The other morning, a turtledove called through the winter air. Surprising, at this time of year, with her gentle “hoo hoo.” And insistent — she didn’t call just once or twice, but repeatedly. Repeatedly, she broke into the morning, she broke into the wintertime.
The turtledove calls up memories of my mother, who associated them with the farm in Kansas where she played during her childhood summers. I listened and wondered: What is the turtledove trying to say?
And Jesus says to us: “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
Our world in many ways does not subscribe to Jesus’ teachings in the Beatitudes, his sermon on blessedness. Throughout history, many have struggled for power and control and neglected or persecuted those who are considered weak or ineffectual in some way. And we see it still, in our own lives and beyond.
In the fifth grade, a new girl came to our class. I can still remember her standing at the door. Due to a glandular disorder, Mary was probably about six feet tall, was overweight and acne covered her face. My classmates started to laugh. And that was Mary’s introduction to her new life at our school.
Louie Giglio in his book I am not but I know I am says: “…history is split in two by a breathtaking journey – Jesus coming for us, the great I AM on a rescue mission of love.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus is breaking into the age-old norm of seeking dominance over others, and he announces to the world that the spiritual order has changed. He proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit; comfort will come to those who mourn; the meek will inherit the earth. History split into two kinds of time — from the Greek, chronos, measurable time like seconds, minutes, hours, days. And kairos, God’s time. A time when the meek shall inherit the earth.
My friend Carol, like Nathanael in the scriptures, has no guile; she is uncomplicated; fierce and protective of her family; innocent; curious, patient. She has travelled all over the world, and her favorite place of all is Disneyland, where she loves to take her children and grandchildren. Mickey’s silhouette adorns her purse.
Recently, Carol had her two grandsons – she calls them her boys — in the car. As she turned right onto a main road, she miscalculated and ended up on the opposite side of the median. She was pointed in the wrong direction of a turn lane. She told Jesus that he was going to have to get her car over the median. She warned the boys that it was going to be rough for a minute. No traffic came, she turned toward the median, and her car, as she said, virtually sailed over it. Truly in that moment the meek inherited the earth.
And this split in history is permanent, indelible, irrevocable.
From Carl Sandburg’s poem “Special Starlight” about Jesus’ coming into the world:
Shall all wanderers over the earth, all homeless ones,
all against whom doors are shut and words unspoken –
Shall these find the earth less strange tonight?
Shall they hear news, a whisper on the night wind?
‘A Child is born.’ ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’
‘And they crucified Him … they spat upon Him.
And He rose from the dead.’
So, yes, they did what they could to stop Jesus. But he prevailed. He rose from the dead, securing the shift in history, holding it fast.
Jesus’ pronouncement of the new order, however, does not pertain only to God; it pertains to us, too. That we ourselves are to hunger and thirst after righteousness; that we ourselves are to be willing to endure persecution for his sake; that we are to comfort those who mourn, to bless the meek and the poor in spirit.
I invite you to join me this week to think and pray about one person in our lives who is meek, poor in spirit, mourns, and find a way to join in God’s ever glorious blessing of them. When we take this action, we continue to live ever more fully in this side of the split in history.
And when we take this action, we together respond to the call of the turtledove.