Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Paradigm Shift

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Luke 6:17-26

Do you know anyone who doesn’t have anything going on? I don’t either. Everyone I know is busy. They have all kinds of things going on. It’s the same with me. We fill our lives up with all kinds of things. There’s things we have to do, things that come up, things we want to do, things we should do. We have to run the kids off in fifty different directions. It seems like our boss is running us off in fifty different directions. We have repair projects at home, problems to solve at work, errands to run, volunteer work to take care of. We have enough going on as it is, it seems that we shouldn’t add anything else.

And maybe that’s true. But maybe we should do things differently. Maybe what we need is a paradigm shift. Now you won’t find the phrase paradigm shift in the Bible. Jesus didn’t go around preaching the Good News and telling people they needed a paradigm shift. But what He was actually doing in coming here to earth was to deliver to people a paradigm shift.

A paradigm shift is a radically different take on something. It’s a change in which things will seem upside down. It’s hard to have a paradigm shift because we’re so ingrained in our own modes of thought or action. Like being busy. We’re so used to filling our lives up with so many things that we couldn’t conceive of getting rid of some of them because they all seem important.

In today’s Gospel Jesus gives a slightly different version of the beatitudes we know so well from the Sermon on the Mount. In giving us these beatitudes He’s delivering to us a paradigm shift. It appears He’s saying that we’re blessed if we have less. But He’s really telling us that He gives us more. When it seems we’re already filled up as it is, Jesus wants to pile on more?

What’s going on here? What is Jesus wanting to do with us? He’s giving us a paradigm shift. He’s rearranging things for us so that they’re upside down.

In a fascinating twist in Luke’s Gospel account, someone other than Jesus at a particular point gives a beatitude: “When one of those who reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” And isn’t it true? Of course it is. That is exactly why Jesus has come. But listen to how He responds to the man:

A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He’s describing those who are the “blessed” of the beatitudes. The ones who are lacking spiritually. They are filled up in Christ. It is the unworthy, those who are in need that Christ welcomes and fills up. We are truly blessed in Christ, we have new life. But there’s a twist even here, and this is the paradigm shift.

The kind of “blessed” life Jesus is talking about can be seen in the great story that Tolkien told in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is just your ordinary hobbit but is given an extraordinary task. He is to take the ring forged by the enemy of Middle Earth and destroy it in the very fire from which it was forged. Otherwise the enemy who created it will destroy Middle Earth. Frodo experiences countless adversities. He’s taken advantage of, he goes through physical trials, hunger, danger, but through it all remains faithful to his task.

In him we see a picture of Christ. Jesus was pressed upon by all kinds of trials and yet forged on. In The Lord of the Rings that ring carried by Frodo was destroyed and Middle Earth was saved. On Mount Calvary Jesus Himself was destroyed and we are saved. In giving us these beatitudes Jesus is saying, Blessed are you because you are in Me. Our blessedness is in being in Him.

He doesn’t say, however, Blessed are you when you are in Me for your life will now be full of happiness and things will go your way. Your load will be lightened and you will be freed up to live a carefree existence. No, what happens instead? Like Frodo, the new life we have in Christ means more trouble will come our way. We will be pressed from all sides. It most certainly will not always seem that we’re blessed.

But that is because the beatitudes aren’t about how we need to be in order to be blessed by Christ. They’re about who He is and what He has done in order to bless us. He became hungry, staving off temptation in order to fill us up with the Bread of Life. He became poor in order to give us the very riches of heaven. He was mocked and treated shamefully so that we may hear the words of our Lord Himself to us on that glorious day when He comes again: “Blessed are you of My Father, enter into the eternal kingdom of glory.”

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and he said one of his profs at the seminary was asked the question of whether we’ll still be married in heaven. His response was: It’s amazing how many questions I get about heaven and none of them have to do with Jesus. What is heaven about, after all? Is it about whether we’ll be married, or whether our pets will be there with us, or how we’ll be spending our time for all of eternity? Isn’t it really about Christ? That we’ll be in His glorious presence?

Here is your paradigm shift—it’s all about Jesus. He is your new life. He is your righteousness. Blessed are you for you will be filled. Blessed are you for yours is the very Kingdom of God. Blessed are you indeed. Amen.

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