Saturday, November 03, 2007

And so appears another one...

For those of you who wander by here every so often and wonder why sermons seem to randomly appear for no good reason, I suppose I could give a word of explanation...
Somewhere off in the land of t'internet are a bunch of lovely RevGals. On Saturdays as we slog our way through sermonising we share thoughts, encourage one another and sometimes read and comment on the results... hence the occassional postings.
Oh, and if you're a revgal wandering through, "Hello, thanks" and a little wave to you! So, here we go again...

Sunday 4th November 2007
Luke 6: 20-31

I find there’s something quite appealing about this gospel passage. I think it may be because I’ve always had something of a rebellious nature and Jesus’ teaching here is just perfect for rebelliousness (I’d like to think that nowadays mine is a godly rebelliousness, that in some tiny way lives up to the things Jesus is speaking of – going against the grain of how the world likes to do things)!

It crossed my mind (rather briefly you’ll be relieved to know) to present you with a human visual aid to illustrate the whole of the passage – a headstand in the middle of the church; because Jesus here is basically turning most of our approaches to life, and our expectations on their heads. But I’ll spare you – and myself -that and just say it instead – Jesus here is turning our human standards and assumptions upside down, on their heads, up the right way!

As Jesus begins to make these statements he looks up and addresses his disciples….. Jesus was stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Many people were gathered, but Jesus then looks up at his disciples and speaks directly to them… and even that gives us a sense of the few being addressed among the many, called to lead lives that may not make sense to those who surround us.

“Blessed are you who are poor, blessed are you who are hungry now, blessed are you who weep now, blessed are you when people hate and exclude you because of me…” These are certainly not states that the world, that is society around them, and around us, would consider blessed at all – in fact I’m sure the world would consider these states more of a curse.
Jesus isn’t here blessing poverty and starvation in themselves, mourning or hatred in themselves, after all in Revelation we hear that these things will all pass away in the new heaven and the new earth.

If we think about those disciples who were listening… to become Jesus’ followers they had already recognised their spiritual poverty and need of God, as well as possibly given up much physically to follow him. They might sometimes have been physically hungry, though Jesus had provided for them with the loaves and fish, but they would have been spiritually hungry (and Matthew’s gospel has the addition ‘blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness’), perhaps they had wept over the things that God must surely weep over as he looks upon his world, and we know that they were often persecuted and in time killed for their faith in Jesus. I think there is both a physical and a spiritual element to Jesus’ ‘bless-eds’.

And doesn’t that just turn on it’s head the things that we’re presented with all around us that are supposedly of value in the world… we must aspire to be rich and create our own security with homes and possessions, we must be happy and full up with all the things we enjoy, otherwise we’re seen as failures. Aren’t those the things that we are told to see as valuable, the things to aspire to? Earn as much as you can, get as much as you can, have as much fun as you can…. I know a lot of people who would say that these are the things they aspire to, but Jesus goes as far as saying “woe” or “alas” to the people whose lives are full of seeking after these things: “Woe to you who are full now, woe to you who are laughing now, woe to you when all speak well of you.” Jesus wasn’t saying that as a threat, but as an indicator that the kingdom is a very different shape and those who live only according to selfish values are not living in the ways of the kingdom.

He’s turned life right on it’s head… the lives of the people of God are to be different. Be poor enough in spirit to put your security in God, not depending on what we can build around ourselves, on possessions or money, but depending on God, weeping over the things God must weep over, and recognising that when we exhibit these kinds of values then we may be ridiculed and considered fools. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are still killed for these things, but Jesus says “great is their reward in heaven” when they’ve had to endure this on earth.

I don’t want us to miss the verses after the blessings and woes…. Again Jesus turns upside down our usual reactions and priorities. When we consider our enemies what is our reaction towards them, what are we inclined to do? Well, Jesus says love them. When we consider those who curse us, what are we inclined to do…? Jesus says bless them, and he continues in the same way with other scenarios that make us recognise how different the values of the kingdom of God are, to those we may well have been taught in the world.

All of this stuff goes against the grain – but it’s meant to. We have moved from darkness to light and the life in the light of Jesus is very different, has other values, is turned upside down from the old life of darkness.

It sometimes takes a long time for the Holy Spirit to be writing a new set of values on our hearts that will in turn produce godliness in us, but as we read and re-read these words of Jesus, as we worship God together, as we pray and meet with God, the message hits home a little bit more and a little bit more and he opens our eyes and changes us.

Being financially rich and having material possessions doesn’t make you a valuable person, but being God’s does, and we’re often secure enough here in our society that sometimes it’s hard to depend on God, when it’s so easy to depend on a regular income – whether that’s a wage, a pension or a state benefit, a sturdy roof over our heads, and all that we have. Some of you though may have had very challenging experiences in your lives and really known God’s faithfulness in the midst of those challenging times.

I found the times in my life when material things or human securities, were under threat, or not to be taken for granted, were the times when I learnt most to depend on God. Even when [teenson] was a baby and the 3 of us lived in one room in a hostel for 6 months waiting for a council house, and a few years later when I was a single mum working as a childminder, trying to pay a mortgage and there was little if anything left over…. we were still rich in comparison to millions in the world. So let’s be generous with what we have and recognise that though we have much our greatest need is to depend on our utterly dependable God.

We can either go after comfortable lives in the here and now, go after human approval and status, do what makes life as easy and profitable as we can make it. Or we can go after the ways of the kingdom where we may look foolish to others, where we may go without for the sake of a stranger, where we may be ridiculed or worse for not going with the crowd.

The first is the way that brought the word ‘woe’ or ‘alas’ to Jesus lips: you will be hungry, you will mourn and weep because this way doesn’t satisfy for long.

The second is the way of blessing – yours is the kingdom of God, said Jesus; you will be filled, you will laugh, your reward is great in heaven – but it takes time, it takes effort, it takes generosity, it takes sacrifice, it takes compassion – but it’s more worth it than you can possibly imagine.

We are the people of God and we’re called to live the upside down lives of the kingdom (only upside down to the world around us – the right way up to God of course!). Give your time to the people the world says don’t deserve it, work for the good of others when there’s nothing in it for you, give some of your money away even if it means going without, love the people the world looks down on and despises because these are the ways of Christ. And keep praying that the Holy Spirit will grow the ways of the kingdom in each of us, and in us as a church.


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At November 03, 2007 6:38 pm, Blogger Teri said...

"Being financially rich and having material possessions doesn’t make you a valuable person, but being God’s does"
--yes indeed. That's actually sort of where I hope I'm taking Zacchaeus as well--he has "everything" and his hospitality is excellent, but Jesus offers him even more excellent hospitality.

Good work!

At November 03, 2007 7:07 pm, Blogger Chelley said...

teri, many thanks for taking the time to read and comment - and for the encouragement!

At November 03, 2007 10:52 pm, Blogger earthchick said...

Love it, great job, and blessings as you preach!


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