Woe is Me!


Lectionary Reading: Luke 6:17-26 (NRSV)

Sunday's reading is the beginning of the "Sermon on the Plain" in Luke which is similar in content to the more familiar (and longer) "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew.  

If you are familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, you'll remember that it begins with the Beatitudes which are the blessings that Jesus proclaims.  There are similarities between the two but Matthew spiritualizes the conditions while Luke allows them to perhaps speak differently to us.

For instance, while Luke relates, "Blessed are you who are poor" in verse 20, Matthew's version says "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."  in 5:3.

Luke then states "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled."  Matthew's verse on hunger (5:6) is "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

Both Gospel writers are the most similar around grief.  Luke's "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" is not all that different from Matthew's "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  

Scholars argue over which is the earliest version (and most original to Jesus).  Of course, Jesus traveled as a preacher and could have changed up his sermon from town to town.  I sometimes change the way I preach a story from one service to the next and that occurs only an hour away in time!

I've laughed and cried - I would rather be laughing. Is it this simple? If we spiritualize these conditions, they may be easier for us to relate.  In comparison to the standards of the world, I'm not poor by any means and I'm certainly not hungry.  Is there a way that we can access these blessings?

This becomes even more difficult for us in Luke because they are followed by the "woes".  It is interesting that the NRSV chose to translate them in this way since "woe" is not a word we commonly use today.  The Common English Bible translates them as "How terrible for you..." which does sound bad.  They are designed to relate a feeling of misery which is a reversal of what people then (and now) would have thought in dealing with those conditions.  To be rich, sated and laughing was seen as the very epitome of blessing.

This in itself becomes a paradox.  How in the world does the Kingdom of God belong to someone who is poor?  If they had God's Kingdom, they would be rich.


In Christ,


Photo by Mark Kjerland via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.