On February 13, 2022, our Ptiest in Charge, The Rev. Dr. Susan Carter, introduced us to a new word: Listicles. Read on, to find out more!!
Epiphany - Year C
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
The Lord’s Listicles
What, precisely, are listicles? To begin with, the word “listicle” is formed from two others: lists and articles.
They are attractive, engaging writings designed to draw people to all sorts of media.
Here’s a helpful definition, courtesy of Wikipedia.
In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema.
For example: Ten wonderful villages to discover in France. Or seven things that English- and French-speaking people find confusing about each other. That never happens, right?
I don’t know about you, but I find myself attracted to listicles and often click on them when reading news reports on the internet.
I am curious to see how the author’s sense of important items matches mine – and whether there are new things to learn.
In reading and pondering over the lessons for today, the ones we just heard, it was apparent that listicles have been around for a very long time. Quite literally thousands of years.
Jesus offers them to us in his Sermon on the Mount. Today’s headline might read: Four Kinds of People Who Are Blessed; Four Who Are Doomed!
The first quartet addresses those who are blessed. They seem to be ranked ordered. That is – listing first those who are surely blessed. They are the poor folks who will be received, and honored, and welcomed into God’s kingdom. Into heaven.
Next come those who are hungry, who live only from hand to mouth. The people who face starvation daily. That will no longer be their lot in God’s kingdom.
They are followed by people overcome with sorrow. Their tears will disappear and be replaced by joy.
Finally, in then list of the blessed are people who are shamed and scorned for their faith – for being believers, for being Christians. That page will turn and the vilification will end. In heaven, the enmity turns to joy.
The listicle continues.
Doom will strike and woes will befall the following: the rich, those who are full, and the people who laugh – ones who are self-satisfied with their situations.
Add to that foursome folks who get false praise heaped upon them.
Not only did Jesus offer a list of good and evil, he presented both a pathway to righteousness and a warning of wrongs.
Jesus, of course, as both the human son of Mary and the Son of God, was fully aware of the prophets who had preceded him. His listicle has echoes of Jeremiah who lived more than six centuries before him.
Jeremiah’s listicle reverses the order – the cursed come before the blessed ones. He is also tighter in his catalog. Curses are cast on those who turn from the Lord and trust only humans, counting on strength alone. They are in for a rough ride.
Jeremiah’s blessings fall on those who trust the Lord. All manner of goodness will come their way.
Further, the psalm reflects Jeremiah’s listicle – and foretells that of Jesus. Here, the blessings and statements of joy come first for people who turn their backs on wickedness and instead trust God. The psalm draws upon Jeremiah’s image of a tree that prospers and bears fruit. Those who are blessed, who are happy, will flourish.
The wicked, according to the psalm, are doomed – dry straw to be scattered by the wind.
Three readings today – three listicles. The authors of the lists were presenting guideposts and predictions. They were offering models for virtue and righteous behavior.
The itemization was meant to draw the people’s attention. The classifications presented were encouragements – and warnings.
Do they have any meaning for us today? I believe they do. In that sense these listicles that are centuries old are still quite valid.
The highest order, if we may call it that, is to love God. Following the Lord, delighting in the Lord’s law, trusting the Lord, is paramount.
For us in the twenty-first century, we are called to trust Jesus, and put things in God’s hand.
From that hillside on the northern Sea of Galilee – with scores and scores of people from all over Judea – Jesus ups the game.
There is more than putting trust in the Lord and turning aside from human vanity.
Jesus not only singles out the downtrodden of his present time but he indicates what the future holds for them. And it is a far better one than they currently have.
It is a future in God’s kingdom of joy, of full bellies, of honored beliefs.
This, I believe, is where we come in. We, the people, have a role to play in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth.
We can lift up the poor – sharing our bounty, extending a hand and our wealth to folks right around us who have so much less.
We can work to see they have clothing, and food, and jobs.
At a basic level, we can share and spare euros instead of walking past the old women and mothers on the street.
There are myriad ways to take Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – his listicle – and make it our design, our blueprint for life.
If we apply our contemporary lens and follow the listicles we have been given, we will accomplish what Jesus and the prophet and the psalmist ask us to do.
That is to follow the law of the Lord, loving God – and to create God’s kingdom on earth.