Jesus calls the 12 apostles, from the throng of disciples following after him at the beginning of today's reading in Luke. He has, once again, tried to find a private place to pray, and, yet again, was foiled by his popularity. So instead of resting and praying, he appoints, and we hear the names of, the 12 who will assist him in leading the hordes following along behind him, seeking cures and solace and knowledge.
Right after appointing the 12, he comes off the mountain to the crowd waiting for him at its base and begins to teach. We are at the beginning of a large data-dump by Luke, or perhaps a nicer way to say that is Luke is providing a tremendous amount of "sayings by Jesus" in this Chapter. We started Jesus' ministry with stories of healing and are told that Jesus was teaching in the synagogues. Now we hear mention (generally) about healing, and Luke provides the actual teachings.
Jesus begins this rather long teaching section with the "Blessings and Woes." Blessed are: the poor, the hungry, the weeping, those who follow him & and are defamed, excluded and hated because they follow him. Woe to those who are: rich, satisfied, happy, thought well of. These are challenging words to hear, for who among us does not want to be, or isn't (at least partially), rich, not hungry, happy and well thought of? Who among us wants to be poor, hungry, sad and cast-out?
If we take a step back and look at these Blessings and Woes from a distance, and understand them as another of Jesus' attempts to turn the world on its head, what would we hear? This is not an exercise to lesson the shock value of these teachings, but one to try to come to some kind of understanding. Perhaps one of the things that can be gleaned from such an exercise, is to reflect on how easily it is to forget those who are poor, hungry and weeping when we are rich, well fed and enjoying ourselves. If we are blessed with one or more of Jesus' woes, to whom should we reach out today to engage in what we see as woes and Jesus sees as blessings? How do we breach that divide?
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Cross #15, 2008, jfd+