“How are you today?” It’s a common question we ask all the time. And I confess it was a polite greeting I was asking just to be polite. But then she gave me the answer that communicated volumes to me about her. She replied “I’m blessed!’ A beautiful smile, a lilt in her voice, and a sweet demeanor all said she really meant it.
Of course I’ve heard that reply a lot, especially growing up in the religious world that shaped my early years. And it wasn’t always so convincing. Most of the time I could pick up on a slight sense of desperation in my responder almost as if saying it would make it true! That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.
And yet, didn’t Jesus say we would have a blessed life if we followed Him? Yes, He did, but I bet a hundred dollars to a donut most folks don’t see being blessed the same way Jesus meant it!
Look at our lesson today in Luke 6:17-23:
At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
Jesus gives us 4 traits of a blessed life and none of these traits really corresponds with my comfort, or convenience, or fame, or even an abundance of contentment! Perhaps that may mean I’m going to have to “adjust” my understanding of being blessed!
- One, Blessed are the Poor. Really? The Poor? I thought that was what all our modern society was trying to get us to solve or escape or overcome. The poor are blessed precisely BECAUSE their poverty invites them to NEVER confuse possessions with happiness or safety or peace. Jesus is trying to free us from the delusion that having stuff OR not having stuff is the point! It’s the seeing beyond the stuff that makes us blessed. The poor WANT the Kingdom. The rich rarely do.
- Two, Blessed are the Hungry. Again, physical hunger can blind us to anything else OR it can cause us to see past the momentary desire to the eternal invitation just beyond the temporary desire. The blessed part of hunger is in what it invites us to, not the hunger itself. After all, what are you really hungry for in your life?
- Three, Blessed are the Weepers. “For Now” the passage adds, and that’s significant. Again, Jesus is comparing the power of the temporary to blind me to the eternal AND, in the very same situation the power of grief to invite me to see beyond it! Beyond my tears to the time when I will laugh! And this time of laughing can be eternal IF I’ll embrace the power of the moment of my grief!
- Four, Blessed are the Hated. I hate this one, because my ego craves approval and affirmation. Seriously, we live in a society that sees the world differently than God, and that means those who follow Him are going to be hated! But what a treasure of opportunity is offered to me when I’m hated! I’m given the chance to love my enemies. I’m offered the moment to examine myself and repent for my part in their hatred. And I’m driven to trust God alone for my affirmation and acceptance!
Today, can you embrace your struggles now, at this moment, and see them as a blessing? By God’s grace, the very spiritual medicine you need right now in your life is contained, some might even say hidden like a treasure, within your right now life! And, if you have the courage to embrace this moment, even if it’s painful, you’ll find all the blessings you need to see past the momentary pain to the joy of being Orthodox on Purpose!
The measurement of the Lord God’s love for you is not in your wealth, it is not in how well you eat, it is not in how happy or joyful you are, and it is not how many friends you have. You are blessed by God without these things.