Preaching Professor Lucy Lind Hogan imagines the audience at the Sermon on the Mount this way:
Like all good speakers, he began by capturing the good will of his listeners. Who doesn’t like to hear the good news that we are going to be comforted and inherit the earth? I would imagine nods of agreement and pleasure moved through the crowd like waves.
When did the nodding stop?
Jesus begins with his famous list of those who are blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are those who mourn,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are the pure in heart,
Blessed are the peacemakers,
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Simon, Garfunkel & Willard
What do you think of the people who Jesus claims are “blessed?” If you’ve been around Church much you’ve probably heard these all of your life, so much that they’ve lost any power. But think about it: Poor in spirit? Mournful? Meek? Persecuted?
Simon and Garfunkel rephrased Jesus words as “Blessed are the sat upon, Spat upon, Ratted on.”
Dallas Willard calls this the Gospel of Silliness puts it this way:
The sad truth is that many people around us, and especially people in their teens and young adulthood, drift into a life in which being thin and correctly shaped, having “glorious” hair, appearing youthful, and so forth, are the only terms of blessedness or woe for their existence.
So we must see from our heart that:
Blessed are the physically repulsive,
Blessed are those who smell bad,
The twisted, misshapen, deformed,
The too big, too little, too loud,
The bald, the fat, and the old—
For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus.
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
While recognizing there is good news for us in our silliness, this is still not strong enough. Simon and Garfunkel go on to sing:
Blessed are the meth drinkers, Pot sellers, Illusion dwellers.
Blessed are the penny rookers, Cheap hookers, Groovy lookers.
Willard doesn’t stop with the, he adds the “crushed” and “the immoral.”
Then there are the “seriously” crushed ones: The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurably ill. The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time. The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed. The unemployable. The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced. The parents with children living or the street, the children with parents not dying in the “rest” home. The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid. The emotionally starved or emotionally dead.
Even the moral disasters will be received by God as they come to rely on Jesus, count on him, and make him their companion in his kingdom. Murderers and child-molesters. The brutal and the bigoted. Drug lords and pornographers. War criminals and sadists. Terrorists. The perverted and the filthy and the filthy rich.
There are two things in Jesus’ statements that could cause you to stop nodding along. First, there’s Jesus explicit statements, his pronouncements that these people, who seem so useless, are the ones who are blessed by God. But for every explicit blessing, there is an implicit woe. What about the “rich in spirit?” What about the merciless? The war-makers?
Does the list of the “blesseds” make you stop nodding? Or is it those who Jesus implicitly is condemning?
Apparently, I’m a “Yuccie”
Recently, Mashable shared a piece by freelance writer David Infante, a new type of the new urban elite…it struck me pretty close to home.
Let’s consider something new: Yuccies. Young Urban Creatives. In a nutshell, a slice of Generation Y, borne of suburban comfort, indoctrinated with the transcendent power of education, and infected by the conviction that not only do we deserve to pursue our dreams; we should profit from them.
I am the yuccie. And it sounds sort of, well, yucky.
Getting rich quick would be great. But getting rich quick and preserving creative autonomy? That’s the yuccie dream.
Infante goes on to list a handful of yuccies he’s met, including:
- a former financial employee who runs a music festival startup
- an MBA grad who switched to super-niche menswear e-commerce
- a one-time lawyer who now owns a craft beer brewery.
- a former accountant left his corporate job to pursue his true passion: making colorful socks! Letterpress stationery! Video gaming social networks! Organic vodka!
Where I stopped nodding
It doesn’t take me long to “stop nodding” along with Jesus. Over the last few years I’ve carved out a decent freelance-web-generalist business.
Why do I do it, you ask? I’ll probably baptize my intentions in my desires for ministry. A flexible job frees me up to pursue the work of establishing our church community.
But I’d be lying if I said that was the whole reason. The thrill of making my own way through the world, doing what I like, setting my schedule, or, as the author says “getting rich quick and preserving creative autonomy?” Sounds pretty good to me.
The fact is that I identify with the Yuccie ideal a lot more than things like “being meek” or being a “peacemaker.” I don’t know what ideal you’re chasing, but if this is mine, I have to admit that it doesn’t sound much like what Jesus calls “the blessed.”