April 18, 2017
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
-Luke 6:17-20 (NRSV)
It’s called the humblebrag my friend tells me. I’ve never been hip to pop culture, so I rely upon her to inform of the latest phrases, buzzes, and trends. The humblebrag she explains, is when you want to show off something without looking like you actually are. One of the popular ways to do so on social media is to caption your posts and photos with: #blessed.
Whether cradling your first-born child on your chest, holding an umbrella-topped mojito on the balcony of an exclusive Caribbean resort, “I’m blessed” renders holy or spiritual all that seems providential and nonchalant. Lest I be accused of judging someone’s motives, I, too, have raised my fist in the sky and shouted, “I’m blessed” when walking the beach with my godchildren. It’s not the use of the phrase that scares me but the ease with which we toss out that phrase, rendering God a divine gumball machine or wish factory. It scares me because I get it. I get the desire to create a sense of order and meaning to the grace that befalls. I understand the lure of wanting to justify why good things happen to some and not others. I understand the sheer gratitude and awe of standing face to face with grace. I understand the desire for my prayers for healing and mercy to be answered as I want. I understand the subtle ease with which we—with which, I—so easily form God in my image.
In the face of Jesus’ words: Blessed are the poor, for there is the kingdom of heaven confronts our limited understanding of God’s blessing and invites us to push beyond our limited imaginations, privilege, and experience to see the goodness in that which has been cast down.
In a kingdom that calls us to let go of our thirst and reliance on what we have and do, we can finally make space for all of us to gather ‘round the table. No humblebrag needed.
This week’s author is The Rev. Maria Kane. She is an Episcopal priest, historian of American religion, and native Texan. She currently lives outside Washington, D.C., where she serves as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waldorf, Maryland (and remains unabashed in her love for Washington’s archrival, the Dallas Cowboys). In her free time, Maria loves reading, cooking, kayaking, and spoiling her godchildren. She can be found on Twitter @mariaconchia.