The Sermon on the Mount
Week Twenty-Nine Summary and Practice
Sunday, July 18—Friday, July 23, 2021
We must be honest and admit that most of Christianity has focused very little on what Jesus himself taught and spent most of his time doing: healing people, doing acts of justice and inclusion, embodying compassionate and nonviolent ways of living.
In the Sermon on the Plain, I think Jesus is describing what the world would look like if people really followed him. He’s giving us an upside-down version of reality that turns middle-class morality on its head.
Jesus does not replace. Jesus reimagines and expands, inviting an alternative and often innovative reading of Jewish tradition. —Diana Butler Bass
When I understand Jesus’ words in Aramaic, I translate like this: “Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.” —Elias Chacour
Jesus commands us to love our enemies not just because it’s right; not just because it’s moral; and not just because it’s the only practical solution; but because God loves God’s enemies. That’s the very nature of God, he explains. —John Dear
The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage, fearlessness, and power. I have seen it happen again and again. —Howard Thurman
Finding the Source of Comfort
Earlier this week, we shared a meditation from Megan McKenna on the importance of translation. Scholar and author Neil Douglas-Klotz has worked for decades with the Aramaic language, which Jesus most likely spoke as a first-century Jewish man from Nazareth. Because translation is never an exact science, Dr. Douglas-Klotz offers several possible understandings of Jesus’ teaching “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love.
Healthy are those weak and overextended for their purpose; they shall feel their inner flow of strength return.
Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire; they shall see the face of fulfillment in a new form.
Aligned with the One are the mourners; they shall be comforted.
Turned to the Source are those feeling deeply confused by life; they shall be returned from their wandering.
Dr. Douglas-Klotz continues:
Lawile can mean “mourners” (as translated from the Greek), but in Aramaic it also carries the sense of those who long deeply for something to occur, those troubled or in emotional turmoil, or those who are weak and in want from such longing. Netbayun can mean “comforted,” but also connotes being returned from wandering, united inside by love, feeling an inner continuity, or seeing the arrival of (literally, the face of) what one longs for.
Dr. Douglas-Klotz offers this embodied prayer practice to help readers sense the powerful message of this beatitude.
When in emotional turmoil—or unable to clearly feel any emotion—experiment in this fashion: breathe in while feeling the word lawile (lay-wee-ley) [longing]; breathe out while feeling the word netbayun (net-bah-yoon) [loving]. Embrace all of what you feel and allow all emotions to wash through as though you were standing under a gentle waterfall. Follow this flow back to its source and find there the spring from which all emotion arises. At this source, consider what emotion has meaning for the moment, what action or nonaction is important now.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco: 1990), 50, 51, 52.