Luke 6:17-26 (NRSV) Jesus Teaches and Heals
17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disci- ples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a] on account of the Son of Man. 23 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. 24
“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.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Question: What does it mean to be “blessed”? In terms of God’s blessing, or the deeper things, is blessing about material things? More money? More status?
Seems like in this lesson that Jesus is making a dramatic proclamation, consistent with many of his other statements, as well as the trajectory of the words and actions of the Jewish prophets. Jesus is calling for a paradigm shift in the predominant world view at the time, and I would say is still prevalent today.
A paradigm is simply a pattern or an example of something, usually meaning that some- thing is going a certain away. The prevalent paradigm in antiquity, and today, is to secure or attain, or sustain, a certain way of living that allows you to consume, maybe even more than you produce.
That is, that the goal of life is to be rich, to have things, to be comfortable, and to main- tain your social status in society. Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be rich, have things, sometimes be comfortable, or maintain a sense of status, nor do I think Jesus is saying something that is an absolute here. I think what Jesus is saying to us that the pursuit of those things, that being our life’s aim, can lead to a slow death, a status that doesn’t lend itself to growth.
Jesus is saying that when one is hungry, one is poor, when one has fallen from status in society, that they are blessed, they will be filled, lifted up, given a place in community.
Jesus is calling for a paradigm shift towards honoring those on the margins. And, Jesus is calling us, as Jesus followers, to practice this deep sense of inclusion.
In our passage, the writer says that Jesus came down from a retreat, a time of reflection, ready to call into action a group of folks willing to be committed to a practice of inclusion and building community, willing to have a shift in their worldview, willing to be grow into becoming all that God intends for them.
A great crowd had assembled, some were followers, others were curious or had needs. It is interesting that Jesus cures all of them. No one was left out.
Which, I think is the point of this text, no one is left out. We are all made in God’s image, all of us. The believers, the non-believers, the rich, the poor, the hungry, the ones that are eating well. All of us, white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, refugees, immigrants.
And, because of that sense of inclusion, we must practice how well we care, listen, and interact with one another.
When I was in India, this was driven home for me. I’ve seen the affects of poverty here in the States, and in other places like Mexico and Nicaragua. But, in India, one of the wealthiest countries in the world with an expanding economy, I saw more poverty, as well as pockets of extreme wealth. I never will forget riding the sleeper trains with folks from all walks of life, walking the streets and having kids beg from me outside of a store selling high end luxury cars.
I was reading an article this week that described the growing wealth disparity between the top 1% of the world and the rest of the 99% and how that’s fueling a growing threat to any sense of democracy that we have had.
Yet, I was also reminded by a gentleman from Nebraska who I was able to be on a conference call with that said that he’s excited for what’s happening in Nebraska as we move away from partisanship, and even bi-partisanship in how we deal with issues in our communities to a post-partisanship.
In other words, we are realizing that our worldview cannot stay static and based on anxiety, division, competition, or fear, but that we have to begin seeing one another in our shared humanity and that God’s flow, God’s spirit is calling us towards relationship with one another.
This is not only what Jesus is calling us towards, but it also is key for our growth. If you want to grow in your life with God and with others, then allowing yourself to be open to others, to invite conversations and new friends into our homes, our church, and our lives….as well as going out and seeking those on the margins and looking at them through a different lens leads to growth. We are never too old or set in our ways to not be invited into new ways of thinking, which actually causes a re-wiring in our brains that can lead to better health…maybe even has something to do with Jesus’ teachings on having a life of abundance, a full life.
A friend of mine, Peter Block, once said this, don’t ever call someone poor (or rich for that matter), because once you do, then you have labeled them and have a different relationship with them than possibly being a friend. Peter prefers the word “economically isolated” as opposed to poor. Many of you met Peter Block at my Installation service and have asked for him to come back, he is! March 17th. He’ll be sharing with us and leading a discussion after church at that day.
Another friend, Andy Matheson, reminds me often that God’s economy is based on relationships, not material wealth. May we live into the reality that we are wealthy in God’s economy. That we can grow these relationships with one another and with those that we meet…and, in so doing, we can be the body of Christ that does bring healing to all, just as Jesus did, the deep healing that involves the practice of friendship.