Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In Reflection on the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes

"Daily bread"

Jesus spoke to simple people.

Jesus understood the theological niceties and the tendency of spiritualization of the educated. Perhaps that's why he didn't speak to the educated, except in debate. If we like a word, or like a teacher, we try to fit what was said into a context we can accept, an idea we can receive.

People with refrigerators and cupboards full of food want to try to apply "Give us this day our daily bread." Frankly, we don't need daily bread. We've already got bread for today, tomorrow and the next. And we aren't satisfied with bread. So we have cheese and milk and beef and turkey and donuts and hot dogs and Slim Fast bars and Nutella. So when we read about daily bread, we think it means the Word of God, or Jesus who is the Word of God, or some other kind of symbolic, spiritual bread that we actually need because 'daily bread' is an unnecessary prayer for us.

But the people Jesus spoke to-- and the majority of the world today-- would understand that when Jesus spoke of bread, he meant... well, bread. Or maybe rice. Perhaps corn. But certainly not Peanut M&Ms. Certainly not a refrigerator full of food. Certainly not Jesus. And not the word of God, either. Because the majority of the people (who ever lived) don't know if they will have enough basic food to eat that day. Some dig through trash, some rely on farms, but most go hungry. So when Jesus spoke to simple people, he spoke about bread because that's something they understood. They asked, "Heaven is great, but what will I give my children to eat today?" And Jesus answered, "Ask and you will receive. Ask your Father for what is good and He will not give you a stone."

When Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor," he didn't mean the people who were humble. That doesn't mean Jesus downplayed humility-- oh, no, that is essential. But Jesus also glorified the poor. Not poverty. Poverty is horrible. But the poor can be glorious and faithful and just desperate enough to seek God for what no one else would grant them. So "the poor" are... poor people.

Yes, in Matthew it says, "the poor in spirit." And it is associated with "the meek", "the mourning", those desperate for justice and those who are persecuted. These are people who, whether lacking in funds or not, are oppressed and suffering at the hands of those more powerful than they. The poor. Not those who humble themselves, but are humiliated at the hands of another.

The simple person learns that the Bible is more complicated than what the simple words seem to say, and so theologians and preachers and the educated and the wise unlearn what seems so simple to understand. So straightforward.

And so we lose the point because we are too educated, to sophisticated to understand it. Are eyes are so wide open that we see nothing. And we lose the truth that is staring us right in the face.

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