How do you greet people? How do people greet you?
It depends on where you live, of course.
In Hawai’i, someone might approach you and say:
In Philly and South Jersey, I hear this a lot:
How YOU doin’?
What’s up, yo?
Or the really short version:
But I’m originally from the Midwest where people often say:
How are ya?
And in Canada, I’ve heard:
How’s it going, eh?
In Java or the Philippines you might be asked “where are you going?”
This is a formulaic greeting and the expected answer is “over there.”
Burmese or Cambodian people may ask “have you eaten yet?” (literally, “have you eaten rice?”).
But don’t get too excited—it’s not an invitation to lunch, just a simple hello.
Many cultures use important gestures as well as words. In China, you might receive a nod or bow; older generations in Hong Kong may clasp hands together at the throat level and nod; In India, people place palms together as though praying and bend or nod, Namaste; in Indonesia some say selamat, which means peace; Japanese may bow from the waist, palms on thighs, heels together; and Koreans may offer you a slight bow and handshake (right hand in one or both hands); in Malaysia, some touch the other person’s hands with both of their hands, and then they bring their hands back to the chest, a salame gesture.
There are so many ways to greet other human beings.
What surprises many people from other countries is how people in the U.S. greet one another. For example, even when people greet you with how’s life? or how are you doing? they are not wanting to hear your whole life story. People tend to expect a very short answer like “fine” or “I’m good” or “Fine, thanks for asking.”
Of course, we say fine or good even if we are having a terrible day or even if our life is in shambles. How are you? We are like trained Pavlov’s dogs:
Which really means:
But there’s a new phenomenon I have noticed.
How are you? I’m blessed.
And then, when you leave someone, they may say to you:
And now trending on Twitter, the overused, incredibly confusing:
I’m on my yacht near the Cayman Islands.
I got the job at McDonald’s and here’s my selfie of me in my new uniform.
I just had a peppermint milkshake and so far no lactose intolerance.
My team is playing in the Super Bowl and I love commercials, too.
My stocks just went up and I’m making it rain.
Blessed? What does that mean?
The dictionary says that as an adjective, blessed means: made holy; consecrated. This of course can be used as a title for a dead person who we think was somehow holy, i.e. “the Convent of the Blessed Gertrude” or “the blessed saint Tim Tebow.”
But blessed can also mean favored, fortunate, lucky, privileged, enviable, happy. See #BLESSED
Similarly, blessed can mean having a particular quality or attribute, i.e. Warminster is a nice suburb, blessed with an abundance of strip malls.
Ironically, blessed can also mean an annoyance or exasperation. There wasn’t a blessed thing anybody could have done!
Yes, we have explore this word blessed if we are to get anything out of these famous words of Jesus [so-called sermon on the mount], found in Luke and in Matthew’s Gospel. Often called the Beatitudes, they are not just famous for Christians. People of many traditions are familiar with these words–Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. What we are looking at today is of course in Matthew’s Gospel, but you can also find a shorter version in Luke. Most people who study the Bible believe that Jesus did not say all this in one moment from a hill overlooking the Lake of Galilee. Most scholars think that this sermon is actually a collection of Jesus’ words throughout his ministry, kind of like a greatest hits album.
Tour with the Rolling Stones to follow.
I have backstage passes.
Now a lot of people think that Jesus invented the beatitudes but he didn’t. The beatitudes are part of a wisdom literature that dates back to the writings of what we call the OT and the Psalms and Proverbs. In Israel’s culture, poets and sages used beatitudes to encourage admirable behavior and traditional attitudes towards life. These ancient writings affirmed that blessedness was not about material fortune or prosperity. People were blessed when they were filled with and surrounded by a spiritual sense of well-being—both as an individual and as a community.
So, it’s kind of shalom-like, if you will.
Be at peace with yourself and be at peace with others.
But then Jesus enters the mix with his twist of the beatitudes. That’s right, Jesus twists it. His beatitudes are paradoxical. They don’t fit our typical idea of blessedness. In fact, Jesus turns our idea of what blessed means upside down. Jesus says, in nine different ways, that being blessed means being:
Poor, mournful, humble, hungry, merciful, honest-hearted, peaceful, persecuted, and hated.
More like #ANNOYEDBYJESUS
Suddenly, I’m not feeling so blessed because Jesus’ beatitudes really seem to have an attitude!
But hey, let’s give it another look and see what blessed really means in another language. You see, Matthew’s Gospel was written in Koine Greek and the word for blessed is makarios. From that to the Latin word beatus. And then, to the English word blessed.
But did Jesus speak Greek as his first language? Uh, no. that would be Aramaic. And there are two Aramaic words that become makarios in Greek. They are ashrei and tovahoun. Unlike makarios, which is passive, the two Aramaic words are active. In English, their translation is wake up or get up.
So all of a sudden, we are hearing this:
Wake up to be poor, mournful, humble, hungry, merciful, honest-hearted, and peaceful.
And get up even when you’re persecuted and hated.
I’m starting to get it, are you?
The beatitudes are more than feelings. They are not promoting any kind of self-help or get rich with Jesus scheme.
Instead, the beatitudes contradict what society says we should be about:
Make the most money; don’t worry about who you step over.
Think about yourself and your own closed circle and disconnect from others.
Be the strongest and mightiest and make war if you have to.
Don’t cry—don’t be weak.
When you give to someone, definitely ask for something in return.
Manipulate others or the earth as needed.
Give up on justice if it’s too hard or inconvenient.
If others talk bad about you, pay more attention to them than to those who know you and actually care about you.
Yes, Jesus’ beatitudes challenge our perspective and our behaviors. And they remind us that being blessed isn’t about having more things or even feeling happy all the time. In fact, Jesus’ beatitudes embrace the negative experiences we all have in life. In other words, we don’t have to answer “I’m fine” when someone asks how we are doing. We can answer honestly if we so choose. I personally like what one individual did when I asked How are you? He paused, looked up at the sky, looked over his body, pinched himself and then said: The sun is out and I’m alive.
I wonder if we were more honest with ourselves, our God, and each other, if those moments of disappointment and despair and even depression would become opportunities to find growth, healing, and wisdom. I think so. Everyone gets down, has difficult times in life, and doesn’t feel blessed at all. But if we’re honest in those moments, we can discover that all the things we chase after too much like superficial happiness, wealth, fame, and power—they don’t bless us.
Instead, friends, recognize that being poor isn’t just about having less material things. It’s about being wise. It’s about detaching yourself from things and finding freedom, joy, and gratefulness in all that is simple and beautiful.
And Mourn openly and honestly when you are sad and don’t resist it; find comfort and healing.
Be humble with the animals, trees, land, and sky, and so cooperate with and enjoy Mother Earth.
Seek justice, but not just for yourself or for those who are close to you; seek justice for anyone anywhere.
This brings wholeness.
Be merciful to everyone, and mercy will find you.
Be honest on the inside, and this will show up on the outside.
Work for peace and never war, and then end your hate and start your love.
Stand up for others who are pushed down even when it will cost you something. This continues the circle of your interconnectedness to all living beings.
Accept that people won’t like you and will sometimes say bad things about you when you try to do good things. Don’t let that stop you. Instead, find joy in the fact that you even have an opportunity to do good.
Friends, don’t just be blessed. Wake up to live compassionately; stand up to live for justice.