by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
I have just returned from a 3-week trip to India. Thanks to all who ‘held down the fort” while I was gone, and to our beloved Pastor Jimmy who has been on call for us during my absence, and for our guest preachers.
The greatest thing about travel (in my opinion) is the chance to see the world differently, from a new perspective. Often we get stuck in our own bubble: worrying about our own problems, seeing the world from a specific persecutive based on our cultural, our generational, our unique and limited worldview. We can get so caught up in our own lives, that it is difficult to see the plight of others – their blessings and woes.
While I am in India, I become obsessed with how things work, because their daily lives are so different than mine, because their answers to life’s questions vary.
* For example: Two of the schools we support in rural India are in the end-stages of new building projects. In Paratwada, Felix Convent School is building a brand new primary and secondary school with an amazing sport’s complex. As I toured their new build, I became fascinated with the scaffolding. Made of long bamboo and rope, the scaffolding itself must have taken so long to build… even before the actual “work” began. How does it hold up? How does it support the weight of workers and materials?
* Another example: At Happy Valley English School in Padhar, they are finishing up their new build and while the Primary school complex is almost complete, the two-story secondary school is still in process. While I was visiting there was a load of rocks that were delivered. Now, I have not spent much time watching construction projects here in America, but the process I observed was new to me. All the materials were at ground level: piles of sand, rocks and a water tank. Workers were upstairs, putting concrete on the walls. There are about five laborers who each gather a bowl full of materials (rocks, sand, water…whatever was needed) and carry it upstairs to the workers. And then, they do it again… and again….
Traveling helps us to see the world in a different way, with a new perspective.
* In our scripture lesson today, Jesus challenges us to see the world in a new way. Here, in Luke 6, Jesus is establishing a new way of life, a new order, new rules for a new way of living. He is taking what has been the norm and turning it upside-down. Seeing that what has been the norm is not working, Jesus challenges us to change our worldview.
But, author Brian Stoffregen, says, “Unfortunately for Jesus and his movement, the worldview of these Pharisees and scribes is widespread and has become institutionalized in patterns of expected behavior reinforced by social sanctions. Those who do not discriminate in their choices of table companions, those who do not fast, those who do not observe the Sabbath — such people are defined as outsiders, people of low regard in this system.” (1)
Before our scripture begins, at the beginning of chapter 6:
- Jesus plucks grain and then calls himself “Lord of the Sabbath” (I can do what I want.)
- Jesus heals on the sabbath
- Jesus chooses new leadership (12 apostles)
* So, let’s read from Luke 6: 17 – “He 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. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.”
He came down? Where was he? This sermon is often referred as the Sermon on the Mount… up high away from the world. In Luke “he came down” to be on a level place. In Luke this sermon is called “Sermon on the Plain.” That has significance. Why?
“In Matthew, Jesus and his disciples …separated themselves from the crowd by going up on the mountain (5:1-2).” (2) But here Jesus is amongst them, working with and speaking to them all – with everyone, disciples and crowds and a great multitude of foreigners, who’d come to hear him and be healed.
And then he establishes the new rules, who’s in and who’s out:
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
* ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
* ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
* ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
* ‘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 on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
In the previous world order, the one of the Pharisees, being blessed meant that you received earthly, material things: a good wife, many children, abundant crops, riches, honor, wisdom, beauty, good health, etc. A blessed person had more things and better things than an ordinary person. To be blessed, you had to have big and beautiful things. (3)
But now Jesus uses this word in a totally different way. It is not the elite who are blessed. It is not the rich and powerful who are blessed. It is not the high and mighty who are blessed. It is not the people living in huge mansions or expensive penthouses who are blessed. Rather, Jesus pronounces God’s blessings on the lowly: the poor, the hungry, the crying, and the hated. (4)
* A word about the Beatitudes in Matthew: these are the ones we know – the beatitudes only appear in Matthew and Luke, not in Mark, so they are said to be from a different source.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What I want you to see is that Matthew and Luke had different understandings of who were the blessed. Did Jesus really mean the poor? Matthew says “the poor in spirit…” Did Jesus really mean blessed are those who hunger? Matthew says, …for righteousness…”
* Luke’s version says Jesus blessed the ACTUAL poor and hungry. Those who are without now. Those who are hungry NOW. Those who cry now. Those who are hated now. And he emphasizes this with the addition of the WOES:
‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
‘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.
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Luke makes it pretty clear: Jesus means it. Blessed are the poor. What does that mean for us. (Disclaimer)
Our salvation – our blessedness- depends on how we interact with, how we’re involved with, how we bless the poor. The good news is that we still hope, but we need to get to work. What is our relationship with the poor?
Many of us would say… I try to be nice, give a care bag or a few dollars here and there, but we have no real relationship with anyone is poor.
Now, we must take a step back and recognize.. the poor are among us, those who struggle, those who are working paycheck to paycheck.
* How does our church relate to the poor?
- 7 students sponsored by UMW
- 10 more students sponsored by Church Members (17 out of 47)
(What other ways do we relate to the poor?)
Jesus calls us to change our ways of thinking, change our worldview and see with the eyes of God. May we, who are blessed, be a blessing to those in need. And may we recognize our blessings today and always.
1.Brian Stoffregen found on http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke6x17.htm