|Sunset at Clyde Motherhouse|
“The LORD puts to death and gives life,casts down to Sheol and brings up again.The LORD makes poor and makes rich,humbles, and also exalts.He raises the needy from the dust;from the ash heap lifts up the poor,To seat them with noblesand make a glorious throne their heritage.For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,and he has set the world upon them." 1 Samuel 2:6-8These verses are from the Canticle of Hannah which she sings when she leaves Samuel as a nazirite at the Temple with Eli. The immediately preceding verses describe Yahweh as one who humbles the proud and powerful and gives triumph and spoils to the weak. This reversal theme will form a major part of the good news preached by Jesus the Messiah of the Divine One. We have heard it proclaimed often: the rich man and Lazarus, the Beatitudes, and other stories. The Divine One will cast down those powerful forces which have enslaved the people and raise up the poor, the outcast, the sick to prominence.
Perhaps the parable about not taking a prominent place at a banquet lest someone more important comes and you are asked to go down to a lower level sums it up best. I believe that this reversal can be easily misinterpreted and that it was in fact misinterpreted by many who heard and experienced Jesus. It would be easy to understand his message as meaning that the urban elite in Jerusalem--both civil and ecclesiastical--would be demoted and those who they had been oppressing would ascend to the top positions and thus the power to oppress the former oppressors. I am sure that many did and still do.
But, of course, this was not the message. Jesus wasn't talking about what we might call "regime change" but rather a revolution in understanding. While the world, Paul would come to call it the "flesh," might see things this way, Jesus was talking about a reality that under girded and superseded the way of the world. There are rich and poor, powerful and weak, proud and humble and the Divine One is the source of life for all these. The reign of the Divine One announced by Jesus did not mean that there would be no poor, no weak, no humble but rather that they would not be excluded or devalued by others. How else to understand Hannah's word that Yahweh
raises the needy from the dust;from the ash heap lifts up the poor,To seat them with noblesand make a glorious throne their heritage.No matter their station in life--poor, sick, marginalized, ignorant, contrary or rich, healthy, in leadership, knowledgeable, personable--all people deserves deference, respect, compassion, assistance when needed, and love. The Divine One is the source of all life--"For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and he has set the world upon them."--and the divine will is that we all love each other regardless of our station in the world of the flesh. This clearly has more importance for someone like me who because of my race, gender, age, and economic status have the ability to oppress others, consciously or not.