In the Lectionary

November 5, All Saints A (Matthew 5:1-12)

Poverty of spirit, like any kind of poverty, is unenviable but survivable.

One of my favorite spiritual gatherings is marked by a lack of pretension of purity. The people there are poor in spirit; they’re merciful; they mourn; sometimes they’re even peacemakers. But pure? No way. All Ten Commandments and a bunch that aren’t on the list have been broken by somebody present, and everyone knows it. Feigning a holy and righteous front will only garner laughter. Genuine persecution is not familiar here, though persecution complexes are.

It is a safe place to the extent that one recognizes the utter futility of self-righteousness. The emperor of self simply has no clothes—and this isn’t a secret. It is a group of people who tell redemption stories as easily as they offer a handshake. Failure of almost any kind is met with worldly knowing, a weary sadness, and a helping hand. Mercy is given and received on an egalitarian basis of acknowledged personal failure. There is little notion of the morally superior granting a boon.

Poverty of spirit, like any kind of poverty, is an unenviable but survivable state of being. It is blessed not because it’s desirable but because it is a state of potential, a prerequisite for appreciating a true richness of spirit, an abundant life. People who have crawled back from desperate poverty are usually incredibly grateful. Those who proclaim no need of God or some greater source of life, those who have been handed wealth or think they created it all by themselves, tend to be self-congratulatory, not grateful.