Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
The Upside-Down Kin(g)dom
The list of Beatitudes does not contain commands—no “Thou shalts” or “Thou shalt nots.” They’re simply Jesus’ list of people that God looks upon with favor. Jesus was listing character traits of the people who are part of the upside-down kin(g)dom of God. The beautiful thing is that Jesus wasn’t just describing these kin(g)dom-dweller traits; he embodied those traits.
The Beatitudes were a bold protest against the systems of Jesus’ time. By showing his followers how to look upon certain people (the poor, the hungry, the grieving) with new sight, Jesus showed them how to enter into a new existence—an existence that flips the current model, which esteems the rich, the full, and the smiling.
The accepted systems in Jesus’ time promoted actively sweeping aside the poor, the hungry, and the grieving, as if they had nothing to offer society. Jesus said: “Look again! These are the blessed ones of God!” This kin(g)dom Jesus taught and embodied is a new way of seeing, and thus a new way of being. When we learn to act as if the poor, the hungry, and the grieving are full of blessedness, we then “pledge our allegiance” to a kin(g)dom in which all people are our kin.
The Beatitudes describe the blessedness—the well-being, the happiness—of those who are part of the kin(g)dom of God. The Beatitudes give us a snapshot of a true disciple of God, because they do not center on force, pride, and judgment. In contrast, they summarize Jesus’ highest ideals: love, humility, and compassion.
The invitation is for us to notice and acknowledge the blessedness in our poor, hungry, grieving neighbors, and to notice and acknowledge the blessedness in our poor, hungry, grieving selves too. Implicit in this is an invitation for us to be happy. Blessedness is our irreversible reality. Happiness is our right! We would do well to recognize the blessedness and to seek the well-being of all whom we meet.
Christie Melby-Gibbons, executive director, Tricklebee Café