What would be a local list of the beatitudes for your community look like if you were to make one?
Lia Scholl, pastor of First Friends Meeting here in Greensboro, recently preached on Mt 5 and the Beatitudes. The message was great and she pointed out that in her reading the characteristics Jesus names are things most humans experience.
Whether that is being “poor in spirit,” grieving, being meek, being persecuted for trying to challenge the status quo, standing up for justice, etc.
For Lia, everyone can and probably has experienced at least one of these.
What I liked about what Lia shared was that this is not the way I have generally read the text and appreciate the new perspective.
This got me thinking about the things people experience today that force a distance between “us” and “them” or that leave people experience a true lack of favor.
What is a new list of characteristics that are true for my community, my students, and those I most care about and most often see.
The Beatitudes are some of the most poignant and powerful words in the Gospels because here Jesus is claiming the blessing of God on the weak, downtrodden, and victims of empire. Makaripos is the word for favor, the word here translated “blessed.” It means that God’s favor is with the…
The beatitudes are a very clear indicator of God’s preferential option, God’s favor, for the poor.
If we really believe that God favors those who are for one reason or another on the margins in our society, then we should be shaped by that conviction. It should shape what we too care about. Who we favor, advocated for, and are in solidarity with.
Who are those blessed today? What characteristics would Jesus describe in his list of blessings?
Bless This Mess
In David Bazan‘s song, Bless this Mess, he has his own list of beatitudes. At least that is how I hear this song.
I think Bazan’s song underlines a different, counter-consumer reading to this text.
Typically we hear “bless” as directed towards those who deserve it, those who have worked hard, or shown good Protestant work ethic, Bazan’s song shows the flip side to this. The unexpected graces to people who, at least in society’s minds, do not deserve anything at all.
What if God really does bless “the losers.” The ones favored by God are the ones who seem to lack all favor.
Here’s how Willard puts it:
“Blessed are the spiritual zeros—the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’—when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them.”― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
So what’s that list for you and the people in your community today? Who needs to receive God’s favor? Who are those who lack power, privilege, and “favor” as it is constructed in our world today? Who are those who God is in solidarity with?
Blessed are the sick, the grieving, the ones who have lost loved ones, relationships, jobs, homes, and ways of life in the pandemic.
Blessed are those struggling with Mental health.
Blessed are the depressed, anxious, and distracted.
The ones who believe that no one loves them, who are unable to see their worth and value.
Blessed are the neurodivergent, the disabled, the ones who get overlooked, avoided, and scorned.
The ones who have to work three times as hard to maintain.
Blessed are the ones who are singled out, shouted at, targeted, and live in fear.
Blessed are the hungry, the scapegoated, those without homes and those in homes that are unsafe.
Blessed are those who need connection, whose relationships are broken, who long for an opportunity to make it, or who need new relationships that are healing.
Blessed are those who are in need of basic items.
Blessed are those whose own humanity is called into question.
These are some of the people, some of my friends, some of my people, those in my community who I believe God loves and favors today.
God bless this mess that we are in.