the one about blessings and woes...
February 18, 2019, 8:00 AM

Sermon from February 17, 2019

Text: Luke 6:17-26

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, the first thing I noticed with this text is that Jesus is speaking in a level place. As I pondered that and read around about it, it got me thinking. I and we continually talk about our God who has come down to be with us. Our God made known in Jesus who is the Christ isn’t sitting on some lofty throne overlooking creation. Jesus doesn’t place himself (especially in Luke’s Gospel) in situations where others have to ‘come to him.’ He goes down and walks with those to whom he is called to serve (everyone). When you think about where Jesus has intentionally positioned himself to preach this sermon, the message he shares becomes even more impactful and intentional.

All the people crowd around him and seek to be healed – and they are. The healing spirit within him and around him is so powerful that it seemed to just leap out of him as people gathered around. Jesus isn’t even asking or expecting the people to come before him in an orderly line waiting to be healed by this man and prophet of God. No, Jesus is among the throngs of people pushing in and around.

In that moment and space is where Jesus speaks this sermon. It is in that level space on that plain that Jesus speaks about blessings and woes. And for me, where this sermon takes place as a whole new dimension on what Jesus might be getting at.

Jesus gives blessings to those who I am sure do not feel very blessed. And more likely have been told that they are not blessed by the community around them. How could they be blessed? They are poor, hungry, and in mourning? Who would feel blessed in those situations? Seriously.

If you heard that people were coming to seek help at Redeemer and I was turning them away with a simple word of, “Be blessed.” You’d probably think I was a big jerk. The news that comes out occasionally of ‘upstanding’ and faithful individuals who eat a gloriously abundant meal at a restaurant and leave a ‘tip’ of ‘Know your blessings are from God!’ can incite a rage deep within us. I know it does in me. I get so incredibly frustrated when I hear and read of those stories. Because, it isn’t right. We know it isn’t right.

However, I don’t think Jesus is doing that right here. He is indeed giving blessing to people who feel that they have no blessing and who have been told that they are not blessed. The blessing he shares with them is that God is never and has never been apart from them. That is God’s blessing – presence and closeness. A reminder that yes, even God is close to them.

But, if you look around today, people think so many things are blessings. Got to work on time today in spite of the gnarl of traffic because of an accident; #blessed. I was able to get the Grande coffee because I found $5 in my jacket pocket I forgot was there; #blessed. I survived a stressful week of working, so I rewarded myself with this scrumptious meal, delicious drink, and group of friends; #blessed.

I don’t think any of those moments are really blessings. Not in the way that Jesus would tell us. Those moments, though nice I suppose, are not blessings because they are pretty selfish. And most of the ‘blessings’ I see posted on social media seem to be in that way as well. Where blessings are more concerned about what’s good for ‘me’ than it is about God’s action and presence in my life and in the life of the world.

As Jesus speaks to those who are poor, hungry, and mourning – he is saying to them – God has not abandoned you. God listens to you. God is working and inviting you and others into a life that will lift you up and bring others down to a level place. A level plane where there is abundance, and fullness, and community.

Where entry into that space and life isn’t determined by what you ‘have’ or who you know or where you ‘started’ from. But, that plane space is a place of radical welcome, forgiveness, abundance, community, mercy, acceptance, and love. A place that is open to all, especially the ones that have been told that they don’t have a blessing from God.

That is a blessing worth hearing and sharing. But, Jesus doesn’t stop there. What he continues to say is that part that makes me – makes us – uneasy.

Woe to those who are rich, have their fill, and laugh now.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we are more likely to find ourselves in that group than in the other. Simply by the fact that we have food on our tables, we have jobs, and we have the freedom to celebrate and gather at most times.

Now, none of those things are bad. I want that to be clear. Having things and time and food isn’t bad at all. It isn’t.

But, when we look back at those things, the ones ‘thought’ to be blessings in our lives, we can begin to see why Jesus throws woes upon those in similar situations and mindsets.

Woe to the one who is so concerned of themselves in spite of the needs literally around them. Accidents can happen (and usually do) because we are more concerned with ourselves than we are with others. Where we rush to ‘get there first’ or are preoccupied with ourselves that we don’t notice the ones around us, or we don’t care. We cut off, we swerve, we make sure that we are ‘cared’ for before others. In those moments – accidents happen. Sometimes tragically.

Woe to the one who finds forgotten abundance and uses it to upsize the things they have. What would it look like if when those moments happen in our lives where we find money we’d forgotten about and instead of thinking, ‘wow, I can get THIS now!’ we instead looked at it in a way that said, ‘I’m truly thankful for what I have, where can I share this with others who might need it more than me?’ That’s a tough one for sure, and one that I fail at more often than not in my life.

That final #blessing I mentioned before is one we find ourselves in a lot. And those things are OK, but what about living into the life of faith caring for those in deliberate, meaningful, and impactful ways that help those who don’t have that luxury and freedom? Using that ‘free time’ to volunteer, to help, to serve – perhaps reading at a school, gathering folks to care for creation, standing up for and speaking in support of those who are tossed to the side in life and culture?

Where in our lives – as those with abundance, food, and time – can we be in that level plane and space? Where instead of looking down in pity (or even up in envy) we look around us and see God at work in the lives of those beside us? Where we see God moving us to care and love and serve with and for those around us. Where we are pulled and pushed by the Spirit to share what we have in abundance with those who might need a little more. So that they too can live fully and share in the abundance that God has for all of creation.

All in all, as we come to that level plane as a faithful community, we look around, recognize, and remember that our God is the one who has come down to the level plane to be with us. That that blessing of God – of God’s literal presence – is shared with all. And that blessing does not come to us as a result of good fortune, nor is it withheld from us because of misfortune.

We remember that out of love and care and desire to draw all unto himself, Christ walks with us in the level plane so that we all might know God, and so that we all might know where God wants us to be and how God is calling us to live.

That in that blessing, we work and strive in our lives to see that level plane lived out for all. Where we give of ourselves, our abundance and more so that others might share in and know that they too are a part and welcomed into that level place.

That is the true blessing. The blessing of God’s presence that moves us to live life on the level plane with each person around us. Amen.

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