Last Sunday our Gospel text from Matthew 5 was a familiar one, the Beatitudes. When we encounter familiar texts it can be easy to tune out because “we know this one.” We might think we know all there is to know because we are familiar with it. We might even start singing to our self a familiar hymn with the words of the passage and zone out from the actual reading of the scripture happening in worship. However, last week through discussion with a friend about this familiar text from Matthew, I encountered this text in a new way. I am not sure if it is the place I have been in, of feeling deeply the weariness of the world, or if it was how it spoke with the others texts it was paired with in the lectionary, but whatever it was it spoke to me in a new and powerful way.
The beatitudes lift up the tension of what we Lutherans often call “the now and not yet,” through the pairings it presents. Jesus saying first “blessed are they” then listing a group that is oppressed or marginalized. Then in the second half of the pairings Jesus says what type of blessing will be received by each group. What I learned from the commentary I read about this is that the verb in the second half of many of these verses is actually in the passive voice. This leaves the agency of the action open-ended. This is where a new lens began to open up for me about this text. If the action is in the passive voice, who is the agent enacting it? Who is filling the hungry? Or comforting those who mourn? Or showing mercy?
As my friend and I were discussing all of this we also noted that a footnote in the Lutheran Study Bible points out that what God speaks comes into being, like in the beginning with creation, God spoke it and it happened. Likewise, what Jesus speaks also comes into being, so when Jesus speaks the Beatitudes he is speaking this vision of the kingdom of God into being. But if this is spoken into being by Jesus, why do we seem so far away from it these days? Yes, what God/Jesus speaks comes into being, however in our lives as humans we can do things that take away from this vision. We can do and say things that separate us from each other rather than bring us together. This is where my revelation about the beatitudes began to fully take shape.
As children of God we are called to reach out to the margins, to the outcast and the oppressed, to the hungry and mistreated, to bring them in and show them God’s love. We are the agents of God’s love that help bring the Beatitudes into being. Yes, God speaks it into being through Jesus, but as children of God we are called to live and speak in ways that we keep bringing this reality into being around us.
My interpretation of the Beatitudes in this way is definitely also informed by the division and hatred that seems so prevalent around us, especially this week. That we can let ourselves be so divided by party lines that many are not talking to their friends and family who may have voted differently than they did. My heart is feeling the hurt of the extreme division that has become so fully visible. How in the midst of such divisiveness can we be the agents of God’s love that we are called to be? How do we create space for dialogue rather than argument? Space for listening to the other rather than making snap judgments?
Living into the tension of the now and not yet means living into the tension of right now. Living into the tension of our identity as children of God to love and show mercy. Living into the tension of creating space for healthy dialogue with those we don’t agree with. It can feel like a challenging and difficult path, but it is the path of faith, the path of our journey as children of God. Our path as the agents of God’s love in the world.