Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, February 17, 2019

The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 6th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord. 

He (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. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.  And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. 

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  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.

"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.  Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

The gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ. 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sometimes it feels like the world is upside down and things are going backwards. But we hear today that Jesus came to turn the world right side up. He came to give us a picture of the way things are in the realm of God, the ways the world is meant to be, the way of life that God intends for all of us. 

Justice and fairness in the realm of God are themes in the gospel of Luke. Mary sings about them in the Magnificat at the beginning of the gospel. God brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly. God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away. 

Justice and fairness don’t always mean equal treatment.  They don’t mean that every one gets exactly the same thing. Justice and fairness mean that everyone gets what they need. In the realm of God, things are just and fair, and the world is right side up. 

Have you seen the cartoon where three kids are standing behind fence watching a ball game?  

There’s one kid who’s tall.  He can see over the fence easily just standing there. The second kid is medium height.  He can see if he cranes his neck and stands on his tip toes, and maybe jumps up once in a while to catch an important play.  The third kid is a short little guy.  He can’t see over the fence at all. Not even if he jumps as high as he can.  

In the second panel of the cartoon, they each have a box to stand on.  This is equal treatment. The tall kid doesn’t really need the box, but he’s standing on it anyway.  The second kid can finally see over the fence, so he’s fine. The short kid still can’t see, even when he’s standing on his box.  

In the third panel, the tall kid has given his box to the short kid. Now the short kid is standing on 2 boxes.  The second kid is on his one box. With this arrangement, they can all finally see over the fence.  This is justice.  This is fairness.  Everybody has what they need.  

Jesus came and stood with them on a level place.  We are familiar with the the beatitudes in Matthew’s sermon on the mount.  When Jesus gives this sermon in Matthew’s gospel he climbs the hill and preaches, presumably so they can hear him better.  But Luke is making a different and important theological point. 

Luke is teaching us that Jesus came to be one of us and bring the realm of God to earth.  Jesus became fully human.  He stood in the midst of the crowd, just like everyone else. Jesus brought the realm of God into the midst of the crowd, right there among the people.  The realm of God is no longer just in heaven.  Jesus brought the realm of God into this world.

Jesus came and stood with them on a level place.  The people were coming to him from all around the countryside.  They were seeking healing.  They wanted to hear God’s Word.  Power came out from Jesus and he healed everyone who needed it. 

Those who were sick were healed. Those with unclean spirits were cured. They all got what they needed and were restored to their rightful places in the community. 

Maybe you came here today in need of healing.  Maybe there are demons who are bothering you.  If you don’t need special healing today, you know someone who does and you are holding them in prayer, asking Jesus to be with them. 

But what about those who are rich and powerful? What about those who benefit from the way the world is right now when it’s wrong side up? What about those who benefit from the unequal distribution of resources? 

We don’t usually think of ourselves as rich and powerful. However, we might not want to admit it, but sometimes we identify with the tall kid at the fence.  We can see the ball game just fine the way things are.  Life is working out pretty well for us. We secretly think the other kids should just work harder to grow taller on their own like we did. 

But life doesn’t work that way.  I am 6 inches taller than my sister. She’s younger, so I always have been taller. And I always will be taller. There is nothing she can do to make herself grow.  But, I can give her a box to stand on when she can’t see.  And if she can’t afford her own box, I can buy her one. 

Those of us who benefit from the way things are in this wrong side up world will experience discomfort and change. Because Jesus is here and he is turning the world right side up.  He is showing us not just what the world of heaven looks like; he is showing us what the world can look like here on earth, here in this life. 

Jesus isn’t here to condemn us. He is showing a pastoral concern for the wealthy of this world.  He is encouraging us to repent and use resources the way God intended. Because ultimately, the resources we have of time, talents, and treasures don’t belong to us.  They belong to God. We are just the stewards, the servants trusted to use them wisely as God intends. 

Yes, there will be changes when Jesus comes and stands in the middle of the crowd. Jesus understood the cost of bringing the realm of God into our midst.  He paid the ultimate price on the cross. He descended to the dead and rose again in order to turn the world right side up once and for all. 

Jesus comes to us today in this level place and brings the realm of God to us.  He has promised to be with us whenever we are gathered in his name. 

There will be changes whenever Jesus stands in the midst of the crowd. But, these are changes for the good, changes to the way God wants the world to be.  

Jesus stands in the midst of our crowd as we come to the meal at his table. He brings power and healing and forgiveness for us all.  Amen.