Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jesus Was Not Your Typical New Age Teacher

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 contains an enigmatic and counter-intuitive saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Many modern teachers would have us believe just the opposite: “Blessed are the rich in spirit.” Why the difference? Because Jesus knew that you don’t need to teach anyone who is rich, healthy and happy to be blessed! They know it already. But Jesus had to remind those who were in abject poverty that there was blessing in the bankruptcy. Granted, this sort of teaching doesn’t sell well in our current market of consumer spirituality which promotes unceasing goose bumps and guaranteed formulas for light and love. But Jesus was not a New Age health and wealth entrepreneur; his message was radical and meant for those sunk deep in the crapper. And he didn’t try to teach them to make cake from crap, or turn lemons into lemonade. He taught them that our poverty is blessed—that the crap is crap, and is blessed. His point was not to “transform” or heal the crap, but to see the crap as crap, yet purposeful crap. Read the rest of Matthew 5—Jesus does not soften the situation for those who are poor, or in mourning or those undergoing persecution. He doesn’t promise that the poverty, mourning or persecution will disappear if they pray the secret ancient prayer or apply the secret spiritual principles from his self help workshop. He just tells them they are blessed while in the midst of their troubles. For Jesus the problem itself, as it is, represents the kingdom of heaven.

Oscar Wilde, the famous 19th century poet, was imprisoned for his alleged homosexuality. While incarcerated he had a profound spiritual awakening, and wrote: “Christ, through some divine instinct in him, seems to have always loved the sinner as being the nearest possible approach to the perfection of humankind…To turn an interesting thief into a tedious honest man was not his aim…But in a manner not yet understood of the world, he regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful, holy things, and modes of perfection."
~ from “De Profundis”

I am not on a crusade for suffering, nor am I pleading for Spartan self denial. NO! Please seek pleasure, prosperity and light! But mine is a corrective for the modern imbalance which equates God with feeling good and achieving success. What made Jesus such an annoying radical was his insistence that God was in the valley of the shadow of death with the lost and wandering soul. He never promised that one would even exit the valley in this lifetime, but he did promise that it is a blessed place—a place to meet and hear from God in unimaginably deep and intimate ways.

This month at the Spiritual Enrichment Center we will be looking at the life and teachings of Jesus to see how we can access that blessing and hear that divine voice while in the valley. Join us on Sundays at 10:30, either through attendance or through Direct Listening on the internet at:

Keep it simple.


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