Sermon February 13, 2022: On Being in Right Relationship with God
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Our Gospel reading from Luke is his version of the Great Sermon. Matthew has the Sermon on the Mount or the beatitudes - Luke has Jesus give the sermon on the plain. Luke’s version is shorter and the focus is a bit different.Luke’s is 32 verses, Matthew uses 107! The theology is in the location. Location, location, location.
The location in both Gospels is interesting. When Luke has Jesus on the plain he is not elevated from his listeners - he is equal with them. And even though there was a large crowd who had gathered to hear him teach in the Gospel of Luke he directs his teaching to the disciples.
In this great sermon the teaching is plain. Discipleship is not easy in fact its really really difficult and it may bring an early death. The people who heard this sermon had no idea at the time what the cost might be for their faith.
They had come to hear the teacher that was getting rave reviews. They had come for healing. And they got just that and a little more as well.
Luke’s Gospel version of the beatitudes has a back and forth nature. Blessed are you……and off set with woe to you…..statements.
Blessed are you who are poor - woe to you who are rich.
Blessed are you who are hungry - woe to you who are full now.
Blessed are you who weep - woe to you who are laughing now.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the son of man - woe to you when all speak well of you.
We tend to like the beatitudes. They are comfortable when we read them or hear them in a watered down - distanced from us way. But the sermon on the plain is not watered down and it is not distant from us. It is a radical call to action. It is what discipleship is all about. It is about a God turning the world upside down.
The blessed are those who have nothing but God.
The sermon on the plain is a direct and pressing call and challenge for the disciples and all followers of Jesus to re-orient relationships and reverse social, economic and political injustices so that they gain right standing in the eyes of God.
I think we would like to think that we are on the blessed side of this sermon. After all we are faithful in our following of Jesus’ teaching. We are trying to do the right things, live the right way. But I suspect Jesus and the writer of Luke might put us on the woe side. And I know I do not want to be on the woe side!
We are called to be people of faith, called to fully live into our humanity and to be the people God created us to be. The life of faith is not always easy, we cannot avoid personal responsibility.
If you were to write your own beatitudes what would they say? What do you value and what do you reject?
LEAVE a LONG PAUSE
The kingdom or the realm of God (which we are all supposed to be working toward!) enshrines values that are different from the world - but we are caught in the tension of living in the world.
What does it mean to be on the side of the blessed?
To be blessed of God is to have nothing but God.
To be in the category of the blessed is to go against the grain of the world. God does not bless us when we maintain the status quo. God does not bless us when we maintain traditions or when we gloss over or ignore prophetic voices who call out for change. Voices that call us back to God. God does not bless us when we build up institutions or empires that oppress or crush others.
Poverty, hunger and disease are preventable conditions in a world that should have enough to feed all of its people. But we hoard and we do not share. Our world, our beautiful world has or had enough resources to make it possible for all humans to have a better life. But we are greedy and we want more and more for ourselves. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare some of our worst behaviours. Vaccines could be available to everyone around the world - but rich countries want to keep them for themselves. Is this loving our neighbour as ourself? When we keep live saving medicine out of the hands of those who need it most but cannot pay for it?
The “woe” side of the equation seems more appealing, we are full, we are laughing, we are looked up to by society. But its the wrong side as Jesus and the author of Luke tell us. We should want to be on the side of the blessed. Those who have nothing but God. Those who want to be in a right relationship with God.
To be on the side of the blessed is to want to live in the world turned upside down. The Gospels call us to a simplicity of living. In a few recent sermons I have been preaching about food waste, water conservation and consumerism. I have been setting you up. In a couple of weeks we will mark Ash Wednesday and we will enter the season of Lent. Lent is a time to have a good hard look at yourself and your way of living and to ask yourself some difficult questions. This year, this Lent, ask yourself how you can respond to the Gospel imperative to live simply. The catch phrase is live simply so that others may simply live. What will put you in right relationship with your creator and your neighbour?