patriarchal culture and addresses this from a patriarchal perspective.
  3. I believe the better translation here is not lust, but covet. It’s the same word used for the Greek version of the ten commandments: “Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). Jesus is tying two of the ten commandments together: the commandment against adultery and the commandment against coveting.
  4. If sexual desire itself is a sin, God screwed up, because sex and sexual desire are necessary for life to continue on this planet. I think “covet” makes more sense given his next statement about divorce (which I will address tomorrow).
  5. A recent meme from the #metoo movement reframes this passage: “Remember when Jesus told men that instead of blaming women for wearing revealing clothing, they should just chop off their hands and pluck out their eyes?” I think that’s a needed corrective for the historical abuse of these verses.
  6. Another way to reframe this passage: There’s a lot of feminist scholarship on the way “the gaze” of a male viewer judges, evaluates, and objectifies women. Who has a right to look and be looked at? Who has a right to leer and catcall? Whose naked body is an object of pornography or art, and whose body gets to be a subject who acts, feels, and desires? How does gender inequality and our sexualization of other people affect our relationship with God?
  7. As in the passage about murder, I think Jesus is trying to get listeners to make several moves. It’s relatively easy to avoid murder or adultery. It is much more difficult to change the way we view ourselves in relation to others. Again, Jesus is pointing out the deeper truth to which the Law and Prophets point.
  8. Remember how Jesus is rebuking both the conservatives and liberals of his day? This passage does the same in our day. Our views of sexual ethics and power are deeply warped, and can become obstacles to our spiritual enlightenment and life in God. Neither Puritan nor libertine Christianity will save us from these distortions of human worth.
  9. This is the first place in the Sermon where Jesus mentions Gehenna, which usually gets translated as “hell.” It was literally the trash dump outside of Jerusalem, and while it does connote punishment in the afterlife, I don’t think Jesus meant it the way modern Christians do.
  10. Still, it reflects urgency. We can’t afford to be lackadaisical about sexual ethics. We’ve seen the damage and injustice our current system can do.
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Lent, Day 9 — From Murder to Reparations

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
From Murder to Reparations

You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.
(Matthew 5:21-26)

  1. Jesus begins to illustrate what he means by “your righteousness must exceed that of” the religious experts. Too many people in our world think they are “good people” if they follow the laws and don’t rob banks.
  2. Following Jesus isn’t even about “being good.” It’s about spiritual enlightenment, about living within the fullness of God. So Jesus begins by saying his student-followers should avoid not only murder, but contempt.
  3. I need to point out that Jesus himself calls the religious experts “idiots” and worse in chapter 23. So we don’t need to get too hung up on tone policing and freaking out over strong language. These verses are about banishing contempt from our lives.
  4. But then Jesus turns to a different illustration, and we’re no longer talking about avoiding contempt or holding a grudge. Our perspective shifts: “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you.”
  5. This isn’t just about forgiving other people for being jerks, but remembering that you’ve probably been a jerk to others.
  6. So Jesus has shifted us even further along. It’s not enough to avoid murder. It’s not enough to avoid contempt. We need to be active peace-makers, realizing how we contribute to the slow spiritual death of the world.
  7. One word: Reparations.
  8. Jesus takes us from murder to reparations. If we don’t make this move, we doom ourselves and future generations to an eternity of payback. He ends by talking about paying “the very last penny.” This is karma, friends. We either honestly address personal and historic wrongs here, in this life, or we perpetuate the cycle of contempt, hatred, and violence.
  9. Jesus ties this to offering our gift of worship at the altar. The prophets say that the truest worship that brings glory to God is justice (Isaiah 58:6). This involves a spiritual move from seeing ourselves as judge, to seeing ourselves as accuser, to seeing ourselves as accused, to seeing ourselves as being in solidarity with the oppressed, to seeing ourselves as one with the universe. Most religion can’t get past step 1, and so never actually comes to the altar.
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Lent, Day 8 — Spiritual, but not Religious?

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Spiritual but not religious?

Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of [the heavens]. But whoever keeps these commands and teaches people to keep them will be called great in the kingdom of [the heavens]. I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of [the heavens].
(Matthew 5:19-20 CEB)

  1. Yesterday I talked about the previous verses, where Jesus defends himself against religious accusations that he is throwing the Bible out of the window. Here he amplifies his defense. “I’m not getting rid of the Bible; I’m fulfilling it. I’m not lowering the bar,” he says. “I’m raising it.”
  2. Keep in mind, this is from the guy who lets his disciples eat without washing their hands first, who says “The sabbath was made for human beings, not human beings for the sabbath.” He sees this as keeping the Sabbath Law, not abolishing it.
  3. As much as my political and theological beliefs are closer to folks who are often called “liberal,” I wonder how most “liberal Christians” hear these words of Jesus?
  4. Can you hear these words? “Unless your righteousness is greater than your fundamentalist cousins, the Christian conservatives who go to church every Sunday and tithe and pray daily, you will never enter the kingdom of the heavens.” This is a rebuke. He is speaking both to conservatives and liberals, the people who emphasize the letter of the law and the ones who emphasize the spirit of the law.
  5. Anyone who thinks Jesus was promoting a casual attitude toward God and anyone who thinks he was just telling people to generally be nice to each other has missed the boat. This is not a spirituality for “spiritual but not religious” folks.
  6. Again, keep in mind that this is from the guy who said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light” (11:30). This righteousness is not about performing for religious people. It’s about something else.
  7. I think understanding this section requires us to think outside our usual binaries of “conservative vs. liberal” or “letter of the law vs. spirit.” This is non-dualism applied to our spiritual and religious practice.
  8. Jesus is setting up the next section, where he will say that it is not enough to avoid murdering people. We must also avoid anger. It is not enough to avoid sleeping around. We must also avoid lust and objectification.
  9. He repeats the phrase “kingdom of [the heavens]” three times. Can you hear the urgency? If we don’t know what he means, we desperately need to learn.
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Lent, Day 7 — Doing Away with the Bible

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Wednesday — Doing Away With The Bible

Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality.
(Matthew 5:17-18 CEB)

  1. “Don’t even begin to think” — I love the way this translation puts it. It is clear that Jesus is pushing back against a misconception. “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with” the Bible, says Jesus.
  2. For Jesus’ audience, “the Law and the Prophets” was the Bible.
  3. Why would someone think that Jesus was doing away with the Bible?
    • Because he let his disciples eat without ritually washing. In the South, that would be like starting to eat without saying the blessing before dinner.
    • Because he healed on the Sabbath and let his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath.
    • Jesus didn’t go around violating religious rules willy-nilly. He observed the Sabbath and prayed plenty. But the religious fundamentalists of his day couldn’t abide the freedom he gave his followers.
    • I can’t help but feel the weight of this argument today concerning LGBTQIA folks. Those of us who argue for the affirmation of human beings to love and to be the people God created them to be are often painted as “doing away with the Bible.”
    • “What else will he do away with? Where does he draw the line?” I can hear the slippery slope arguments even now.
    • And nothing could be further from the truth. We are advocating for the very things Jesus advocated: that the Sabbath, and all the laws, were made for human beings, not vice versa. The Law of the Bible is the Law of Love, and God intends all things to be for our flourishing and knowledge of God.
  4. That’s why Jesus could say, “as long as the heavens and earth exist,” all of the Bible remains important.
  5. UNTIL. The Bible is pointing us, and all of creation, toward something greater. And when that something greater becomes a reality, the Law will no longer be necessary.
  6. So we are to press on with the understanding that the Bible is not the Last Word. It is the First Word. And until we all truly understand the God Who Is Love, we will need the Law.
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Lent, Day 6 — Summary: The Story So Far

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 6 (Tuesday) — Summary: The Story So Far

I think it’s helpful to pause here and zoom out for a minute.

I’ve called this Jesus’s Manifesto, his most concise expression of what he intends his called-out community to be. It is a speech to his students, the disciples. We get to listen in because it’s also a speech to us, his newest disciples.

Jesus starts off by flipping the script upside down: happiness is not found where most people think.

Notice that to the first people he mentions, “the hopeless,” he promises the kingdom of the heavens. The last people he mentions are “those who are harassed,” and he also promises them the kingdom of the heavens. He then says, “Oh, by the way, I’m talking about y’all, because y’all are a new community of prophets” whose reward is great in the heavens. And he concludes his exhortation of this community by saying we will bring praise to “Our Father in the heavens.”

