Yr C ~ Epiphany 6 ~ Luke 6:17-26
(This was our Annual Meeting Sunday, so the sermon needed to be shortened to accommodate the extra meeting time. A fuller version was preached at the Sunday Night Worship service. Both are included here.)
I don’t have a lot of time this morning so I’ll be brief(ish). If you want to hear a fuller version of this sermon you can come back tonight! 🙂
So today we get Jesus’ beatitudes with a twist. We’re probably more familiar with the version in Matthew’s gospel usually called the “Sermon on the Mount”.
Well, first off, in Luke’s gospel this takes place on the plain, on a level place.
And second, instead of 9 beatitudes like in Matthew we get 4 beatitudes and 4 woe-to-you’s.
Please don’t think that means one of the stories is true and the other isn’t. It’s just proof that sometimes preachers need to say the same things over and over again, but in slightly different ways, in order to get their point across.
Do you really think that Jesus only taught these things one time?
He was an itinerant preacher. He probably gave a similar spiel in every town he travelled to!
The first thing we might notice is that a chapter ago Jesus was drawing big crowds but was just calling his first disciples. Today’s reading suggests he has a great crowd of disciples and a multitude of people listening to him.
How much of a buzz must have been circulating for that many people to be attracted to him?
And how did they know where to find him?
You get the sense there must have been a set plan, because thousands of people don’t just wander around on the off chance they might find Jesus!
It says this is a sermon on the plain, on the level place, as opposed to the mount. We theologize mountains as being up high and so the people felt “closer” to God – the whole “3-tiered universe” thing.
Well, plains are theologically significant because it indicates that God isn’t confined to our mountain top experiences – God’s Presence is right here with us on the level places, in the midst of daily life, where we most need it!
And I love Luke 6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Spiritual power is just emanating from Jesus here.
Maybe you’ve been in a room with someone who’s personal power and energy just seemed to radiate and fill the room.
Jesus had that in super-abundance!
And now the stage is set for us to hear his teaching. But before we tackle it there’s a really important cultural backdrop that we need to remember here. In their culture, the rich and healthy and prosperous were considered blessed – as in they were rich and healthy because they lived righteously and were rewarded for it.
And conversely, the poor and ill were poor and ill because they had somehow done wrong, or were sinful, so they also “deserved” it!
As ridiculous as that sounds to us I sometimes worry that we’ve held onto an echo of that harmful idea.
Against that backdrop, Jesus again utterly upends their understanding of how the world works – because he dares to suggest that it’s the poor who are actually blessed and the rich are actually deserving of woes.
Now, don’t go too far in the other direction – don’t make the same wrong conclusion in reverse.
Jesus isn’t just turning the tables on who’s blessed and who’s not – he’s completely changing the game. read on