Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Gospel: Luke 6:17-26
17He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Afterthoughts: Between the Blessings and the Woes
Many things in life are presented as black or white.
good or bad.
true or false.
right or wrong.
We live in a political culture that is red or blue.
Conservative or liberal.
Elephant or donkey.
It stands to reason that we,
in our lives,
would look at our choices in our lives in much the same way.
How much more so that in the lives of the people of faith?
The Bible is no stranger to the “either/or” language used in our contemporary culture.
Righteous or unrighteous.
Righteous or wicked.
Sons of light or Sons of darkness.
Sheep or goats.
Right or left.
It is ingrained in us to be either this or that.
So, when Jesus gives His speech in the Gospel reading from this last Sunday out of Luke 6, it is familiar with what we would expect.
He addresses the “blessed” and the “woes.”
To those who are blessed He says,
· Yours is the kingdom of God.
· You will be filled.
· You will laugh.
· Your reward is great in heaven.
To those who are the woes He says,
· You have received your consolation.
· You will be hungry.
· You will mourn and weep.
· All [will] speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Note to self, be a part of the blessed.
But being this or that is hard.
Living in a black and white world is difficult.
Feeling encouraged in a good or bad situation is trying,
We see the difficulties when we look at how our culture tries to create monoliths of different groups.
(NOTE: these next statements are not the views of this priest,
but the characterizations of the larger culture).
All Republicans are racist.
They don’t care about the poor.
They are against immigration.
They don’t want women to have control over their own bodies.
All Democrats care more about the people in this country illegally than those who are already its citizens.
They believe in big government.
They promote socialism.
They are responsible for the moral decay of this country.
And we could go on and on about blacks,
The problem with this is,
A: Much of this is untrue.
B: Life is lived somewhere in the middle.
I am neither a registered Republican or a Democrat.
I feel strongly about some of both party’s platforms.
I am strongly against some of both party’s platforms.
As a post-evangelical turned Episcopalian,
I can tell you that the characterizations of Evangelicals is not reflective of the whole of the Evangelical Church.
Many of my views while living within evangelicalism where not reflective of the characterizations of evangelicals.
And my guess is that you are messy like this too.
And a bit eclectic.
And our church.
So, again, when we hear Jesus talk about the “blessed” and the “woes,” we’re trying to figure how to orient ourselves to His call.
We’re an “Already but not yet people.”
Jesus’ words to the “blessed” imply a future eschaton.
(which has always been a source of hope for God’s people)
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God (later).
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled (later).
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh (later).
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven (not here); for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”
If you are like me,
then the idea of being redeemed is an ongoing process,
not an act of declaration.
I require time to correct course.
And it is living in this kind of tension
that puts us somewhere in the middle.
We live in a world that is broken.
And sometimes we are caught up participating in this brokenness.
The prophet Jeremiah in our first reading this past Sunday says it like this,
Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.”
We are, as the Church, as the ecclesia,
called out of the patterns of this world.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans (chapter 12) bids us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world any longer but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
And this renewal does not come from the way of the world
but the wisdom of Christ.
In a certain sense, God’s plans for us and the worlds influence on us compete for our affections. And these two things are very different.
One calls us to love.
The other is, pretty much,
Everyone for themselves.
Now I realize that for some this next illustration may be lost on you, but I will share it anyway.
It is the difference between:
The world according to Ted Lasso
The world according to Ozarks.
These are two television shows,
one on Apple TV and the other Netflix,
Ted Lasso invokes a life of kindness.
With the net result that those who receive this kindness are changed (for the good) and, in turn, promote this kindness to others.
Ozarks invokes a life of greed.
To anyone that comes within its reach.
It is narcissistic.
It is lurid.
It is deadly.
No one who participates in its chaos comes out unscathed.
It is a giant downward spiral.
Our world can tend to be like Ozarks, but, with the participation of people of faith, can be like Ted Lasso.
Which brings me to the next point:
We are messy.
We would love for the waters of our live to be un-muddied,
But they are not.
Scripture speaks of it.
We know it.
We see it in our lives.
It is the cry of Paul that says “I do the things I do not want to do and not the things I want to do, what a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7)
And then thanks God for Jesus (as we should do too).
And, as is seen in the second reading from last week in 1 Corinthians, Jesus provides the means by which we get through our deficiencies.
He restores us to hope.
Unleashes the grace and mercy of God.
We desire a true hope
You and I are genuinely interested in living into the life that God has called us to live in. And it is only in the power of God that this can be realized.
In and of ourselves,
we are simply incapable of doing it.
We might have little successes here and there.
But not the abundant life God calls us into;
The life we all want to live.
Which is found in Psalm 1 from Sunday’s readings.
A life that says we shall be,
like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither;
[and that we] shall prosper.”
Brothers and sisters,
Let us live into the life that we have been called to.
Let us strive to connect with those things that seek God’s righteousness.
Let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Living God.