This is a world I'm not familiar with. This world Jesus is talking about. Blessed are the meek. No. Not that world. Turn the other cheek. No. I don't know that world.
It is not just a way of life. It is a world. It is a kingdom. It is the reign of a king. And it is . . . at hand.
I think I believe it.
But I don't know for sure that I understand it.
Matthew is telling the story about Jesus. It's just the beginning. He was born, there were some wild things going on, and there was a kind of deep-seated cosmic enmity that was stirred to life when Jesus came on the seen. But he speaks of a kingdom of heaven, or a kingdom of God if you're reading Mark, and he says it's coming, it's near at hand. Perhaps you can reach out and touch it. Perhaps you can . . . I don't know . . . maybe you can just drink it in, that' how close it is.
He healed. He was, as they say, attractive. And when they came, when they gathered around him, he painted this picture of the kingdom of heaven, he told us what it would be like, but not as if it were a distant reality, somewhere over the horizon, a realm far away, like Oz, or like a Holy Mountain somewhere. Nothing like that.
Like, instead, a way of life, yes, but one that only makes sense because it is, well, of another world.
That's why it seems so . . . strange. It's a way that seems at odds with the world as it is, the world that we have learned to navigate pretty well. We know the rules of this world, the kind of life that works here; we know how to get ahead, which is after all the point, and we know how to not get stepped on. How to win. Which is the point. Isn't it the point?
Oh, and letting yourself get punched in the face the second time, that's not the way that works. And starving for a little goodness . . . dream on!
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of second-mile walkers, tunic and cloak givers, who don't even fight back when someone knocks them down. No wonder Jesus kept saying, you're going to have to turn from your old ways, and trust this new "at hand" way. Perhaps we'll call it the fool's way. The loser's way. The weakling's way. And he says, Let me explain this counter-intuitive, counter-common-sense way. It's going to take some time, and even when I'm done talking, here on this little hill, and we all go our separate ways, you still won't quite get it. I'm going to have to keep showing you. Follow me, and see.
So they call it a sermon, but it's really a kind of evocative word-picture that Jesus will go on to live out, to demonstrate, and it will lead, of course, to a bloody cross. If your greatest treasure is here, in this life, you won't follow this alternative way. You have come to a fork in the road: the one way is wide, well-traveled, and appears to lead down into a rich and well-watered valley. The other way is narrow, winding, and seems to lead off into the rugged hills. You know the one you're supposed to take? Well, take the other one.
How do you do this, if you're not trusting that somehow that narrow winding rugged way is leading to where your treasure is?
Where is my treasure?