Today's Lectionary Text
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,
“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 in 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,
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
“Watch your words, because words become things.” My grandpa always dropped these little wise, quippy sayings when he was instructing (or correcting) me as a child. Even as a kid, I knew that he didn’t mean that I could literally manifest a puppy or an ice cream cone with my words. I did learn, though, how wise his little saying was. That, indeed, where we direct our attention, our joy, gratitude, and praise, creates a powerful ripple in creation.
Luke’s retelling of the Sermon on the Mount (often referred to as the Sermon on the Plains) invites us to reflect on this picture of blessed people. As often as a young Christian, I read this as a list of characteristics to which I must comply: poor in spirit, meek, struggling, relishing my suffering. But that reading feels limiting and maybe even a little selfish. It takes away from the grander invitation of this story.
Instead of reading this as another tiny Christian box into which we must squeeze, what if it’s a story of Christ looking up at a community of people needing healing and longing to be raised up? What if it’s a story of Jesus showing us how to really see what is good and beautiful and pausing to bless it all? Really bless it -- with held open hands, compassionate eyes, and a smile in our voice.
Instead of tearing down or turning inward, we can bless what is good, what is true, what is of GOD’s magically upside-down kingdom. It may mean that we bless what others curse or condemn. We celebrate and affirm what exists in the margins, seemingly unloved and unnoticed. And in doing so, we make the Kingdom even more real, experienced, and potent while we also diminish the power systems of the world.
I’m convinced that part of our transformational work -- in the world and in the lives of each other -- is to speak blessing into each other’s lives. This means seeing the truth and affirming the values of Spirit in each other. Because words become things. Not in a “woo-woo” way but because it all becomes more real when we say it out loud.
So come down from your mountain, my friends. What beauty and truth will you speak into the world today?
Discipleship and Spiritual Life Director
Lincoln Trinity UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Lord, let us speak blessing into each other's lives, seeking the truth and affirming the values of the Spirit in each other. Amen.
Editor's note: This devotional originally appeared Feb. 17, 2019.
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