See, I have tested you in the furnace of adversity. Isaiah 48:10
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy . for surely your reward is great in heaven. Luke 22-23
This verse from Luke follows three verses that remind us more of the Beatitudes – Blessed are the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. Then we have this verse for today. Blessed when we are hated? Reviled? Defamed? That doesn’t sound like much of a blessing, especially because this happens when we are following Jesus. Those who wrote the New Testament assumed that Christianity was not the most popular religion, it “would always be a rejected counter-culture” according to one writer.
There is a contrast between the verse from Isaiah and those from Luke. In Isaiah the people are being “tested” by God. In response to their disobedience they have been exiled into Babylon. Isaiah says that God is trying to teach them a lesson. In Luke, the disciples are learning that following Jesus will not be easy. They are obeying God, yet the world is not accepting that. The disciples suffer as they witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ – yet at the same time they know joy in this world and anticipate their reward in heaven.
Most of us live in a country where it is safe to be a practicing Christian, but even then there can be ridicule or exclusion from some social group. The same contemporary author writes that those who are trying to follow Jesus, follow His ways of treating others, are often ridiculed. The poor, the hungry and the weeping who are blessed are our responsibility. We need to be there to help with affordable housing, nutritious food and comfort and to work to get an economic system that is just for all. Jesus tells us that as we do it to the least of those in the world, we are doing it to Him. One of the speakers at the Healing Our City morning prayer tent recounted last week that when a child heard about the from dust you come and to dust you return, wondered if that meant we are all “dressed up dirt.” In a sense we are , created by God from dust, all created as sacred beings in His image. As we watched the trial of Derrick Chauvin this past few weeks, ending with the guilty verdicts yesterday, we can see both gratitude, joy and lament.
A comment from our bishop : “No jury verdict can erase the pain of the Floyd family, and we share our condolences and pray for ongoing comfort in their suffering and for all whose lives have been touched by this tragedy. As people of the cross, we believe in the hope of the resurrection. Yet we cannot rush to Easter Sunday without reflecting on the oppression of Good Friday.” -Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Blessed and blessing Lord how do we thank you for adversity and opposition? Until we get through the hurts we find it hard to see your purpose. Give us strength to wait and endure. Lord, we know that this journey of Christianity is not meant to be easy; we are asked to love when we are hated and to cultivate peace during times of conflict. Help us to lean on your guidance today and be healers of the breaks in our society. In Jesus’ name, Amen.