“Blessings and Woes on the Plain”

Luke 6:17-26

13 February 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 6:17-26

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.

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 in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“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.

| Centering Prayer |

A friend and colleague of mine

Was telling me about a lunchtime conversation

She had with the highly acclaimed professor

of preaching and worship, Fred Craddock.

She asked if it was ever acceptable to preach the same sermon

As one delivered in a prior parish.

Professor Craddock replied with a smile,

“If it was good enough to preach it the first time,

It should be good enough to deliver it a second.”

Indeed, I have found

Gospel truth is eternal.

The core, raw exegesis never changes.

Update the context,

Modify the message to fit the life stories of the audience,

Draw out the essential truth,

Make the challenge, and

I’m good to go

For another Sunday in the pulpit.

My message today is original this week,

Though Jesus’s sermon probably wasn’t.

Like every good preacher,

Like circuit riders of old,

We suspect Jesus had a number of good sermons

That he would update,

Modify to fit the audience and circumstances,

And reuse.

The Sermon on the Plane is one of them.

The Gospel of Luke reports

The Beatitudes, or blessings,

Were delivered to

Both his disciples and

A multitude of people.

The crowd is diverse,

Mostly Jews from Judea and Jerusalem and

Gentiles from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

A modified version of Jesus’s Beatitudes

is found in Matthew, chapter 5.

There, Jesus retreats from the crowds,

Went up a mountain, and

Taught only his disciples.

Instead of the four blessings

Delivered in Luke,

Jesus uses the private, intimate setting of a mountain top

To expand his blessings to nine.

Two different settings.

Two different audiences.

The same, essential Gospel truth.

A few thoughts.

1. What brings you to Jesus?

Last Sunday I asked if someone was

Sent by God,

To fish for you,

Catch you, and

Reel you in,

and land you at the feet of Jesus.

A good fisherman can do that.

Yet, the Gospel of Luke today

Paints a more complete palate of

What motivated individuals

From all kinds of backgrounds

To travel great distances

To place themselves

On that flat plane

In a crowd

Surrounding Jesus.

Some came to hear him preach.

– Luke 6:18

They longed for the Word,

Christ’s essential truth,

God’s message and will

For the transformation of the world.

Some were sick

And came to be healed of their diseases.

– Luke 6:18

The sick gathered,

Despite social quarantine laws,

Because they believed Jesus could heal them.

Others were troubled with unclean spirits.

– Luke 6:18

Troubled emotionally?

As in having a mental health crisis?

Or having a chronic mental illness?

Perhaps.

Or being possessed by unclean spirits?

As in having evil taking up residence,

Abiding in you

In place of Christ and his love

Abiding in you?

What brings you to Jesus?

The eternal truth of the Gospel?

Oh, how I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

And I hope you share my enthusiasm.

Are you sick? Like with an illness or disease?

Jesus can heal you,

According to God’s will.

You won’t get what you don’t ask for.

Make the spiritual trek.

Place yourself in the crowd.

Ask to be healed.

Christ heals to bring laser focused attention

To God’s love and compassion.

Those healed are expected to witness,

To testify

To the world what Christ,

The Great Physician,

Has done.

Are you troubled with unclean thoughts or spirits?

Touch Jesus

For power comes out of him.

Be cleansed.

Be healed.

Touching Jesus today

Implies an intimate relationship

With the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ,

The Church,

Is here to love and support you

And lead you to healing.

2. “Blessed are you who are poor,

For yours is the kingdom of God.”

– Luke 6:20

Simply put,

Economic status

matters to God.

God has given humankind sufficient abundance

That poverty should not exist.

Not now.

Not ever.

Period.

Where there is poverty

There are wealthy individuals withholding

Shares they are not entitled to.

Guilty as charged.

Lord forgive me.

But! I protest, attempting to plead my case,

Jesus means “poor in spirit!”

Not today.

Different sermon.

Different location.

Different audience.

Today,

Jesus is talking wealth and poverty,

The rich and the poor.

Jesus is talking about stewardship,

Our efforts to use the gifts God has given us

To eliminate poverty wherever it exists,

Both in the City of Rochester and rural Livingstone County,

In the hills of Guatemala,

In Palestinian camps,

and in the villages of distant South Africa.

