On the Level - Reflections 2-15-19

Texts for Sunday 
February 17, 2019
6th Sunday of Epiphany

Jeremiah 17:5-10 
Psalm 1 
1 Cor 15:12-20 
Luke 6:17-26

Things aren’t what they look like. It surely looks like the people with plenty of money have it made in the shade. I mean they are rich and full and happy and admired, right? And those that have none of that… and even less than none, or so it looks like sometimes, are stuck in their misery. 

But in this Gospel text Jesus says that things are not what they look like when it comes to the realm of God. 

These verses from Luke are built upon Mary’s song before Jesus’ birth (Luke 1) and on Jesus’ declaration of his mission in his hometown, in which he claims the fulfillment of Isaiah’s good news to the poor (Luke 4). The Gospel of Luke returns again and again to a message of upside-down values. With Jesus comes the in-breaking of God’s realm which brings unexpected reversals and transformation for individuals and society. As one hymn puts it, with Jesus the world is about to turn.

Notice the first verse in this reading. Jesus meets the crowd on a level place, looking eye to eye with them. The playing field is level for them all and Jesus is among them.

Also notice that the story begins with compassion. The multitude of people who surrounded him came to be healed. In an understated phrase it says that he “healed all of them”. No triage, no sorting by worthiness or wealth or even need. No exclusion of those with dubious behavior or debatable past deeds. He healed all of them. And stood among them.

He starts to teach his disciples there in the midst of the crowd. Do you think he wanted the crowd to hear? It doesn’t imply that, but you can bet that they were listening!

Jesus offers a nicely balanced pattern of blessings and woes; there is rich and poor, hungry and well-fed, sorrowful and happy, shamed and esteemed. But unlike the belief that being rich, well-fed, happy, and esteemed means blessed by God, Jesus says that God’s kingdom takes the expected and upends it into the unexpected. Appearances are set aside. Inexplicably, or so it would seem from world’s view, those who are blessed (that is present tense) have no reason to be so; they are needy, vulnerable, and powerless and have done nothing to deserve it. Those who have enough and more than enough face woes.

There is no doubt that the woes are challenging for many of us who live comfortably. We can dismiss them; we can feel guilty; we can be afraid. Or we can step back, listen, and reflect on their meaning for us.  

Some hear God’s concern for the poor and powerless as “God only has concern for those who are poor and powerless” or that God does not have concern for the “rich” and “powerful”. Somewhere in my dark and dusty memory of “if-then logic”, I know there is a faulty assumption in that. I will only touch lightly on that concept because math is not my thing. I do see same stumbling block faced by the Black Lives Matter group. People hear that phrase as only black lives matter. All lives matter, of course, but it is often Black Lives that seem not to matter. Many of the “hot topics” we face right now in our society spring out of that same faulty logic (math logic). If this is said, then that is meant. We really can step back, listen, and reflect.

But I digress. Too much news!

There is also no doubt that God’s grace is poured upon us all. And, it is only by God’s grace that we can struggle to understand the woes, shift our perspective and assess how they operate in our way of life. By God’s grace we can compare God’s abundance with our excess and learn to live generously. By God’s grace we can begin to live with compassion.

So how about you? 
What do you think or feel about Jesus’ blessings and woes on the level plain?

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245