The reading for this Sunday is from the Sermon on the Mount and you all know it. You do. It doesn't matter where or how you grew up, or when. Even if you never went to church, it's one of those things you hear and you think, "Gosh, that sounds so familiar..."
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
What I try to do each week is read the reading for Sunday early in the week so it can seep in and I can walk around and drive around and wonder about it for a while. As it happens, I've been in New York all week, so the landscape has been lush with visuals, living reminders of what our pal, Jesus, was talking about when he went up on the hill that day. You can't walk a block in New York City without passing people who mourn, who are meek, who are hungry and thirsty, who are persecuted, peacemakers. Hell, you can't walk a block in this city without passing every kind of person you could ever imagine.
New York: rows of colorful wigs in a "hair shop"; donuts larger than your head; a fur store next to a dog daycare place; where I'm usually one of the few white girls in the room; where the homeless guys tucked into a doorway can still find it in themselves to watch the woman walking past in the metallic skirt. Everyone asking us, "have you been here before?" as if this is some remote island somewhere far away.
The first time I came to New York I was a kid. My friend, Fran Paston's, mom brought a bunch of us here to see the play, Grease. That's pretty much all I remember from that adventure. Then the Dead shows at MSG when I got older, then I worked just outside the city for a few years, then I married a man whose brother lived here, then my brother and his wife bought an apartment here, then I married a man whose mother lives here. Then I started going to school here. I've been coming to NY for a while now. I love it here, and I can't wait to get back home from here, too.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. And everyone who ever wondered if there is a God or why bad things happen in this world.
Blessed are those who mourn. Not just because someone has died, but because they lost something or someone or some part of themselves that mattered to them.
Blessed are the meek. The quiet folks who drive the taxis and clean the rooms and walk the babies.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Those people were busy this past Saturday. And I hope they got enough rest on Sunday to start doing the work that needs to be done, on Monday.
Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.
In other words, all of us. We are all blessed. Even and especially the homeless man, hungry and cold and wet, sitting in the doorway of an old building in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, surrounded by art galleries and restaurants and stores, catching a moment of joy while a beautiful woman walks past, breaking the sea of New Yorker black with her shiny, gold skirt.