The Beatitudes and Bono

I was listing to U2's Joshua Tree earlier this week. I had forgotten about how "Wave of Sorrows" ends. The song is about Bono's experience visiting Ethiopia in 1984. It's a great song; but what caught my attention was their retelling of The Beatitudes at the end of "wave of Sorrows."

The lyrics go like this:
Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what's left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who've left their thrones
They are buried in this valley of dry bones

Blessed all of you with an empty heart
For you got nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego, it's all we got this hour
Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power

Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight
She used what she got to save her children's life
Blessed are you, the deaf cannot hear a scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream

Blessed are the tin canned cardboard slums
Blessed is the spirit that overcomes.

I've been reflecting on The Beatitudes for the recent Theology on Tap discussion series and I think Bono articulates the heart of the kingdom summons found in the beatitudes quite accurately.

Most people have the tendency to equate The Beatitudes (and the entire Sermon on the Mount for that matter) as a new list of divine do's and don'ts. Praise God that they are far more than that! One of the best summations of the theological reasons behind The Beatitudes can be found in NT Wright's Matthew for Everyone Pt. 1
"Jesus is not suggesting that [the Beatitudes] are simply timeless truths about the way the world is, about human behavior. If he was saying that, he is wrong. Mourners often go uncomforted, the meek don't inherit the earth, those who long for justice often take that longing to the grave. This is an upside-down world, or perhaps a right-way-up world; and Jesus is saying that with his work its starting to come true. This is an announcement, not a philosophical analysis of the world. It's about something that's starting to happen, not about a general truth of life. It is gospel: good news, not good advice.

"Follow me" - Jesus said to his first disciples, because in him the living God was doing an entirely new thing, and this list of blessed "good news" is part of his invitation, part of his summons, of saying that God is at work in a fresh way and it looks like this. You see, in Jesus' coming into the world, a new era for God's people and God's world began..from here on, things that people once thought would work, e.g., self-preservation, individualism, self-centered consumerism, etc., will prove to be erroneous and fruitless.

Unfortunately, most people in our world still think that good news consists of success, wealth, long life, victory in battle, achievements and accolades. But in the announcement of the good news of God's Kingdom (Matthew 4:3), Jesus is offering wonderful news for the humble, the poor, the mourners, the meek, the persecuted, the merciful, and the peacemakers. The Beatitudes are a summons to live in the present in the way that makes sense in God’s promised future...this way may seem upside down but it is in fact right way up.