Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – Sunday, February 17, 2019

February 17, 2019  

Luke 6:17-26

There is a message in the gospel of Luke that cannot be avoided.
Luke flipped things around, defying societal expectations.
Society might expect the rich to be blessed, because of their riches.
Society might expect those who are full to consider themselves blest, because their stomachs are not empty, they have walked away satisfied.
Society might expect those who are laughing to consider their laughter a blessing. Laughter exhibits joy. Joy is good.
Society might expect those who are spoken well of to be proud of themselves. Clearly, others respect them.

Flipping all of those expectations, Luke wrote that Jesus told his listeners woe to the rich, Jesus said woe to the full, Jesus said woe to the laughing people, Jesus said woe to those who were spoken well of… words that were and are completely unexpected.
According to Luke Jesus said it was the hungry who were blessed; According to Luke Jesus said it was those crying who would laugh.
According to Luke Jesus said people who were hated, people who were reviled, people who were excluded, people who were defamed (all in Jesus’ name) would be blessed.

Blessed, in this sense, is best understood as “oh, how fortunate for them” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9, p. 143).
According to Luke Jesus said those who suffered, for a variety of reasons, would experience God’s good fortune.

None of this makes sense.
Until we understand Luke’s point.

Luke’s point was that God’s reign is different than the reign of any other sovereign ruler. God, as ruler of the world, demands justice. God, as ruler of the world, demands peace. God, as ruler of the world, demands that there be no more oppression, that there be no more hunger, God demands that there be no more suffering.

According to Luke, as Jesus ushered in the reign of God Jesus brought blessing to those who suffered.
Jesus’ presence was their good fortune.

Jesus’ presence IS their good fortune.
Jesus continues to call us to witness to his love in the world, declaring good fortune to those who suffer.
Knowing we are loved by Jesus it follows, if we love Jesus we will love the world, in particular serving those who suffer. And our service will bring good fortune to them.

St. Clare of Assisi was a bold woman who wrote “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.” (“Clare of Assisi” at AZQuotes.com).

If we are rich, becoming vessels of God’s compassionate love means we share our wealth. If our stomachs are full, becoming vessels of God’s compassionate love means we share our food. If we are laughing, becoming vessels of God’s compassionate love means we share our joy with others. If we are spoken well of, becoming vessels of God’s compassionate love means using the power of our reputations, or our places in society, to lift up those who suffer.

St Teresa of Avila wrote boldly: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks out his compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us…” (“Teresa of Avila” at AZQuotes.com).

This morning we honor the bold women in history, the bold women in our lives who have and who are living Christ’s love, boldly. We are grateful for the courage and the strength these women have had and do have.

But the truth is, God’s call is for all of us, regardless of our gender identity, to serve God boldly.

We must not be silent.
We must shout God’s love, we must proclaim God’s redemptive power to all the world.

St. Catherine of Siena wrote “We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent!”
(I think Catherine was speaking about the experience of women. But, her words are important for all of us who are people of faith to hear because we all have a tendency to be silent about our faith….)
Catherine said “Cry out with a hundred tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence.”  (“St. Catherine of Siena” at AZQuotes.com).

Let’s all of us boldly proclaim God’s love to every person.
Let’s proclaim God’s blessings to the hungry.
Let’s proclaim God’s blessings to those who mourn.
Let’s proclaim God’s blessings to those who are reviled, or excluded, or defamed.
God’s good fortune is theirs.

Thanks be to God that God loves the world.
Amen.