St Luke 6: 17 – 26
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
My brain tells me to point to the context of this text but I read the words and my every instinct is to scream “Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the weeping etc? Really? Is Jesus seriously asking me to say that to such folk in such circumstances?”
And yet, through 18 years as a Minster (I write this in my last week in post) I have consistently and with integrity said at funerals “Blessed are those who mourn,” knowing that at that moment they clearly aren’t likely to feel one iota of blessing. Though interestingly and obtusely, at that moment, they have seemed reassured and encouraged by the words.
Which is, perhaps, the point Jesus is making with his hope-filled message? This isn’t as Rev’d Ed Loring, the leader of the Open Door Community then in Atlanta, GA, used to say (in a wonderful Southern USA drawl) “Pie in the sky, by and by, when you die!” This is surely something about hope, promise and encouragement? Haven’t I spent 18 months of this pandemic period encouraging, cajoling and comforting folk, saying, “It’s bad, but it’ll be better”? And it will be!
We are, if nothing else, the People of Hope? The ‘Leap for Joy’ People? The folk who currently weep … but will soon be laughing?
Jesus, healer, teacher, pastor, remind us when we are hungry, poor or weeping that you are there beside us, holding, encouraging, feeding, enriching and wiping our tears.
Hold us in the depths of our darknesses and re-fill us with your spirit of hope and blessings, enabling us to once again leap for joy. Amen.