The Beatitudes: Blessed Are the Upside Down

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When you were young, did you like to stand on your head? I know I did. There was something about it that made life a bit more lively. Grass hung in front of my eyes like Tarzan’s jungle. Trees grew “down” not “up.” The house seemed in danger of falling-off our corner lot. And the sky was a blue lawn that went on forever. For as long as I kept my balance I could dance on the clouds with my high-top Converse tennis shoes – while birds and planes flew under my feet. So, looking back on it now, some 50 years later, I’d sum-it-up this way: I liked standing on my head cuz it made me see old things in a new way. A world where trees grew-down and houses might fall-up. Where anything seemed possible. Blessed are the upside-down in life.

As I studied and listened to the gospel text for us this weekend (Matthew 5:1-12), it came to me that Jesus might have said to all those folk, sitting there on the northwestern shore of Lake Galilee. “OK, everyone. Before I share a beatitude/blessing, I’d like for you all to roll forward and stand on your heads.” Why?

The reason for Jesus saying this is because that’s exactly what he was about to do for them. Jesus was turning the known world upside-down … with what is basically a “transvaluation of values” (cf. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Beyond Tragedy, p.197-213). He was turning the world and all of its “ertly” values (Martin Marty) upside-down – including power, strength, wealth, or even health – in order that those who’d been buried at the bottom-of-the-heap suddenly found themselves closest to heaven; while those who thought they were king-of-the-hill found themselves flat on their backs, looking-up … now, perhaps for the first time, wondering. Hmm?

Jesus’ beatitudes turn us upside down so that we can begin to see that those who’ve been bruised for their faith (might this be you?) are not the “sad ones” but the “glad ones” because they’ve found something worth being bruised for – “for righteousness sake,” for Jesus’ sake (Matthew 5:10). That those who are merciful are simply handing out what they’ve already received in abundance (John 10:10) … You know, the world looks rather funny upside down; but maybe that's just how it looks when Jesus begins to plant our feet in heaven (sub specie aeternitas).  Turned upside down by the only One who really knows which way is UP!

I hope to see you “turning-up” and maybe even “upside-down” (!) at worship this weekend.

In Christ’s enfolding love, always …

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor