Last week’s Sunday Gospel reading was Luke 6:17-26. I’ve heard it many times over my forty plus years of church attendance. If you aren’t familiar with the Episcopal church, we follow a lectionary that takes us through all the Gospels every three years. That means I’ve heard that Gospel reading at least 15 times.
At my new church, we have an interim priest. I’m really enjoying his sermons. While he shares a message of Grace and Joy, he doesn’t let us off the hook either. He calls us to live according to the Gospels. A tall order.
On Sunday, he not only shared with us the translation we were used to hearing, but he also shared with us the translation from the Message Bible. While I have heard wonderful things about this translation, I’m currently working my way through the New Living Translation, so I had never heard this passage translated in this way.
The combination of the sermon and this new translation really got under my skin. So much so that I wanted to share it with you.
17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
22-23 “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. 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
24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.
25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
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.
26 “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.
He ended his sermon by commenting that we often hear people demanding that the Ten Commandments of Moses be publicly posted, but we rarely hear anyone demand that the Beatitudes of the Gospels be posted. He also asked what that said about us.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering that question. I don’t know that I have a complete answer, but I do know that like the Pharisees in the Gospels, we’ve become too obsessed with the rules and regulations and not nearly interested enough in loving our neighbors.
I find verse 26 really getting under my skin, because American society is all about the popularity contest. We claim to be a Christian nation, but we avoid the truth and care only about what others think, in clear opposition to Christ’s teachings.
I myself have been through a long and difficult transformation over the last few years sifting through those things that I pursued because others wanted me to and those things I pursued because God called me to.
I’ve found that telling the truth rarely makes you popular. Of course, I’ve never been the popular girl. I’m not social enough. I’m not stylish enough. But now that I seek to tell the truth, I’m even less so.
I suspect you’ll see these theme crop up again. In the meantime, what do you think our preference for the Commandments over the Beatitudes say about us? What do these verses stir in you?