Thursday, 26 January 2017

Start With The Beatitudes

On January 22, our church gets to do something wonderful. We get to celebrate our relationship with the Edmonton Christian Life Community Church (formerly called the Edmonton Chinese Mennonite Church). Each year we have a joint worship service followed by a shared potluck where the food is always amazing!

This year, Pastor Ken Tse will give the message. One of his scriptures is the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. This is a passage that Mennonites have traditionally placed a lot of value on, it's almost a theme scripture for us. It is humble, it is active in support of the downtrodden and hurting, it encourages purity of heart, peacemaking, and the pursuit of righteousness even when it is painful.

The Beatitudes were read as a blessing by Rev. Samuel Rodrigues at the opening of the inauguration of US president, Donald Trump.

That strikes me as wrong or ironic, I'm not sure which feeling takes precedence. I've read news bits that say this must have been read as an indictment. Other news bits seem to feel that it was a blessing. Here's a piece I found by a Rev. Erik Parker. He "rewrites the Beatitudes According to Trump." Click this link for his whole article.

“The poor are a bunch of losers,
for they deserve to be poor. Get a job! Which I alone can give.
“The hungry, what a bunch of lazy bums,
just get some food, I mean c’mon.
“Sad people, the worst, the worst,
sad poeple haven’t done anything for the world, let me tell you.”
“But rich people, I love rich people,tremendous.
I love just ‘em. I am really rich, by the way.
“And people with lots to eat,We gotta protect people with lots to eat.
We gotta do something for them.
“And happy people, happy people are the best
I will be the greatest president for happy people. No one else will be a better president for happy people”
“Now listen, we are going to make things great again, trust me.”
Unfortunately, I can hear Trump's voice in my head as I read that satire!

Before the ceremony, Trump listened to a sermon by preacher Robert Jeffress. In this sermon, Jeffress compares Trump to Nehemiah, a builder who raised a wall around Jerusalem. It is horrifying, in my opinion, that the Old Testament is co-opted in this way to bless and encourage Trump to build the wall between the US and Mexico. It is horrifying that he is encouraged to ignore his critics (that's blatantly ridiculous in a real democracy). I find it bizarre that Trump and Pence can be called great leaders on par with Nehemiah, they haven't proven themselves yet. What we do know of their past, to me, doesn't sound too great. You can read the sermon here:

Another thing that I find frightening is the idea that Trump's Christianity might be the so-called "prosperity gospel" which basically purports that if you are faithful, God will make you rich.

So, what are we to think and do as followers of Jesus who remember that Jesus walked with the poor and outcast? Who remember that Jesus refused to set up an earthly kingdom to replace the Romans? Who remember that Jesus died, forgiving us and showing us how to live?

We do well to remember and read the teachings of Jesus. This week, I start with the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...

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