Monday, November 07, 2005

"Just as an eagle stirs her nest/so that her young will have no rest..."

This is not the place for a full exegesis of the Beatitudes from Q (i.e., Matthew and Luke), but just for a notation.

Makarioi oi ptoikoi, says Jesus in Luke; and in Matthew he adds "tow pneumati." The word there, as I said, is makarizow; it is the pronouncement of the blessing, not a statement of condition. It is an easier saying if we read it as definitional, and God explaining the conditions that prevail, and that the poor are blessed as a condition of their poverty; that blessedness, indeed, comes with the condition of poverty, and so is not to be despised; perhaps is even to be envied.

But what if we shift it from noun to verb? "Blessed are..." is a statement of boundaries, of ground rules, of definition. "Blessed are" is: "part of the concept of blessing is good fortune, in the eyes of God." But that allows us to accept poverty, even to envy it on some level; to think that poverty, somehow, is part of God's great scheme and grand plan for humanity. Much as I have actually heard "the poor will always be with you" explained as a definition of the conditions that prevail, and so God does not expect us to struggle with an intractable, indeed a foundational, issue. To challenge poverty becomes to challenge Creation itself.

But if the blessing is a pronouncement, is a verb, an activity of God, then it is meant for the ears of the poor and the not-poor simultaneously, and for a very different reason. If is meant for us now; not for us to understand "the way things are," but for us to see the way God sees. If the blessing is a pronouncement from God, then poverty is not a condition imposed by God, not a definitional issue of human existence or even a state God requires as a function of creation, but is a human condition that still does not block one from God. It is a statement that the fortunate are indeed the ptoikoi, the impoverished, the destitute: in wallet or in spirit. It is a statement that upends our expectations, tosses overboard our presumptions, turns over our predilections, and makes us see as God sees: that if we value what we can see, then we value it wrongly. That if we value power over mercy, war over peace, or even just think hunger is permanent and tears the logical response to the human condition, God will prove us wrong, and will do so right now, in this moment! It is the pronouncement, not the definition, that matters.

We call the Scriptures, after all, the living Word of the living God. Are they merely meant to define, to explain? Or are they meant to be active, here, now, and to pierce our presumptions as they pierced the presumptions of the original audience? Jesus was remembered for what he said, not for what he did. He left no empire behind, no famly legacy, no monuments or treatises. If what he said was not piercing, not sharp and painful and goading, would anyone have bothered to write it down?

"God in his own mysterious way/stirs up his people to watch, fight, and pray."

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