Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, Hosea 4:11-19, Acts 21:37-22:16, Luke 6:12-26
Do you consider yourself comfortable or afflicted? Luke 6:17 begins a passage sometimes called the Sermon on the Plain. It parallels many of the themes of the better known and more comprehensive Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. This sermon contains a list of blessings and woes that sound very much like the Beatitudes. They describe a reversal of fortune in which the afflicted will be comforted, and the comfortable will be afflicted. These ideas are equally unsettling to us as to Jesus’s original audience.
When we hear “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry,” does it mean we should go hungry? Is the Realm of God a world in which all people hunger? What if we are the hungry, and through the grace of God we become full? Into which camp – the blessed hungry or the cursed full – do we then belong?
A simple answer might be: if we are full (or rich, or laughing, or popular) at the expense of others, woe to us. Perhaps we should never be completely certain which camp we are in. We would be foolish and ungrateful to reject gifts like a good meal or a sheltering roof. After all, Jesus encourages us to provide these things to the poor. However, we would be equally (if not more) foolish to believe such gifts mark us as specially favored by God. The type of blessing Jesus speaks of in this passage is a state of right relationship with God. When we become complacent or take this relationship for granted, the relationship will suffer. Too much certainty our poverty is a sign of God’s favor is no better than a belief that material comfort is evidence of the same thing. This tension in the relationship helps us actively evaluate and fine-tune it throughout our lives.
Unwavering certainty in our own state of righteousness – or sinfulness – closes us off from the transformational grace of Christ in our lives, and in the lives of others. The gift of uncertainty keeps us humble seekers, always ready to discover Christ in new ways.
Comfort: The less we think we know, the better we can know God.
Challenge: Create side-by-side lists of the ways you think are rich and the ways you think you are poor. Do these line up with the Sermon on the Plain?
Prayer: Glorious Creator, thank you for a relationship that always grows. Amen.
Discussion: What is the difference between feeling guilty about the state of the world, and feeling responsible for it?
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