Do you get the picture? If you feel hopeless and harassed by the world, congratulations! You have been recruited to be part of the cosmic drama. God is bringing the heavens to earth, and y’all are the instrument.

When he starts off, we probably think his words are about someone else. But they are about us, and the concrete difficulties of trying to be a community of peace, justice, and mercy in a world that does not value such things.

Go back and read it again, slowly. I’ve printed the full introduction below, with my translation choices. See how masterfully he weaves this speech. I am constantly in awe of it.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying:
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of [the heavens] is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit [the land].
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of [the heavens] is theirs.
“Happy are [y’all] when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in [the heavens]. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
“[Y’all] are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. [Y’all] are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in [the heavens].
 (Matthew 5:1-16)

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Lent, Day 5 — Let It Shine!

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 5 (Monday) — Let It Shine!

In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in [the heavens].
(Matthew 5:16)

  1. Recap: Jesus has just said that we, his prophetic community, should shine our light in the world indiscriminately, lighting up the house so that people can see reality.
  2. Our light also illuminates “the good things” we do.
  3. But remember, the light isn’t “the good things you do.” Jesus says “Y’all are the light of the world.” People see the good things we do in the light of who we are. I still love the song “This little light of mine,” but the light isn’t mine, it’s ours. And it isn’t what we do. It’s who we are.
  4. Jesus isn’t just exhorting us to do more good works and service projects. He’s exhorting us to be the kind of community that expresses a luminous spirit. We shine something more than conventional religiosity.
  5. Jesus sets up the next two chapters with this verse. He’s going to talk about how we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. “It’s not enough that you don’t kill people,” Jesus will tell us. “I want you to avoid anger. It’s not enough that you give alms; I want you to do it without seeking credit for it.” These are examples of what he means by shining a light.
  6. Yes, the church should be a moral exemplar to the world, but Jesus will spend most of chapter six talking about how we shouldn’t chase praise with our good works. “Take your prayer into the closet,” he will say, “instead of posturing on the street corner.” All of this is meant to draw attention not to ourselves, but to the God who works among us. If I haven’t said it enough, I think this makes the most sense if we think about how Jesus defines the church as a prophetic community —one whose lifestyle brings clarity and throws the world into relief.
  7. This is the first time in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus refers to God as “Father.” Our relationship to God is less like subjects to a king and more like children to a parent. Notice also that Jesus mentions the heavens again—where our reward is great, where God’s will is done perfectly in the movement of the stars and planets.
  8. Again, “the heavens” are not where we go when we die, or some other realm. C.S. Lewis liked to point out that the heavens are not “up there” while we are “down here.” Earth is actually moving through the heavens. There are stars beneath us as well as above. So when we talk about “Our Father in the heavens,” we should have the sense that our Beloved is not in some far off neverland, but envelopes us on every side. We are suspended in the heavens and in God as if we were a drop of water in the ocean.

I recommend going back and rereading the verse slowly. Chew on the words. Which part of the verse makes you linger?

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Lent, Day 4 — Light

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 4 (Saturday) — Light

[Y’all] are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15 CEB)

Read these verses slowly. Then read my reflections. Then come back and read these verses slowly again. Ponder the visual images the words evoke.

  1. “Y’all.” I’ve made a different translation choice here, because we don’t have a similar pronoun in English. Jesus addresses the disciples as a group (y’all) and, by extension, the rest of us. Remember, Matthew’s Jesus is talking to the church, the ekklesia, which means “the called-out ones.” Jesus says your called-out prophetic community is the light of the world.
  2. In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (8:12). Here, he says, “Y’all are the light of the world.” I think both of these theological perspectives are important, and true in their own way. It reminds me that this prophetic community we call “church” is supposed to embody Christ’s presence (light) for the world.
  3. “A city on a hill.” Keep in mind that in Jesus’s day, people walked everywhere. They were more aware of hills and the actual shape of the land than we are because they didn’t drive. They hiked to cities on coasts, in valleys, and up hills. Lost? You don’t have a GPS. Look to see if there is a village or city on a nearby hill.
  4. Some cities like Magdala, Capernaum, and Tiberias were built on the coast. Jerusalem and Nazareth were built on hills. When Jesus says these words, his audience probably thought of specific places with specific walls and rooftops—not some abstract ideal.
  5. A city on a hill is obvious. It is a place of refuge. Its lamp and firelight in a pre-electric society would have portended safety for travelers.
  6. So, lamps. Specifically, oil lamps. There are two reasons putting an oil lamp under a basket is a bad idea: first, it is a waste of light and fuel. Second, it is a fire hazard. In Luke’s version of this saying (8:16), Jesus adds that you don’t put an oil lamp “under a bed.” Putting a burning oil lamp under your bed is suicidal!

