Monday, April 26, 2010

The radical message of Jesus

No, not some trendy version. Just the Gospel itself, which came up in the Daily Office readings of the Book of Common Prayer. These are words we tend to soften. We render them in lovely script on wall hangings. But consider the radical challenge:

Matthew 5

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying...

Contrary to popular art and movies, these words are not flung out for all to hear. They are suited to those who have taken on the "discipline" of following Christ's lead. They won't work well for dabblers.

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The value system is not of this world, but based in a very foreign kingdom - the kingdom of heaven (or, in the other Gospels, "of God.") And it favors not the self-satisfied, loud and confident, nor the smugly "spiritual," but the empty and struggling.

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Jesus isn't about "closure" and "getting over it." A heart that can break can love. Love is the standard of the kingdom.

5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Reality TV = Hell's media. The new creation will be done with exhibitionists, narcissists, manipulators and the like. In a reversal of fortune, people we ignore will be the royalty of the kingdom that is coming.

6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Not those who've already received some formal stamp of approval from the church or the world, but those who won't accept it and keep trudging ahead seeking something real.

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Not those who get even or have the last word, but those who are gentle with those who've wronged them.

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Not those driven about by feelings, opinions, group identity or whatever. Those who flush out old garbage and take in the kingdom's values as their own.

9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
God has a small family by this standard. "All paths lead to heaven"? Maybe not, judging from the state of the world.

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Not those who win on earth, but those who seek citizenship in the kingdom and are willing to take lumps for it.

If you look at efforts to "enlist Jesus" in causes or movements of any ideological stripe, you'll see these kingdom standards getting tossed aside. They're too radical for even the most radical people. All fall short, and that is why sincere disciples learn to place their ultimate trust in Christ himself at the end of the day. He's the only one who lives by the kingdom values and can touch us with the radical tenderness they offer.


Scott said...

#8. I need work on #8 for sure.

Georgia said...

Thank you very much, Fr. Timothy.

I needed this word from you to reattune my spiritual compass/gyroscope to Him this morning.