By Melody Murton
27 February 2022
I used to live in one of the world’s most liveable cities. Now, it’s known more for being one of the world’s most locked down cities. Two years of on again – off again lockdowns, masks and holidays plans have left me disoriented. I’m no longer surprised by disruption – I expect it. It’s hard to find rhythms, sure things and firm paths.
But there is a way to walk steadily through this disrupted world. That’s the claim made by An Upside-Down World, a new podcast from Tearfund, produced in conjunction with a seven-part Lenten reflection series. Yes, life today is chaotic and uncertain – and far more so, in majority world communities where Tearfund partners with local organisations – but there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
The podcast navigates these upturned paths with one of scripture’s most perplexing maps, the Beatitudes. Jesus outlines the “conditions” under which people experience “blessing”. He doesn’t suggest security, status or self-preservation – Jesus calls for mercy, mourning and meekness. Each statement is a bit like Siri cutting half an hour off your commute but directing you towards a dead-end: it sounds good, but is it really going to work? Is Jesus’ back-to-front framework really the way to life in an upside-down world?
Listening to the guests on An Upside-Down World, I believe – perhaps more solidly than I have before – that the answer is yes. Not a straightforward yes, but a humble yes. It’s evident in the stories shared, which come together in a delightfully diverse collection of voices both global and local, unknown and familiar. Pastor Ray Minniecon speaks of mourning and comfort as someone who has seen his community carry the burden of far too much sorry business. We hear how God’s mercy led Nebiyu, the director of an Ethiopian community organisation, to a transformative experience of forgiveness with his father. Jacinta, a doctor from the Gold Coast, shares the challenge of maintaining purity of heart when you are just bursting to do good in the world. And if you’ve ever wondered what fills and sustains Tim Costello after decades of (often unquenched) hungering and thirsting for righteousness, well, that’s in episode four. Hosts Joel McKerrow and Grace Naoum anchor the conversations with warmth and curiosity, lending their skills as performance-poets to the mix, offering a creative response to the themes and stories shared.
One theme that comes through in almost all the interviews is listening. Listening overcomes pride and makes room for meekness, it keeps the channels of peace flowing, it sets aside power. Listening levels the ground. I think of the crowd gathered on the mountainside, listening together to the Teacher, hanging off his every “you are blessed when…”. How those words must have flipped things upside-down – or maybe right way up? – back then. They still do today.
Engaging with Beatitudes in the lead up to Lent makes perfect sense. Jesus’ death-defeating sacrifice was as upside-down as it gets. An Upside-Down World busts any notion that the Beatitudes are cute, pocketable sayings, and tells just how much they can shape – and stabilise – life for the disciple of Jesus today.
An Upside-Down World launches Wednesday 2 March, releasing weekly episodes up to Easter. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you stream your podcasts, and for more information visit tearfund.org.au/the-way-of-love.
Melody Murton is content lead at Tearfund Australia.