    We don’t usually read this verse as being a warning, but I think there is an implied danger here. If the prophetic community doesn’t shine its light in public, if it doesn’t tell God’s truth to the world, there will be terrible consequences. Maybe it will be the fire of revolution, or maybe it will just be spiritual heat and smoke. Either way, “hiding your light” does not mean merely failing to shine.

  7. We don’t light a lamp to look at the light. We light a lamp to see BY the light. The light in verse 15 is generous. It “shines on all in the house.” Light does not shine discriminately. It falls on everyone and everything. It lets us see the dirt as well as the beauty.
  8. Again, keep in mind Jesus is talking about the prophetic community, not just individuals. When I read that the prophetic community gives light to all in the house, I hear Jesus saying, “Because of y’all, others can see what is real and true.”

Okay. Now go back and read the passage again slowly. Does anything change for you?

Lent, Day 3 — Salt

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 3 (Friday) — Salt

You are the salt of [the land]. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet.
(Matthew 5:13)

  1. I’ve made a translation choice here. “The land” was always important to Jesus’ people. It meant the promised land, a land of their own. Centuries before, when his people were taken in exile “from the land” to Babylon, it was a terrible punishment. Proverbs says “Those who have integrity will dwell in the land; the innocent will remain in it. But the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be ripped up.” (2:21-22)
  2. Either translation works, but for modern readers “the earth” conjures up an image of our planet floating in space. That’s not wrong theologically, of course, but we modern people in our mobile society have forgotten how important the land has been to agrarian societies. Jesus’s people lived according to agricultural times of planting and harvest. Their lives were rooted in the land.
  3. You can also read “the earth” contrasted with “the heavens,” which is where Jesus has described our reward. Our reward is “in the heavens,” but we are the salt “of the earth.”
  4. Salt was expensive.
  5. You don’t eat a meal of salt. You add a bit of it to other things. It brings out the flavor of what it is added to.
  6. Salt was part of the offering made at the temple. A portion of this offering went to the poor and to the priests as their payment. Making an offering without salt was bad form, because it was essentially giving someone a flavorless meal (Leviticus 2:13). Offerings were not supposed to be given grudgingly, but with an attitude of generosity. You want the offerings you make to be flavorful and good, right?
  7. If this community of disciples is to be the salt of the land, it means God has given us as an offering to the world to bring out its flavor. Disciples bring zest and life to the world.
  8. If the community loses its flavor, it is no longer good for anything. Luke’s version is even more extreme: “not even fit for the manure pile,” in Jesus’s words (Luke 14:35). Keep in mind, Jesus has just told them they are to be like the prophets of old. What would it mean for a community of prophets to be truly “salty” in the world? How would this new community bring out the world’s flavor?

Lent, Day 2 — A Community of Prophets

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 2 (Thursday)

“Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in [the skies]. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 CEB)

