6th Sunday “C”
Luke 6, 17, 20-26
Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
I don’t know about you but I much prefer Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, the blessings of God. What makes one happy? What makes one blest? I can understand Matthew’s Blest are the poor in spirit, because while I am may not be poor, I try to be poor in spirit. I am not hungry, but I do hunger for more justice in the world. Luke’s Gospel though isn’t quite so nice. Luke doesn’t mince words nor leave an easy out. Luke not only says that the poor, the hungry, the weeping and those not well thought of are blest he gives us his list of woes: the rich, the full, the happy, those who are well thought of. Luke makes it quite clear what it is that he is talking about it. He says it is a blessing to be poor, to hunger, to know sorrow and or be despised by others.
I am not going to let you off easy today. Too often we take the bite off of Jesus’ message. I was reading this week that all too often we take the bite out of Jesus’ message. Jesus is a wild mountain lion, but we declaw him and make domesticate him. We make Jesus into a cute little kitty that everyone just loves to cuddle with. That isn’t the Christian message. We are meant to be challenge by God’s word.
Now it is important to remember that the beatitudes come in two parts. Not just the blessings and the woes, but the blessings and woes themselves are divided in two. The first part is the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, those who are hated. That isn’t the blessing part though; the second part is the blessing. Blest are the poor, why? Because they will have the kingdom of God. Blest are those who hunger, for they will be filled. Blest are those who weep, for they will be comforted. The same is true of the woes, the woes isn’t the rich, those who are full and those who are happy. No, the Rich, the full and the happy are warned, because they already have their blessing. There is nothing left for them.
In a word what Jesus is saying, Blest are those who are empty, because then God can come in and fill that void. If you have an emptiness, if you have a spacious home for God, for other human beings, for the long suffering on the earth then God will come in and fill it.
What will make you happy? Only God, we need to make space for God, and Jesus is warning us, Jesus is telling us that if we have too much stuff we won’t have room for God in our lives. Now I’ve not seen it myself but I hear that there is a TV show on the internet that is popular right now called: Tidying up with Marie Kondo. I guess it is about this Marie Kondo encouraging us get rid of the stuff that doesn’t bring your joy. We have too much stuff she says and we need to get rid of it. I think she is on to something. We do have too much stuff, we need to downsize, but don’t just keep those things that bring you joy, keep those things that will leave you want Jesus in your life.
Now I am just visiting here this Sunday, so I admit that I don’t know the lives of you who are sitting in these pews this morning. They’re might be some real poverty here in this Church. Maybe someone of you are afraid that you will lose your home, you’re not sure if you are going to be able to make the rent. Maybe there are people here who are homeless. I don’t know. I don’t know if any of you are hungry, and not just because you didn’t have breakfast before you came to church, but maybe some of you not only didn’t eat breakfast but maybe you won’t have lunch either. Maybe you can go back to a time where you were really poor, or a time when you went to bed hungry. Again I am not sure. I know in my life I never was truly poor. There were times when my dad didn’t have a job, times when we didn’t get presents at Christmas, but I never slept on the street, there was always something to eat, even if it was powdered milk and peanut butter sandwiches.
But there is one thing that I think most of us have experienced, that is deep sorrow. I would guess that most of us have had some kind of loss in your life. As painful as it might have been I invite you to go to that place. Maybe it was the loss of one of your parents, your mom or dad. It doesn’t matter if they lived to be 101 or if they died while you were still young yourself, I invite you to go there. Maybe it was the loss of your spouse, someone you had shared your life with, someone who you thought you would grow old with. I hope not but maybe some of you have lost a child. We know that we will lose our parents; we fear that our spouse might go before us, but you should never have to bury a child.
As painful as it is I invite you to go to that place. For me it is my mom. My mom had always been healthy; she got cancer and was told that she had six months to live. I was with her when she died, I remember my brother had spent the night with my mom and my sister Peggy and I had arrived in the morning to sit with mom. I walked my brother to his car and when I came back my sister Peggy said, “she’s gone.” My mom was lifeless in her bed. No breath, no heartbeat, she was gone. I called my brother on the phone I tried to tell him to come back, but I couldn’t talk, no words came, only tears. The woman who gave me life was gone. I would never feel her embrace again, never hear her advice, not that I always took it. She was gone and no one would ever take her place.
I invite you to go to that place and I am sure that many of you know more sorrows than I. The thing is you knew that emptiness that Jesus is talking about in the scriptures. That emptiness that no vacation in Hawaii was going to cure, no later model car with all the features was going help. No amount of money in the bank or no new job was going to help you forget. You will never forget. And while the pain may subside, the tears may be less, the loss is never filled, and you have that place in your heart. Invite Jesus into that place right now. The thing is you will never ever truly need Jesus, until you need Jesus.
It isn’t good to be poor. As Mae West said I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, I prefer rich. It isn’t good to know really hunger, there is nothing nice about deep sorrow, and no one wants to be hated. None of those things are good, but when we realize that we have a need that we can no longer fill, a question that has no answer, an emptiness, then we can make room for Jesus. At times, especially in this consumerist society that we live in we think if we just had a little more money, if we just had one more cookie, if we just had good health and everyone thought we were the greatest in the world. That everything would be great. It won’t the only thing that will truly bring us lasting and real happiness is Jesus alone.
Image courtesy of Patrick Fore.