In this morning’s gospel reading, we hear Luke’s version of what we know as The Beatitudes. Beatitude, from the Latin beatus, is defined as: a state of utmost bliss, and is synonymous with felicity, gladness, happiness, joy, and especially blessedness. It is the word blessed which we hear at the beginning of each statement Jesus gives. In Matthew’s gospel, we hear a longer version of the Beatitudes which comes from a sermon Jesus gives to his followers, known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is this version I remember hearing each year when Franco Zefferelli’s epic “Jesus of Nazareth” was broadcast on TV just prior to Easter. You may remember Zefferelli’s strikingly incongruous Anglo Jesus with crystal blue eyes delivering the Beatitudes to a great crowd assembled around him, augmented by the uplifting sound of a string orchestra, giving the moment a dramatic sense of beauty and hope.
Luke’s version, known as the Sermon on the Plain, is spare with only four Beatitudes. Besides the location and brevity of Luke’s version, the other difference is that each statement of blessedness is balanced by a woe, emphasizing two rival ways of human conduct and the reversal of human values that we hear throughout Luke. The gospel writer sets the scene by telling us that people had come not only from Judea and Jerusalem, but from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Traditionally, we understand the gospel writer of Luke to himself be a Gentile, outside the covenant between God and Israel. Where Matthew’s gospel is written for a community of Jewish believers who are asking questions about how their belief in Jesus intersects with the faith of their upbringing, Luke is proclaiming the promise of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, outside of Judaism. What do we notice about these Beatitudes and their subsequent ‘woes’ in Luke? Let me suggest two things:
Jeremiah 17: 5-10 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Psalm 1 Luke 6:17-26
One of the things I like most about my monastic cell is the view from its window. This week I spent a lot of time staring out the window meditating on scripture and I was struck by the beauty of the landscape, even in this austere, barren season of the year.
[Jesus] 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.
Offered at St. Paul’s Church, Greenville, NC
The most predictable thing about the ministry of Jesus was its unpredictability !
Jesus seldom acted in the ways people expected him to act. He bypassed the respectable and the “righteous,” preferring the company of “tax collectors and sinners.” He openly violated the religious standards of his day, preferring to show compassion.