Sermon, Epiphany 6C, Sunday February 17, 2019, St Petri.
Luke 6:17-2617 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to b e healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.20 Looking at his disciples, he said:‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.24 ‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/20190217_message.mp3
This is disturbing! Usually, if a person has done well for themselves financially, enjoys choice food and wine, laughs out loud with friends and family a lot, and is well regarded in the family and the community, we would believe that person to blessed by God.
On the other hand, if a person is struggling financially, and as a result, struggles to eat even very simple and basic food, is suffering a lot and is ridiculed and insulted quite often by others, we would say that person is cursed by God.
Not so here with Jesus.
You, a disciple of Jesus, may be cursed if you look blessed and you may be blessed if you look cursed!
So, which are you at the moment?
Are you cursed or blessed by God this morning? How do you tell? What makes you either cursed or blessed? On what does being either one depend? Seems like our view and Jesus’ view of who is blessed differs!
“Looking straight at his disciples”, Luke says, I believe Jesus is saying, “I am giving you who are not blessed, hope that you are; and you who think that you are blessed apart from me, that you are not.
As it has always been for those who live and speak God’s word (the prophets), God’s blessing is not determined by your outward show or inner pain. God’s blessing is determined by God’s giving it to you, apart from you outward show or inside pain.
This is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, speaking these blessings and woes. This is Jesus of Nazareth, healing and curing troubled spirits down on the plain.
THE blessing of God for the troubled spirits down on the plain is the one speaking. The difference between being blessed by God or not is not wealth or food or enjoyment or lack of these things, it is this man, this Jesus. He is the great reward of which he speaks; and to which he calls these “troubled spirits”.
On the one hand, this Blessing of God wants you to know that just because you don’t FEEL blessed, or others say you are not blessed, you still are, no matter what. He lifts you up from giving up as he speaks his words of blessing upon you.
‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
On the other hand, he wants to warn you against your usual tendency to be impatient as you wait for his blessing on his terms and in his time, and take matters into your own hands and try to create your own blessing, superficial though it be (just things or status) – and then take the credit for any ‘blessings’ in life YOU have achieved and earnt – that YOU DESERVE.
24 ‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Can you see that Jesus wants to save you from despair when you suffer and feel cursed, and to warn you when you take the credit for the good times and things that is not yours to take?
You can tell he is God’s blessing for rich and poor, well fed and under-fed, accepted and shunned by what he is already doing down by the sea with the crowd.
A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over……., 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
This day by the ocean, God’s blessing, healing love is coming out of this man in great power. Troubled souls who could never create this blessing of healing and life beyond their circumstances are receiving this great reward right here, right now.
It will continue to come out of him in many ways yet, and in the greatest act of love and healing the world has ever seen in the Good Friday cross and the Easter Sunday empty tomb.
So, if you feel cursed and cut off from God at the moment, he assures you that you are not. Life, love, joy are here for you by faith in his words now, and they will return as you receive him and his promises – there will be joy in the morning.
And if you are doing pretty well at the moment and tending take the credit for achieving the good that is going on, think again. You didn’t create yourself or your life. It is all hm. “Every good gift comes from above – from the Father of lights”, as James says (James 1:17).
Friend, your circumstances do not determine his blessing. He does. HIS WORDS OF PROMISE ARE The great reward – now in part, one day in full.
And his blessing is full and it lasts because he is full and he lasts.
God’s blessing is not mere human happiness, but complete divine love for underserving but deeply loved human beings.
To be blessed by God is not to have stuff or look good or be super healthy or emotionally happy. They may be results of his blessing (or not), but they are not THE blessing itself. He is.
Being blessed is not being happy but being included in Jesus’ goal to draw you into his complete acceptance and love. That is THE cure for the troubled spirits within us.
But we have to wait! That is the hard bit! He chooses his time and place for his blessing of life and love. It is on his terms, not ours.
Maybe we struggle with trusting him when we are low?
We are tempted to leave him when we are high because we just can’t wait for the delayed reward Jesus speaks of here!
We want the good stuff now!
We want the good stuff without the Good Man. We want what he can give, not who he is? We want the blessing without THE BLESSING – living relationships of patient love with this Saviour.
But, remember who is speaking these woes and blessing. This is Jesus and he waits for you!
Not only does he passively wait for you, he actively seeks you to bless you.
Remember Zacchaeus? If there was ever a man who was trying to create and achieve his own blessing outside of Jesus’ realm of blessing, it was he. And what does Jesus do to this idol- making, self-blessing creating man?
9 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’(Luke 19:9-10)
Jesus seeks and saves troubled spirits bent on self-blessing!
So, friend, this blessed Saviour is seeking and freeing you this morning – freeing you from the natural despair that comes with tough things that makes you FEEL like God is forgetting you or punishing you or condemning you. He is not. His promises still stick true.
He is also saving you from missing the very fabric of life – the promises and acceptance of a gracious God, and his Son’s call to live one heck of a life – to be a blessing to as many as you can.
I know that Jesus did not want these troubled spirits or self-confident Pharisees to miss him. Same for you. If your desperate or if your disconnected. He wants to assure you are in his blessing.
Come down from that tree with Zacchaeus to the level ground with Jesus again. Come home. Repent and trust this Saviour and his promise of healing and blessing despite what happens in life. He is The Blessing worth receiving.
Blessing is here. He’s got a name. He seeks and he heals because he loves troubled spirits and self-reliant sinners.
No matter how things are, you are not cursed today. You are not cut off today. You are blessed by Jesus today. There is hope and meaning in the poverty and thankfulness to him in the riches.
He is your level ground.