Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Luke 6:1–26

Now in rapid succession the story gets going. Three elements. First, Jesus and the sabbath; then he picks the twelve; then the beatitudes.

Jesus breaks the sabbath law. Having just shown that God’s grace is open to all, those whom the Pharisees would exclude, having shown that the bounds of God’s grace are...well, no bound at all: that there are no bounds to God’s grace, Jesus proceeds to march through the field eating grain on the sabbath. This breaks the rules. And his appeal is to David, who broke the rules. This makes clear what the preceding miracles had implied, that Jesus is about a new set of rules, a breaking of the old rules. He proceeds to heal on the same sabbath, and this in turn enrages the Pharisees.

Then the Twelve are chosen. The old community is over: a new crowd is allowed in, and a new set of foundational rules are in place, and now a new community is made. These had all already been called. What happens now is that they are chosen for a particular role. He chose twelve of them to be the leaders of the community. This new community is the immediately itself an instrument of healing for others.

And the foundational principles of this community are then laid out. Blessed--happy--fortunate--are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, excluded, reviled, or defamed. Huh? Yep, that’s what he says. These are the lucky ones. This is the new community, the community of the excluded, the shut-out, those without power, those who are oppressed by the old rules. Who is the unhappy, the unfortunate? the rich, the full, the laughing, those who are well-spoken of.

How tragic that this could be missed. The church is the continuation of this community; the proclamation of the one holy catholic and apostolic church of the creed is the proclamation of the lineal descent of today’s church from this community: or rather, that we with them are one community. But we are so not because of our lineage, our inheritance, our continuity. Fine things those may be, but what is most important in this community are these three characteristics:

First, that the community uses rules and policies as tools for its own mission; never constrained by them against its will, but using them as holy tools for the proclamation of the new redeemed and liberated community.

Second, that the leaders are chosen of God, from among the excluded and rejected, of every sort with a stunning diversity, and whose choice results in healing, not distress.

And third, that this community values first and always the poor, the excluded, the oppresed, the sad, the weeping; that it never courts or seeks those who are rich, powerful, or well-regarded. It proclaims that happiness, joy and the blessing of God are with the former; that the latter are in a sad and sorry state.

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