Sunday, November 06, 2005

On the way to a discussion of the Kingdom and other matters....

We celebrated All Saint's today in my church, because last Sunday fell before November 1. The Gospel reading was this:

Matthew 5:1-12

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

5:10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Which brought me back to the Scholars Version, which translates the Greek makarioi as "Congratulations!", not "blessed." Because "blessed," for us, carries an active meaning of passive recipient of a boon (the activity being in the person giving the blessing, not the recipient; and which blessing usually does little to change your present status), or someone who is already fortunate or happy. The latter meaning, in fact, is the usual English translation of the Greek word makarios. But makarioi is the plural adjectival form of makarizow, which is to pronounce someone happy and fortunate. Now. Not in the sweet bye and bye.

So when Jesus tells the poor in spirit they are blessed, he means "right now!" In the present situation; under current circumstances; with all that is happening to you. And why are you to be congratulated? Why, precisely because you are poor in spirit! And what do you have, as a result of this poverty of pneuma? The basileia ton ouranon. The kingdom of heaven. Right here. Right now.

The word "poor" by the way, is weak, too. Matthew uses a form of ptokaiou. It means destitute; with nothing. So blessed are you with no spirit. It means you have the kingdom of heaven.

But how is the kingdom of heaven like that?

Perhaps it is like khora. It is a place that is not a place.

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