Today is All Saints’ Sunday. At first glance the lectionary seems like an odd choice. Luke’s beatitudes don’t seem, on the surface, to be a logical fit. Until we consider that today is the first feast day since the first day of Pentecost, so long ago. Maybe those who put the lectionary together thought we could use a break.
For a few months now we have been warned and lectures on how our greed, laziness, arrogance, selfishness and lack of empathy will result in being left behind or passively falling through the spiritual cracks. Left alone to settle for the comforts gained by our worldly accomplishments and logical yet self-serving choices. So today we get a break.
Today is a celebration of loved ones who have passed on, of important people who made a difference in our lives and the saints who have gone before us. So what better time to hear the good news in it simplest and most concrete form: Luke’s Beatitudes.
During the week I heard several commenters call Luke 6:20-31, the “Sermon on the Level Ground”. Jesus is on physical level ground, but again, this is a theological statement as well. “Level Ground” implies more than physical topography. Jesus is offering his disciples a policy and procedure manual for how to be a saint (how to be welcomed into the kingdom of God.
Policy Section One: The Happies (who is blessed and Honored)
From The Message:
“Then he spoke: You're blessed when you've lost it all. God's kingdom is there for the finding.
1 You're blessed when you're ravenously hungry. Then you're ready for the Messianic meal.
2 You're blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.
3 "Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable.
4 You can be glad when that happens - skip like a lamb, if you like! - for even though they don't like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this. Give Away Your Life “
Policy Section Two: The woes, (who will be cursed or shamed.)
From The Message:
1 But it's trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you'll ever get.
2 And it's trouble ahead if you're satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long.
3 And it's trouble ahead if you think life's all fun and games. There's suffering to be met, and you're going to meet it.
4 "There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests - look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.”
Jesus is making the official proclamation (His policy so to speak) of what life is like inside and outside the reign of God. Jesus is not offering suggestions and friendly reminders about how to be happy or warning us about things that might make us feel bad. These blessings and woes were preached by Jesus to be heard with the assurance that they are God’s word to us and that God's word is not empty. Both the blessings and the woes are anchored in the present… and they help to explain the past and provide prudent instruction for the future.
Section Three: Procedures (How to Get into the Kingdom…This section begins with, “But”) Interactive dialog.
-Love your enemies and do good for those you hate.
-For those claiming, “How terrible for you rich…” as a call to social rebellion, class war, or violent upheaval, Jesus follows with “love your enemies.”
-Try saying this: “But, most importantly, I must love my enemies”
-Bless those who curse you
-If someone insults you say, “try again, I want you to be successful, but I am so blessed by God that that insult didn’t really hurt me.”
-Pray for those who abuse you
-Turn the other cheek
-If someone takes your coat give them your shirt.
-If someone takes your car, give them $40 for gas
-Give to everyone who begs
-If someone takes something from you, don’t ask for it back. Say instead, “Enjoy, My God Bless you”
-Do for others as you would have them do for you.
-Love your enemies
The major Theme of today’s Gospel, and I would argue Christianity in general, is Love your enemies as you love everyone else. Love universally through action: those who lived before, those who live now and those who are yet to be born. Because those that live in the Kingdom do not:
-Retaliate - This is how the world operates, and it gets you no where but more violence and oppression.
-Play the victim - This is not a ‘slow play’ to victory, but non-violence is the Way to lean on God instead of our own power, might, wealth, and influence.
-If we honestly and earnestly even tried every day to put only these basic procedures into practice we can transform lives, families, workplaces, churches and nations.