Luke 6:20-26

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. Luke 6:20-26

In the gospel of Matthew, like Moses, Jesus teaches the crowds from a high place. We call it the “Sermon on the Mount.” But here in Luke, Jesus stands before the assembled crowd in a low place. A level place. “The Sermon on the Plain.”

Martin Luther famously said that “we are all beggars standing at the foot of the cross.” Yes, we are, and we will always be. That doesn’t mean we will look the same or talk the same or dress the same or live in the same kind of homes or do the same daily work in the world. It is diversity, not uniformity, that defines the wonders of God’s creation. But remembering that our diversity is a manifestation of God’s love means that justice is the hallmark of our shared lives and love, sacrifice, and service is how we get to where we ought to go.

Jesus speaks words of hope to those who find themselves poor, hungry, weeping, and defamed. He tells them there is a brighter future for them. This is good news for people who live with the fear that God had forgotten or abandoned them.

Jesus speaks words of warning to those who are rich, full, laughing, and lauded. This challenges the humanly created idea that our unique abundance is a sign of how special we are in God’s lives. Putting price tags on God’s blessings is a slippery slope to caring more about holding on to what we have instead of helping others get what they need.

We hear much today about economic inequities in our country. It is true, the richest of the rich have gotten even richer while the poor struggle to survive. But these inequities don’t come anywhere near the stark divide between the peasants of Jesus’ day and those who benefited from positions of power and influence. We might not be where we want to be but we are certainly farther along that we used to be. And everyone has the opportunity to better their own lives if they take full advantage of the opportunities available to them. That, in the course of human history, is still a new idea.

As broken as it appears, life is better today, even for the poorest of the poor, than in Jesus’ day. Why? Because enough people took Jesus’ words seriously to act on them. The values implicit in Jesus’ words became imbedded in a new way of imagining the world. Without those implicit values guiding one’s imagination, without the concept of accountability to God for how we live our lives, no one could have conceived of the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We are all beggars before the foot of the cross. No one is better than anyone else. The path forward is always hopeful, and always dependent on love, sacrifice, and service.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we hear again your words from that level place, we do so mindful of the realities of life and the continued economic disparities that divide us. May we so order our common lives that we recognize, repudiate, and replace systems of oppression with pathways toward opportunity for all. Especially today, we pray for those living in economic uncertainty, those grieving the death of loved ones, and those we elect to positions of leadership, give them the wisdom to use their power for good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

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