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Get Up, Go Ahead, Do Something

 A few weeks ago we talked about the importance of mindfulness, non-judging and respectful awareness. The ability to meet life from a place of clarity and groundedness. And the key to being mindful was stopping – meditating, praying, slowing down. We see Jesus do this over and over. Constantly being with people would have been exhausting, and may very well have been trying. We hear that he periodically took time apart to pray and commune with God. It was time to re-center, re-energize and get clarity again for what he was doing.

In Luke 6, after Jesus gives himself a timeout for communion with God, he returns down the mountain, and with mindfulness and clarity of purpose interacts with the people – people in great need - speaking to them, teaching them, encouraging them, and caring for them.

In the midst of this, almost as an aside, scripture says he turns to the disciples and delivers what is known as his “blessings and woes” sermon.

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... for surely your reward is great in heaven...
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.

Megan McKenna, in her book, Blessings and Woes, points out that these words emerge directly out of Jesus’ experience with people in pain, people in distress, people who are economically and socially condemned and outcast. These words are about seeing others with clarity, as God sees, in a radically new way that seeks to bring all people onto a level playing field.

So, here’s the spin I want to throw at you. All of these statements of blessing are passive. It sounds as if Jesus is offering comfort and a future hope for those who are poor, hungry, grieving or persecuted. But, I read something by Elias Chacour that made me consider this a different way. You may recall that Jesus spoke Aramaic, but the New Testament was written in Greek. What if something was lost in the translation between Aramaic and Greek?

Chacour points out that “blessed” or “happy” in Greek is markarioi… but if we look back to the Aramaic, it appears to come from the original word, ashray This does not have a passive quality about it at all, but instead means “to set yourself on the right way for the right goal, to turn around.” Chacour comments that when he reads these words of Jesus, it isn’t a platitude to try and make people feel better, as in: “Awww, don’t worry about being poor, the reign of God is yours. Awww, don’t worry about being hungry, because you will be filled.”

Instead (and remember, this speech isn’t directed to the crowd, but to his disciples, ones Jesus has chosen to follow in his footsteps in teaching and healing), it reads something closer to an injunction, “Get up, go ahead, do something, move, so that the poor will experience the kingdom of God right here, right now.” “Get up, go ahead, do something for those who are weeping and in despair, so that they will know light and laughter again.” “Get up, go ahead, do something, build a world of justice and equality where there isn’t this disparity between rich and poor, where violence isn’t done to one another, where people aren’t laughed at and ridiculed, where some have more than they will ever need and others starve and suffer.”

Jesus was not a wishy-washy, purveyor of platitudes meant to simply make people feel better. Jesus was stronger than that. Jesus was more challenging than that. Jesus was more loving and authentic than that. Chacour's version makes much more sense to me. Get up, go ahead, do something… yes, that sounds like Jesus. 

And, as for the “woes” in Jesus’ little speech. It seems clear to me that he is saying something closer to this:

Woe to you who are rich and don’t share, enjoy it now, because it isn’t always going to fulfill you.
Woe to you who are full and don’t care about others, because your spirit is empty and hungry.
Woe to you who laugh inappropriately, because life happens to all of us and eventually you, too, will weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you… because clearly that means you haven’t spoken up or spoken out for justice and riled any feathers.  What’s the saying? Well-behaved people rarely make history - right?

I know at times it probably feels like a losing battle to try and make the world a better place. I know we feel small, and sometimes insignificant, but I implore you not to give up or give in to despair, because the world needs each and every one of us and the light we bring to the broken and hurting.

One day two bats fell into a pot of milk. The pessimistic bat said, "What can I do? Will I struggle and sink, and die so very tired? I will not die tired." He sank and drowned immediately. The optimistic bat said, "I will strive to the end, and at least they will say I tried everything." She struggled and struggled, trying to fly, until she fainted. Later she awakened and found herself resting safely on a big roll of butter. This is not giving in to despair, but going beyond despair.

We cannot give in to despair. We must push past and when we do, we will find our selves supported and held up by something beyond us.

"Get up, go ahead, do something, move… “

Love & Light!

Kaye