“Today for me: Tomorrow for you”
Growing up my family always parables, adages, and fables to teach us life lessons. One of those sayings was “today for me, tomorrow for you.” Simply put, what happens for me today, will happen for you tomorrow. Our lives are intrinsically connected and whatever affects the one will invariable, with time, affect the whole.
Depending on who you are in the church and in society, this can be one of the most comforting or one of the most scandalizing passages in the gospels. It is simply one of those scriptures that comforts those who are uncomfortable or makes those who are comfortable more uncomfortable. But either way, today Christ is calling out to each of us.
Today is the 6th Sunday after of epiphany, the period of the liturgical calendar right after Christmas. During the Time of Christmas, we celebrate the grace of God enfleshed (John 1:14) in Jesus the Christ (The anointed one.) Spirit took on flesh and become visible. During epiphany we celebrate the ways that Christ is reveled among us. In these days of epiphany, we are called to remember and embrace the biblical narrative as our own and to live out what Christ lived into. We are also called to share with the world the ways our present and Still Speaking God continues to work among us in ways that are at times obvious and at times hidden.
In this scripture we are presented with a clear description of the woes and the blessings named by Jesus for those who gathered to hear him and be healed by him. This included the 12 disciples closest to him, a large group of his followers and the multitude from around the area. Like them, we are invited to listen to this message from the mouth of Christ,
“Blessed are the 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.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy.
Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are rich.
Woe to you who are laughing now.
Woe to you who people speak well of.”
This gospel text tell us that blessed are the poor, hungry, hurting and hated. Many of us are not poor, hungry, weeping nor hated. Many of us live in relative comfort, have all we need to eat, do not spend our days weeping, and have some kind of loving or supportive connections. So what about us, you may ask. Where do we fit into this? What is the good news for us in this scripture?
In the Luke Gospel it reads blessed are the poor, while in Matthew it reads blessed are the poor in spirit. One is the lived socio-political and economic reality of a people while the other is a state of emotional/spiritual reality. Both of these understandings whether socio-political and economic or poverty of the spirit calls for our immediate attention. Yet, since we are in the book of Luke, let us focus on the socio-political and economic realities of poverty and how it impacts us.
According to the Peruvian theologian Gustavo Guttierez, the father of liberation theology, "We referred to the poor as non-persons, but not in philosophical sense, because it is obvious that each human being is a person, rather in a sociological sense; the poor, that is, are not accepted as persons in our society. They are invisible and have not rights, their dignity is not recognized,"
The poor, hungry, weeping, and hated live in our communities. Some may be obviously in need like the person begging on the street while others are less visible but still needs our loving kindness. It may be the homeless person at the stop light begging, the family with too many mouths to feed, the LGBT youth facing discrimination, the elder neighbor down the street, the woman who was passed over for the position she is fully qualified for, or those without health insurance.
Whatever the situation, there are many who need our attention on our block, in our town, in our state and in our nation. And although their situation may not seem blessed, Christ declares them blessed. But why? Christ knew that his Gospel of love that calls us to follow would compel us to be the hands that give to the poor and hungry and the hearts that care for the weeping, reviled, and hated.
Whether a bag of groceries at someone’s door; assistance for a child’s education; a letter to the town council for ADA adjustments to buildings to accommodate the disabled; signing a petition for LGBT inclusion; speaking out for racial justice; calling out gender discrimination; or looking out for our elderly, your hands and your heart are the blessing that Christ spoke of for them.
We have been transformed by the love of God so we may transform the world. Because of the love of God lived through you they are “blessed.” Through transforming their lives, we transform our communities and the world: this includes our own lives and the lives of those we care about.
Christ calls out “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest!” Like those who gathered on the plains to listen to Jesus, we too are reaching out toward the power flowing from Jesus Christ. We want to be fill with that power to be protectors, defenders, and agents of hope and healing in the world.
Today for me, tomorrow for you. Today, may we be strengthened to be the hands and heart of God to bless and transform this world into a kinder, more just and loving world. Tomorrow may we get to live in a kinder, more just, and loving world. God bless you.