6 Epiphany Yr C Feb 17 2019



Audio  6 Epiphany Yr C Feb 17 2019 Jeremiah 17:5-10, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26, Psalm 1

You just heard Deacon Doug read this passage from Luke, that we often call the Beatitudes. I want you to hear it again, this translation is from N.T. Wright, who is the former bishop of Durham, in the UK.
Blessings on the poor: God’s kingdom belongs to you!
Blessings on those who are hungry today: you’ll have a feast!
Blessings on those who weep today: you’ll be laughing!
Blessings on you, when people hate you, and shut you out,
But woe betide you rich: you’ve had your comfort!
Woe betide you if you’re full today: you’ll go hungry!
Woe betide you if you’re laughing today: you’ll be mourning and weeping!
Woe betide you when everyone speaks well of you: that’s what your ancestors did to the false prophets.

The trouble with this text is that it is hard for us to hear. It is hard for us, who are not really very poor, who are not usually hungry. We don’t really know what to do with it. And Luke’s version has these woe statements. Matthew, the other gospel writer who included the Beatitudes in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, didn’t do that. We hear the sharp edges of these woes and wonder where we find ourselves in this sermon of Jesus’.

I remember sermons that tried to teach me about Be-attitudes. You know the ones, where we learned that these are all about having the proper attitude toward the challenges in our lives. If you just have the right attitude or do it the right way you can overcome the obstacles in your path.

I’m not sure that’s the correct approach, I think that misses out on the incredible grace these blessings offer, and the corrective the woes offer. The word itself, blessed or blessing, could be translated happy or fortunate, and has been so in many of the bibles we read. But even happy or fortunate does not come close to depth of meaning of blessed. Happy is a great word, a great way to be, but being happy is really up to me, isn’t it? It is much like having a good attitude. Fortunate is a word that makes me think of lucky, as in, “I was lucky that car didn’t hit me!” and maybe a bit capricious or arbitrary.

Blessed and blessing is not capricious or arbitrary. Being blessed is not a result of a transaction with God. Blessed is who you are. Blessed is who you are created to be. Blessed is connection and relationship. We are blessed, we are related, we are known. And that blessing is for all of us. Every part of God’s creation is blessed, the whole of God’s creation is blessed. That’s the point in the first chapter of Genesis, God created and God blessed. God creates and God blesses.

So when I hear these blessing that are beatitudes, what I hear is blessings on you, all of you, even the poor, who society shuts out. Blessings on all of you, even you hungry people, yes even you, you people who are excluded from the finer dining establishments, you who are excluded from getting jobs that pay a living wage, even you are blessed. Blessings on you people who weep, even you, blessings on you when you close yourself off in your home and cry, thinking that no one wants to hear you. Blessings on your tears when you think no one can see you. Blessings on your broken heart. And blessings on you, even when you stand up for what is right, blessings on you when you stand for justice and peace, blessings on you who preach with your lives that God loves all of creation and weeps when this earth is mistreated. Blessings on all of you.

And in this gospel, blessings bestowed on all of God’s creation, even on those who society has forgotten, or turned out, turn into anguish and grief for those who misuse wealth, money, and power. Woe betide you, aren’t those great words? This is not simply do or do not. Because it is not a transaction. This is a call to deep transformation, not just to doing good, no matter how good that is. It is a call to us who are blessed, to all of us, to participate with God in the healing of our planet, in the healing of our nation, in the healing of our hearts.

You see, this is the sermon on the plain. In Luke’s good news, Jesus stands shoulder to shoulder, side by side, with the people who gather to hear him. In Luke’s good news, remember, at the very beginning, we hear Mary sing,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, The promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

The words that Mary sings as she learns of her child, and this sermon that Jesus delivers in this field, form the foundation for Jesus’ teaching in this gospel according to Luke. For Jesus this life is not about what you have and who you are, this life is about empowering those without power. This life is about raising up those who have been cast out. This life is about filling the hungry with good things.

This life is about standing together when our hearts are broken, and being filled with the only thing that can put us back together again, Jesus. This life is about loving no matter what, even when it seems absolutely impossible to love.

Jesus’ very life and death and resurrection shows that. On the cross, in the midst of the pain and anguish, Jesus gives his life, and Jesus forgives those who hate. Blessed are those who forgive when it is easier to hate. Blessed are those who love when it is so very hard to love. The good news of this sermon on the plain is that Jesus stands with us, all of us. Jesus stands with those who are hungry, those who are grieving, those who downtrodden. And we are all joined on this plain because we are all in need. And, through our need, by God’s favor for us and all who are in need. “Jesus’ came down with them and stood on a level place, so that we might, too. So that we may be blessed to be a blessing.

Blessings on you today and always. Amen.

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