Last week we experienced Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John to leave fishing to join his ministry of catching people to participate in a new reality, the Kingdom of God. Jesus then went to pray alone with his Father. Afterwards we have list of the first twelve male disciples he called to be trained by him to do ministry as participants in the Kingdom of God and eventually, with women who also became disciples such as Mary Magdalene, they were the core the Holy Spirit used to form the Church on Pentecost.
In today’s Gospel Jesus comes down from the mountain to the plain to speak to the people about his vision of what this new reality is all about. Luke calls this the Sermon on the Plain meaning Jesus comes to be one with us and to deliver a sermon that is for all persons of all time who would become his disciples as they participate in the Kingdom of God.
He begins; “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
The gospel writer Luke tells us again and again God has come in Christ to turn normal human activity upside down. The world is largely run by those who have all the money, can afford yachts that need to have bridges taken down when the new vessel leaves the shipyard to move to the open sea. They laugh, have enough to enjoy all human physical pleasures.
He begins with Mary proclaiming in the Magnificat the poor are especially favored by God, and the rich will be sent away empty.
Jesus in his first sermon at the synagogue took a passage from the prophet Isaiah; “Blessed are the poor…” He sat down and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
So, we the hearers of today are told by Jesus; “I particularly love the poor, the hungry, and those who now weep.” My Kingdom’s mission is to lift up the poor, giving them what they need, such as adequate housing, and the food they need to satisfy their hunger. And those who grieve will be comforted.
But when we look at the world, this new reality, this Kingdom of God still seems to be a distant reality.
How do we deal with this? When the church looks at these two realities, we use the phrase; “The yet, not yet.”
For example, when someone who is dear to us dies, we go through a time of grief. But in the church, there is a different reality. We really believe death does not have the last word. Jesus through his death and resurrection has opened the Kingdom of Heaven for all believers. We believe those who die in the Lord never experience sorrow, or ill health again. They become all God intended them to be before they were born. We also believe they worship God continually and gather around this altar with us every time we worship.
We also believe that one day we will see both them and Christ face to face and all sorrow for us will end.
In the meantime, we do not grieve alone. Members of Christ’s church take the walk of grief with us, starting with praying for us, and continuing listening to our fears, hopes, and dreams, allowing the Holy Spirit to gradually heal us so that we can later be of support to those who grieve.
When the church sees the poor, it develops ministries not only to feed people but to give them the skills that they might have a life-supporting job. I love the phrase; “Give a hungry person a fish to eat, and they will be hungry tomorrow. Teach them how to fish and they will never be hungry again.”
We also need to be prophetic in our society over wages that are paid. How much is fair for the owners to get, and how much is fair to give their workers. To work on that issue is very difficult. This is an appropriate ministry for church members who are both owners and workers to face this issue together as sisters and brothers in Christ.
This is difficult work with no easy answers, but it is a responsibility of the church to encourage such efforts.
This need to help the poor also motivates the church to cooperate in housing for the homeless, and to feed those who are hungry. This is why the church nationally, and internationally, acts to help ease hunger and homelessness. This is why we take on ministries such as refugee resettlement.
Christ warns us if we do not respond to his call to assist the poor, the hungry, and the grieving we will find our lives empty.
There is reality of life. Merely existing and just taking care of my needs leads to great emptiness. But Christ is also there saying; “Face up to your lifestyle and seek my power to both forgive you and help to start over.” I will give you life and give it to you more abundantly, but you first must admit your need for a Saviour who will both forgive and show the way to new and more fulfilling life.
And we live in the faith and trust that the Jesus who came once to save us from sin and the power of the devil will one day return to bring the rest of the Kingdom of God to heal this sin-sick world.
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, our strength and redeemer. Amen