Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance III

Luke 6:20-21
Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

In Jesus' day one did not hope to 'get ahead' in the world through educatio, experience or the resume that one could build. that is how we get jobs, establish a career and 'move up the ladder.' In Jesus' day one could only get ahead through creating a relationship with (pledging allegiance too) someone of higher social standing. They, in turn, probably had pledged themselves to another person even higher. Through this vast and intricate web of allegiances, one could get ahead. (if you are curious about this I recommend Richard Horsley's 'Jesus and Empire,' Warren Carter's 'Matthew and Empire,' and William Herzog's 'Parables as Subversive Speech.') It is this system of relationships and allegiances that the disciples were familiar with and perhaps even expected the Kingdom of God to work like... they would pledge allegiance to Jesus and through this relationship gain power, status and wealth. In this passage of Luke Jesus is explaining who he and God owe their allegiance to, the poor, the hungry and the traumatized. In Jesus' day one would not create an allegiance with someone of lower status unless they could provide something of value. The poor, the hungry and the traumatized could offer nothing to anyone. Therefore, they were forgotten, valueless, in essence they did not exist. to these, Jesus pledged his allegiance. Despite the fact that they could offer him no support in moving up the ladder, Jesus pledging his life to them and through him, God is pledging that some allegiance.
In Matt 25 is a very well known passage where Jesus describes the poor, the hungry and the traumatized, and then welcomes people into the Kingdom, who have served him faithfully. When asked when and where they saw and served Jesus, he replies, 'As you did for the least of these, you did for me.' Our allegiance to the Kingdom is practiced in our allegiance to the least of least.

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