God brings joy and perfect happiness to the poor

And future woes to those of us who are rich

Who are unwilling or uncaring to share the wealth.

“What’s in your wallet?” the television commercial asks.

Jesus is standing you and me straight up

Looking us right in the eye

Asking, “what are you doing

with what’s in your wallet?”

3. “Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.”

– Luke 6:21

Food matters to God.

Google reports that 800 million people

Live every day with food insecurity,

Without reliable access to

a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

That’s one in ten of the 7.9 billion people in the world.

According to data published by the United Nations

The number of people who did not get adequate nutrition last year increased to 2.4 billion.

That’s 30% of the world.

The cause?

The UN cites

COVID, climate change, and conflict.

At the same time

Between 2000 and 2019

The world’s production of primary crops increased by 53%

According to ReliefWeb

Hitting a record high of 9.4 billion tonnes in 2019.

Food supply is increasing.

At the same time so is hunger.

What’s the deal?

The deal is you and me.

We waste food.

We hoard food.

Inflation and transportation costs

Disproportionately impact the poor.

Poverty and hunger are insidious reflections

Of our failure to act.

Woe to us

Who don’t need to check prices in the supermarket,

Whose refrigerator needs emptied of rotted or expired food,

Who have failed to support our local food pantry or soup kitchen

With gifts of food, money, or volunteer efforts.

You and I may not be able to solve world hunger,

But we can have a huge impact eliminating hunger right here in our community.

4. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

– Luke 6:21

Jesus recognizes the fact that sorrow is one unfortunate characteristic of life,

Whether sorrow is due to death and grief,

Losses, such as employment or divorce,

Anxiety or depression,

Incarceration or hospitalization,

Regret or shame,

Natural disaster or just dumb luck. 

Sorrow is real.

Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t shield one from sorrow or misfortune.

Each of us are one breath or one heartbeat away from catastrophe.

If you haven’t yet wept with sorrow,

Brace yourself.

Woe to you if you’re laughing now

for you will mourn and weep,

Jesus promises.

At the same time,

Jesus makes the point that God’s blessings go to the sorrowful,

For sorrow is not God’s intended goal for humankind.

The Lord wants us to live in joy!

Joy today and joy tomorrow!

Joy is the gladness of heart

that comes in knowing God,

Abiding in Christ, and

Being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Think of angelic joy coming to shepherds and

To the virgin Mary when told she was to carry and deliver God’s son.

Think of the joy of a wedding feast and an unending flow of wine!

Think of

Christ’s promise of a lifetime of joy to his disciples and

Of the early Church living in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Joy is identified by Paul

As one of the fruits of the Spirit.

It is God’s intent

that you be filled with joy.

5. My final thought is on the fourth blessing

Jesus offers:

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”

Luke 6:22

It has taken a lifetime for me to learn

That being liked isn’t a goal or quality of my journey of faith.

Most everyone likes to be liked.

I like to be liked.

But my discipleship does not depend on what other people think about me.

Taking up a cross and following Jesus

Is going to lead to crossed sticks at times,

Sometimes even with people you love.

Discipleship depends on discerning the will of God

And faithfully fulfilling God’s will

as a servant leader.

Jesus and the Gospel is revolutionary.

God’s love and grace is counter-cultural.

As a Christian it means that

(as was promised at our baptismal waters)

We must work to

Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,

Reject the evil powers of this world,

And to repent of our sin.

This leads to those who personify evil and behave wickedly

to hate us and our God.

So be it.

The United Methodist version of our baptismal vows continue

To identify why discipleship may make you and me the targets of hatred.

It reads

“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you

To resist evil, injustice, and oppression

In whatever forms they present themselves?”

That’s going to make evil people angry.

Standing up to injustice may win you Christian allies,

But it’s also going to upset those who thrive on the status quo.

Ending oppression isn’t going to be popular with the oppressors of this world.

So be it.

Our Savior’s response?

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven!”

Yes, the world will know that we are Christians by our love.

Let the world will also see us crazy Christians leaping around with joyful abandonment!

What brings you to Jesus?

For me,

It isn’t the thought or hope of a perfect life.

For me,

It is the blessings of discipleship,

The satisfaction and joy of serving on behalf

Of an all loving, gracious God.

May you also be so blessed.

Amen.

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