“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Imagine you are in a church meeting deciding who will be leaders for the new initiative for outreach in your community. Imagine your fellow believers informing you that you can choose anyone in the church. Now imagine making your list, distributing it to the congregation knowing everyone invited will accept, and on Saturday morning showing up to meet your new team. Imagine it’s not the people on your list. Instead, it’s someone from government-assisted housing on the other side of the town, and some little old lady in your congregation who never says anything to anyone, and some recently retired businessman who just moved in. “Surprise, surprise!,” you hear. You recognize the voice of God and realize that God has just revealed something deeply mysterious about his work in this world.
We are prone, and I must admit that “I” am prone, to think we know who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to the people of God. But Jesus wants us to see that “the people of God” is more expansive than we would ever have known.
Peter had to learn this when God lowered a sheet of unclean animals for him to eat, revealing that God was at work even among the Gentiles. When Peter preached to Cornelius, there in the Mediterranean coastal city of Caesarea, that Gentile man responded to the gospel. The Spirit fell, and Peter admitted that God shows no favoritism: God is at work in all, among all and wants each of us to know that our responsibility is to pray and to watch God work among those whom we might not think are worthy candidates.
Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes are like a light tapping away at our prejudices. One person after another is listed by Jesus and, truth be told, these folks were not on Peter’s (or any of the disciples’) list. The people of God is more expansive than we know. So we need to look around us at everyone and learn to think, “God is at work in that person, whether I see it or not.”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Can you name someone who surprised you when you heard God was at work transforming his or her life? (Maybe it’s you!) Perhaps you can begin to reflect today the ways in which you “judge” others and refuse to see God at work in their lives. Where would you like to see God at work in someone’s life? Do you think God is already at work?
PRAYER: Our Father, today I want to expand my sense of “Our” in “Our Father.” I want you to give to me a more expansive sense of your work in this world, a more expansive conviction that because you love everyone and because you want each person in the world–from Seattle to Miami, from Miami to Paris, from Paris to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Mumbai, to Mumbai to Tokyo, from Tokyo to Perth, from Perth to Sao Paulo, from Sao Paulo to Kenyatta–to be reconciled to you, and because you are infinitely capable of reaching each person, give to me a perspective of seeing you at work in all places among all peoples.
Rid me of my judgments, my censoriousness, and my sense of superiority. Help me to see the world through the words of Jesus–that those not on my list are on your list! Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
P.S. from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections are written by New Testament professor, prolific author, blogger at Jesus Creed, man of deep faith, and my friend, Dr. Scot McKnight. If you missed my introduction of Scot in Monday’s reflection, you can find it here.