[A large crowd] had come both to hear [Jesus] and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him -- so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
"You're blessed when you've lost it all.
God's kingdom is there for the finding.
"You're blessed when you're ravenously hungry.
Then you're ready for the Messianic meal.
"You're blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
"Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone spears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens -- skip like a lamb, if you like! -- for even though they don't like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
"But it's trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you'll ever get.
"And its trouble ahead if you're satisfied with yourself.
your self will not satisfy you for long.
"And its trouble ahead if you think life's all fun and games.
There's suffering to be met, and you're going to meet it.
There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests -- look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
1. Blessing and trouble become the parentheses of our lives. Sometimes it is one and sometimes it is the other. What begins one way turns the other. An opening parenthesis of loss becomes a closing parenthesis of blessing, of finding. An opening parenthesis of fun and games becomes a closing parenthesis of suffering. So, where are you in the parentheses of life?
2. All of this takes place within the context of prayer which clarifies our eyes that we can tell what is blessing as blessing and not blessing leading to trouble and we can tell what is trouble as trouble and not trouble bringing blessing.
Just before this Jesus is on the mountain praying. Just after this those who are ready to hear the truth are instructed to not let enemies bring out the worst in us (trouble as trouble) but to love them (trouble to blessing) and to respond to enemies with the "energies of prayer."
3. A prayer: GOD of surging energies, we experience the bounce of life, to and fro. In the midst of birth and death and all other pendulums, help us skip like a lamb because we are well acquainted with and comfortable with the truth. Thank you for being comfortable in the midst of uncomfortableness....
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