Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Meek Shall Inherit the Moon

In the daily scripture readings observed in the Episcopal Church (the “Daily Office”), we’ve made it to Matthew 5—the sermon on the mount. Jesus, seeing the crowds, climbs up on a mount, waits for his disciples to come to him, and then begins to teach. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

No politician ever got elected by singling out the poor, meek, hungry, righteous, merciful, pure, and peaceful as their lone constituency. They are, by definition, the powerless, and politicians are, by definition, in positions of power. Jesus chooses to build his message on the premise that weak is strong, that poor is rich, that humble is majestic. That anyone bothered to write that down is remarkable.

I thought that the Internet had everything, and that any question that came through my mind could be answered by the Google. But I can’t find the movie that includes the line “Actually, there’s been a change of plans: the meek shall inherit the moon.” I think it might be a Monty Python movie, but maybe that’s because I’m remembering the scene about the misheard line from the sermon on the mount in The Life of Brian, “Blessed are the cheese-makers.” (Anyone able to help me on this?) Regardless, it’s out there somewhere, and it’s not only funny but telling. We joke about it, but actually it reveals something about what we really think: the meek shall not inherit the earth but whatever’s left over. In fact, a band called Kiss Kiss apparently made an album called “The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left” in 2009. (The Google told me that.)

Bottom line, we don’t believe Jesus. The Beatitudes, as this series of “Blessed are…” statements is called, are seen as a teaching tool rather than a prediction. As yourself how you hear them. Are they gentle instruction or real prophecy? Is Jesus merely suggesting that we search for peace, or is he defining the future of human existence as reserved for the downtrodden?

Humility, it seems, should be the goal of every preacher. Obscurity should be the hope of every televangelist. If you’re a Christian—and especially if you make a living inviting others to follow Jesus—you should hear these Beatitudes not as a reminder but as instruction. I am neither poor nor poor in spirit. I am certainly not meek. I’d like to be a peacemaker, but I know I’m not. My instincts aren’t merciful, I’ve never been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and my heart is far from pure. Jesus isn’t just asking me to be more like those things. He’s asking me to be those things. We pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. That comes later on in this lengthy sermon. We took that part seriously. Why aren’t these words of Jesus as important to us?

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