Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
‘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 on 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,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
As many of you know, at the beginning of this year Jen and I went to the Holy Land with a bunch of seminary students and bible nerds. It was a wonderful trip, full of visits to archeological dig sites, ancient fortresses, and beautiful churches. I loved getting to visit these churches because they were built in places where, according to tradition, Jesus walked, preached, or performed a miracle.
For me, these places we visited were not significant because they were the exact spot where Jesus walked, healed someone, or was buried. There is no way to say with any sort of certainty that the tradition is accurate or not. Besides, there are no footprints left on the waves of the Sea of Galilee, all those healed by Jesus eventually passed away, and the tomb is empty.
What made these places significant was the knowledge that across the centuries pilgrims from all walks of life, from all around the world, walked the path to these shrines, stood where I stood now, and knelt before the God who called them blessed. What made these places holy was not the miracle which supposedly took place there at one point in time, but the lives of those who walked by faith and who left behind their prayers and their examples.
One such place was the Church of the Beatitudes, the place where, according to tradition, Jesus delivered the message we just read. Along the path to the beautiful church are placards with the different beatitudes listed. Each step we took we could imagine ourselves among the crowd of people listening with hope to Jesus’ radical definition of blessing, and coming to the realization that, blessed are we.
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