May 19, 2011

Glen Packiam, Lucky

In Lucky, Glenn Packiam, a pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs and a songwriter, takes a fresh look at the good news of the coming of God's kingdom through an exploration of the four beatitudes of Luke 6. His reflection, as the title makes plain, centers around rethinking the familiar (and probably too-familiar) term "blessed," instead asserting that those to whom the kingdom comes are "lucky" (he gets some impetus for this move from Eugene Peterson's effective use of the term in the Message). He nuances the term nicely, to point out that though it may have the connotations of a random chance occurrence, it also caries the sense in modern usage of one who is fortunate, one for whom good things have happened. And it makes for a powerful restatement of the beatitudes that helps to convey their sense.

So what is the sense of the beatitudes? Packiam briefly explores some of the historical approaches to what this list signifies, but spends the bulk of his time crafting an approach to the four beatitudes in Luke that focuses both on the sense in which Jesus is declaring that the unlikely and unlucky people described by them (the poor, the hungry, the mourning, the rejected) have become lucky precisely in the fact that the kingdom has come, and in the sense in which this goes beyond just the physical conditions described to the conditions of heart that these conditions may help to create. That means he constantly keeps his exposition tied to the historical setting of Jesus' address even as he allows for a fuller spiritualized sense that doesn't leave behind the concrete setting but works it out more fully.

I really enjoyed Packiam's approach to the beatitudes, and I think it does a great job of giving a readable and informed approach to this well-known but often-misunderstood passage of Scripture. He uses the metaphor of "luck" to great effect to explore the nature of the kingdom of God and its application in our lives, both as recipients of this overwhelming luck and as bearers of God's luck to an unlucky world. I have come to recognize afresh that I am lucky because of God's great work in Jesus Christ, and further, that I'm called to participate in spreading that luck to the world. I expect I will refer back to this book frequently when thinking about the kingdom of God or the beatitudes, and I also think the metaphor of "luck" is pregnant with possibilities for translating the Christian message to an unlucky world.

Thanks to Amazon's Vine Program and the publisher for the review copy.

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