bible blog 1148

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


"down with the rule of Law"

“down with the rule of Law”

Matthew 5:1-10

My translation

5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are those who reject riches, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the dispossessed, for they will inherit the land.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This teaching is given to disciples of Jesus only; and makes sense only for those who are committed to his way.

the late Dom Helder Camara of Brazil

the late Dom Helder Camara of Brazil

My translation is a little contentious, inasmuch as it spells out the blunt meanings of phrases that have been rendered obscure by time. 

The “poor in spirit” (usual translation) are for Matthew those disciples who accept poverty for the sake of God’s rule, but “accepting poverty” would be an ambiguous translation which could be used to argue that poverty is not an injustice. Disciples reject wealth, not only because their calling demands sacrifice, but also because wealth corrupts. The pleasure of living in community under God’s rule is their reward. Jesus says that those who have given up family and possessions for his sake will find that in the shared life of the rule of God they will be compensated with a greater family and more (common) possessions.

The mourners are not only the bereaved but also those who mourn the evil and injustice of the world as it is. The advent of God’s rule in the world, even in its small beginnings, will console them.

The “meek (usual translation) are those “deprived of ownership” by the brutality of power. Although they own nothing, they will be the true inheritors of the promised land. Only they are worthy of the land.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (usual translation), I interpret as working for both individual and communal justice. As God’s rule makes its way in the world by persuasion, they will be satisfied.

Mercy is the capacity for kindness and forgiveness. Those who show these qualities are also able to receive God’s mercy and that of their fellow human beings.

Jesus taught that everything unclean came from a dirty heart. Those who turn towards God’s rule are made clean and their eyes are opened to the holy presence.

“Shalom” (peace, welfare, health) is a word which sums up the goodness of God. Those who create such peace have entered into God’s creative spirit and have become his children.

God’s rule is brutally contested in the world. Those who who stand for his justice may be persecuted. As they share the suffering of God in the world as it is, they shall share the triumph of God in the world to come.  

Anthony Barton was killed in 2005 in an unprovoked racist attack. His mother forgave his killers

Anthony Barton was killed in 2005 in an unprovoked racist attack. His mother forgave his killers

These blessings are a small compendium of discipleship. They illustrate the character-forming power of trust in God’s rule, which is present here and now in those who receive it, but is promised in its fullness beyond the horizon of the world as it is. Those who live in this creative tension between promise and fulfilment, find themselves able to reject wealth,  to grieve the present state of the world, to refuse ownership of the earth, to look eagerly for justice, to exercise kindness and forgiveness, to clean the filth of evil from their souls, to make peace and to endure persecution. 

I have known some people who have shown these qualities: they are the salt of the earth.  For myself, I try to hold on to the promise of God’s rule and hope I may experience some of these blessings some of the time as I live in community with people who are better than me. The qualities required are a tall order and no kidding, but “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp/ or what’s  a heaven for?” (R. Browning).

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