When I moved from Toronto to the Highlands of Cape Breton to take up my first pastoral charge, I found that I had to attune my ear to a new language and it wasn’t Gaelic. People would look at me and say, “My, isn’t the ocean caaam today.” Or they would read from the Book of Sams.
They were talking about how calm the ocean was and their reading was from the Book of Psalms. For a while there, I thought I had made a right turn at the Canso Causeway instead of a left and ended up in Boston.
At my first church dinner, I heard someone say it was “some good.” Some? At the same dinner, some people were referred to, “As crazy as a bag of hammers.” What does that mean? And whenever I went to Cheticamp I would try out my French only to stumble on their slang versions! Even church meetings were confusing as everyone spoke in acronyms. I thought everyone had taken a stroke or something. Why can’t people just say what they want to say?
When I was in the Holy Land, my tour went to the Church of the Beatitudes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Inside, we saw the Scriptures written in different languages and saw it in the original Aramaic, the language Jesus probably spoke. In Luke’s Gospel, he has Jesus sit down on a plain to offer them these words. There are no mysteries or secret codes in these words. Jesus was giving them some plain talk. No pun intended. Okay, it was intended.
When the tour got back onto the bus, I was amazed BY the majority of people’s thoughts about what they had just heard. For them, the Beatitudes were an ethos of living so that they would all go to heaven, but is that really what the Beatitudes are about? To me, the Beatitudes are Jesus’ way of describing to us what the Kingdom of heaven is like. It is revelation of what his mission is all about. The Beatitudes depict the kind of people Jesus will use so that he can defeat sin and death in this world.
If a war breaks out, God doesn’t send in tanks or armies, but he sends in the peacemakers, those who thirst for justice because in the actions of these people we see the outpouring of God’s incredible and life-changing love. In them, we see vulnerability, gentleness and grace. That’s how the Kingdom works.
Jesus asks ordinary people to do the extraordinary – love one another. We are to become the light by which others see the Kingdom. Serve others with humility and joy and they will gain a glimpse into what the Kingdom of heaven is like. As we pray, so we should do – your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus’ whole ministry was based upon the Beatitudes. Be a church of the Beatitudes and rejoice. Our world needs to hear some plain talk, again. God bless you all.
Doug Pilsworth is a retired United Church minister.