  1. Yesterday I pointed out that Jesus sets up a pattern in the beatitudes. “Happy are the people who ______, because they will _______.” He invites his disciples to think of these different groups of people: hopeless, merciful, peace-makers, persecuted. “See them all as happy,” Jesus says to his disciples.
  2. Then he breaks the fourth wall. He’s no longer talking about someone else. He’s talking to us—the disciples. “Happy are you.” Oh, you thought this was about someone else? No. It’s about you.This is part of Matthew’s genius: he begins with us as the observers, watching Jesus and the disciples on the mountain. Then he lures us in to consider these various groups of people. Then suddenly Jesus is talking directly to us as the disciples, and we find ourselves—the readers—as startled as they are. See? Patterns. So tricky.
  3. And if it felt odd to call hopeless people and mourning people happy, get a load of this: “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.” Most of us try to avoid being bad-mouthed in this way.
  4. Notice he doesn’t say “if.” He says “when.” If you are actually following Jesus, it is inevitable. You will get on the wrong side of power. Haters gonna hate.
  5. Okay, let’s talk about heaven. This is where I break from the usual translations, because our culture has screwed this idea up so much. First, nowhere in the gospels is “heaven” a place you go when you die. Second, that’s not even what Jesus is talking about here. In Greek, the phrase here is literally “in the heavens” or, as I’ve translated it here, “in the skies.”The phrase is a euphemism for God’s domain, or the place where God’s reign is already perfect. In a few verses, Jesus will tell the disciples to pray, “Let your will be done on earth as it is done in the heavens.” The motion of the heavens was orderly, though complex, and people believed histories and destinies were written in the stars. So here, when Jesus says, “your reward is great in the heavens,” he is really saying, “your reward is great in God.” God is your reward.
  6. Jesus has already surprised us with the switch, the break in the pattern. He has another subtle switch for us. “The reason you will be persecuted in this way,” he says, “is because that’s how the world treats prophets—the prophets whose mantle you are now wearing.” Surprise! Jesus has just told his disciples they are prophets in the lineage of Elijah, Jeremiah, and Amos. Elijah had kings and queens put out a contract on his life for holding them accountable. Jeremiah was imprisoned and accused of being a traitor for speaking back to his government. Amos was told, “Go back where you came from!” Jesus says, “Y’all are like them.”
  7. Jesus tells his disciples, “Be happy you are counted among their number!” Lots of people in our day think they would have acted boldly and prophetically if they had been born in a different time. They think they would have helped hide Jews from the Nazis, or have marched with Civil Rights foot soldiers. Jesus invites his followers to step up and be a community of prophets today.
  8. Again, I can’t get over how fiery these opening words of Jesus are. I am stunned that Jesus thinks so highly of us.

Lent, Day 1 — Happy

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 1 (Ash Wednesday)

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3-10, CEB)

  • “Happy are the people who ______, because they will _______.”
  • Don’t rush through these. Look at the pattern. There’s a message in the repetition. Poetry sometimes uses repetition for emphasis. Jokes sometimes use repetition to set up a punchline, a surprise which often breaks the pattern.
  • Don’t rush through these. Before you name them “the beatitudes” in your head, before you anticipate what Jesus is going to say about the poor, the mourning, and the merciful, pause just a minute. Look at the structure of these sentences. What is Jesus saying to us with this repetition?
  • I think he’s telling us that our eyes can’t be trusted. Yes, it appears that those who mourn are anything but happy. Maybe there’s a reality we’re not seeing.
  • After you see the pattern, look at the verbs. Jesus says “happy ARE,” not “happy will be.” The ones he talks about now are happy now, because of what will be. This is not a promise for the future. It is a present reality.
  • You’ll notice I’m using a translation that says “happy,” because I don’t want to reinforce the notion that these are about promised “blessings” or “rewards.” Many of us were taught to think of God like a king who dispenses blessings according to a cosmic ledger: rewards for the good and punishments for the wicked. I do not think we can see them this way. (Jesus does talk about rewards in the next verse, but we’ll get to that tomorrow).
  • I think Jesus is talking about something that is more like a law of physics, inevitable and immutable. One might even call it “karma.” Things will balance. Those who mourn will be comforted, as certainly as the tides will follow the pull of the moon, or the seasons operate according to the tilt and spin of our planet. Human life follows certain laws, human beings and human consciousness grow in a certain way. Therefore the cosmic scales of justice and liberation are coming into balance, the moral arc of the universe is bending along a parabola. If we knew the moral trigonometry, we could even plot its course.
  • Peace-and-justice-seeking Christians often describe Jesus’ coming kin-dom as “topsy-turvy.” They point to Mary’s Magnificat where she says that God “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed” (Luke 1:53). I see the same logic operating here. Jesus is announcing that God does not operate according to conventional wisdom. The reign of God means that the oppressed are being liberated, that the last are becoming the first. Whatever we may observe about the injustice, brokenness, and sadness of the world is not the full picture.
  • At some subconscious level, deeper than your everyday thoughts and feelings, you may already know this to be true. I hope you are able to know it and feel it in your bones.
  • I can’t get over how defiant and audacious these words are. Jesus doesn’t blink. “Those who hunger for justice will be fed until they are full.” The powers of this world should be shaking in their boots.