Devotional Message: The 6th Sunday after The Epiphany (2/17/2019)

Lessons

Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
1st Corinthians 15:12-20
St. Luke 6:17-26

Prayer of the Day

Living God, in Christ you make all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:17 [Jesus] 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. 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 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.
25 “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.

St. Luke 6:17-26, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Blessings and Woes”

From “good bye” (an alteration of “God be with you” dating back to the late 16th Century, according to Merriam Webster)  to “God bless you” (after someone sneezes) to “God willin’, the creek don’t rise…” (one of my favorites), it is not unusual for us to wittingly or unwittingly find ourselves asking for God’s blessing on our lives, our health, or our plans. In fact, we want to be blessed by God. We want our lives to be what God desires for us. We want our minds and bodies and souls to be all that God created them to be. We want to have God’s blessing on our intentions. We want the assurance that our lives are lined up with God’s will and purpose for us.

Problem is: we live in a world where society’s notion of being blessed is very different than God’s. The blessed, the fortunate, the envied in our world are too often those who are associated with wealth, possessions, power, influence, fame, beauty, athleticism, popularity… We live in a “pick yourselves up by your bootstraps” culture, and those who can’t or won’t are rarely considered to be blessed.

Yet listen to how Jesus depicts those who are blessed: those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled and defamed. In St. Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus is content to leave it there. But in St. Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” he presses the point, saying, “Woe to you!” to those who are rich, filled, laughing and admired. A sharp contrast is drawn between those who are treated well by life and those who aren’t. And it seems that God is far more inclined to have blessed one group than the other.

In difficult times, I find myself drawn to these words. When life isn’t going well for me, or for the people I love, it is a great source of comfort to know that God cares, that God is present with us, and that God promises to see us through whatever is troubling us, and to bring out on the other side. But when life is going well, and I find myself aware of how fortunate I am, these words haunt me, and tempt me to fear that perhaps the blessing of God does not abide with me, but with someone else.

Of course, people are not generally in one group or another. On any given day, we can be aware of our good fortune and our struggles. We can be aware that our lives are marked by laughter and by tears. We can be aware that some people revile us and some people admire us. It is said that the Word of God has power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and so these words of Jesus come to us as a word of comfort in our time of affliction, and a word of affliction in our time of comfort. In other words, when our need is before us, we have a God who loves us, and wants the best for us, and becomes a source of comfort, strength, healing and hope for us. When the need of our neighbor is before us, we have a God who wants to put our resources to work in a way that offers comfort, strength, healing and hope for others.

So God is with us in all times, comforting, afflicting, and wanting the very best for us. There’s a blessing like no other!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What sort of people are described as being with Jesus on this day?

  2. How might they have responded to these words of his?

  3. Why does St. Luke’s version of this sermon also include the section of “woes?”

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I felt in need, and sensed God’s presence with me?

  2. When have I become too comfortable, and experienced God calling me to a renewed life of service?

  3. What might I do to keep my heart open to God’s leading in my life?