13 February 2022
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
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,
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
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
As in having a mental health crisis?
Or having a chronic mental illness?
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 the world what Christ,
The Great Physician,
Are you troubled with unclean thoughts or spirits?
For power comes out of him.
Touching Jesus today
Implies an intimate relationship
With the Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ,
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
matters to God.
God has given humankind sufficient abundance
That poverty should not exist.
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!”
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 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,
Woe to you if you’re laughing now
for you will mourn and weep,
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!
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
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”
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.
“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?
It isn’t the thought or hope of a perfect life.
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.