Blessing evokes gag reflex…

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I can get “triggered” whenever I hear people say; “I’m so blessed.” I try to pull back and see the statement within the context of the life of the person saying it, but often cannot. When blessing is thrown around with thoughts and prayers, my gag reflex wants to kick in. If you’ve ever seen a “blessed” sticker on the back of an Escalade with a stick family following a cross, then you get my drift.

Our contemporary understanding of blessing has the subtext of being God’s favorite-that’s even the story line of the Hebrew scriptures. Imagine two people going along together and then one is blessed to find a hundred dollar bill, and now, due to blessing, there is inequality. Blessed = Have Stuff. Blessing has become synonymous with the favored ones, the elect, or those smart enough to pick the winning team. All the bumper stickers, cheesy music lyrics, and tribal language describe blessing as the ascent, the gaining of advantage, or the rise of power.

I wonder if Jesus has sort of thrown up in his mouth at how the church seems to have adulterated his teaching on blessing. Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with what is called the Beatitudes. These are eight (some scholars say there are more) little fortune cookie statements which reveal that blessing is a descent. Blessing costs us something.

In our binary, linear, cause and effect mindset, we think of blessing as something we get if we do something. We see blessing as our reward for good behavior. I’m convinced that this is not Jesus’ intent. Blessing is ontological not practical. It’s who we are not what we do. The blessed person as we’ll see in Jesus’ discourse, is not he or she who is climbing in some egoic pursuit, or trying to gain advantage, but he or she descends into humility placing others before themselves. Blessing is not the cause to having a charmed life, its the effect of a soul found in tune with it’s Maker and others.

Would our world call the following descriptions of people blessed ? Jesus said the blessed (makarios/ happy) are:

  1. The poor in spirit…
  2. Those who mourn…
  3. The meek…
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for what is right…
  5. The merciful…
  6. The pure in heart…
  7. The peacemakers…
  8. Those persecuted for doing the right thing…

The first thing we learn about Jesus’ wisdom is paradox: Down is the way up. This is a FULL STOP. Do not skim over this. When we asked the question last week; “What can words do for us now? Are we too far gone?“, THIS IS THE ANSWER. Our default mode of living in the world is 180 out of sync. Our navigation system is not calibrated to the GPS and as a result we experience suffering both as the victim as well as the victor.

Jesus is rolling out the blueprint for his subversive kingdom. He was not going to “over power” the powers. There is no plan to strong arm, resist, or amass an irresistible army and take anything over. His plan is to turn from beneath or subvert. While all our institutions teach us to zig, Jesus offers a zag. His kingdom is powered from the inside out, not the outside in. This means that once the kingdom is grasped from the heart, there is no outside force or circumstance of any kind that can take it away. We enter this kingdom through the ideology of paradox.

I imagine those who were oppressed when Jesus gave this sermon were immediately pinned to every word. The response of his audience then is precisely the same as our response now. A few likely made the immediate connection and began joining the revolution emerging within their own soul. Most people likely walked away disappointed, let down, and confused. We all want a power bigger than the powers that oppress us. Jesus gives that to all hearers, but its those that recognize their own complicity in small acts of evil that ultimately experience what it means to be blessed. Only the bowed head can see that one’s oppressor is just like oneself and then sees that changing the world begins by changing oneself.

We’ve barely begun this sermon and I think you can see why Jesus was killed within three years. Powers do no like to lose power. This is true for the empire on the hill, as well as the ego within our heart. It’s the same war. Win in the private place and the public place is restored. (Faithful in little…) Ignore what’s inside and suffering and evil promulgates. Want to fix the world’s problems? Begin with you. As Ghandi said years later, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.

How vital are these words today? Are you willing to die inside if that is what it means to be blessed? If so, the kingdom has come to you. If you think blessing is material accumulation, social, racial, political, or financial advantage, then the kingdom remains in the distance. The blessed person has the open hand that freely gives and receives, not the closed fist that clutches to what it has.

The advantage of blessing is not measured by our common mindset and it’s materialistic scale, but by our delight that emerges when we let go within the paradox of the soul. If it’s true that down is actually the way up, then we must learn to examine anything to which we tightly cling.

One thought on “Blessing evokes gag reflex…

  1. Really good point!

    Best Regards,

    Rick Kahler, MSFP, ChFC
    A NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor

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