11 February 2007
Epiphany 6C * Luke 6:17-26
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
Where Do We Stand?
Before Jesus was born, kicking around in Mary’s womb, we heard that He would bring down the mighty from their thrones, fill the hungry with good things, and the rich He would send away empty.
We have heard Simeon and Anna proclaim Jesus will set the rising and falling of many.
At Jesus’ baptism by John a voice declared, “You, you are my son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
In his hometown synagogue he proclaimed the fulfillment of the coming of God’s Jubilee year when debts would be wiped away, land returned to rightful families, good news for the poor, captives would be released, the blind would see.
All this and more sets the backdrop for these blessings and woes delivered not on a mountainside, but down on a level plain. The text reads, “He went down with them; he stood on a level place.” Jesus comes down to be with us, to stand eye to eye. Perhaps he is seated as it says he lifts up his eyes to those who follow him. He is not speaking down to us – he speaks eye to eye, heart to heart.
Put more simply, Luke is telling us where Jesus stands.
Luke’s version of these familiar blessings also found in Matthew are delivered not in some theoretical third-person, but are directed at you and me: Blessed are you poor now. Blessed are you who hunger now. Blessed are you who are reviled on account of me.
Luke’s version differs also in delivering woes: woe to you rich, woe to you who laugh now, woe to you of whom others speak well.
Which he follows with familiar words: love your enemies, do well for those who hate you, bless those who curse you, give to everyone who begs from you.
For too long we have referred to Jesus as if he is proposing to turn the world upside down.
From a Jewish point of view, and if Jesus was anything he was Jewish, the world is already upside down. Upside down from the way God created the world in the first place. God created the world and said, “It is good.” This means there was enough richness and beauty to nourish and sustain all of creation.
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein.”
It was God, who with very penetrating eyes looked at the world from every angle, every perspective, from every which-way possible, and declared that it is good. Created in God’s image, we are to look at the world and see that it is good. Everyone is to see how good it is. Everyone is to see how God made enough for everyone and everything to flourish – as Mary the mother of God puts it, to be filled with good things.
It has been said that God made enough for everyone’s need, not everyone’s greed.
Blessed are you who are hungry. God made the miracle of creation so that there will be someone to feed you. Woe to you that are rich .You have filled your pockets refusing to share.
Jesus calls us to join him in turning the world right-side up again.
We hear these words of Jesus, God’s son, the Beloved, and wonder does anyone believe what he says?
If anything is certain, it is that with Jesus we are not called to sustain “business as usual.”
If we are hearing and believing what Jesus says, we no longer have the luxury to think that the “church’s business” is to “preach the gospel” while refraining from criticism of society’s oppressions.
As a contemporary rabbi of Jesus, Hillel, once put it: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am for myself alone, who am I? And if not now, when?"
Way back in the wilderness after the escape from slavery in Egypt the people depended upon God alone. This was manna season – and the story says everyone had enough, no one had too much, if you hoarded it it spoiled and went rotten. When we depend upon ourselves alone, things spoil and go rotten.
Way back in the wilderness, God said to the people, “I place before you a blessing and a curse, life or death. Choose life.”
Jesus is not making this stuff up. Jesus is the Word of God. He comes down eye to eye, on a level playing field, asking, in effect, when will we join him in leveling the playing field for the poor and the hungry?
He places before us Blessings and Woes, life and death, and implores us to choose life.
Luke tells us where Jesus stands. Jesus wants to know where we stand.