Jer. 17:5-8; Ps. 1; 1 Cor. 15:12, 16-20; Lk. 6:17, 20-26
(Audio recorded live, 13 February 2022)
In today’s Gospel, Luke has Jesus and the Twelve coming down from the mountain and begin to teach his disciples. This imagery is important because Jesus and the Twelve are both presented as messengers from on high. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus called the Twelve, he now models for them what they will soon be doing with their own ministry. Since Jesus is standing on a stretch of level ground, this passage has been named the Sermon on the Plain. And while the core of the teaching is similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a dichotomy of blessings and woes. The blessings all apply to those without, while the woes apply to those with. In other words, the very qualities, or state of being, that people lack are the condemnation for the people who have. This is a theme running throughout the Gospel of Luke and the Sermon on the Plain sets the stage for subsequent teachings, such as the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Notice Lazarus, who was poor, has a name, while the rich man does not.
The prophet Jeremiah warns us not to put our trust in men, who seeks his strength in flesh and turns away from the Lord; rather, those who put their trust in the Lord are blessed. This dovetails with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel because those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and persecuted are often the ones who put their faith in God. Theirs is a life of struggle, fighting against principalities and powers of corruption and greed. But, despite their struggle, Jesus assures us they are blessed. This is contradictory thinking. How can someone who is persecuted be blessed? Well, we need look no further than the Acts of the Apostles, where those who were arrested and flogged rejoiced for suffering the same way as Jesus. They were empowered by something far greater than money or laughter. They were empowered by faith.
So, those who face adversity for the sake of Jesus are blessed. What about the other group? Those who are rich, satiated, laughing, and well-liked by all, are warned that they will lose everything. As Jesus says in another passage, “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away” (Lk. 8:18). That is, those who have faith, while they may be poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted, they are nevertheless blessed by God, a far greater power than any man can give. And those who put their faith in flesh, the things of this world, money, and the like, even what they thought they had will be taken away from them. So, let us put not our faith in passing things, but rather, in that which endures for eternal life.
That is our message today. May we all be blessed with an abundance of faith as we hold fast to the teachings of Jesus. And may the communion we share unite us in his mission of truth, keeping our feet firmly planted on the path to eternal life.