Sermon, February 17, 2019
Living in the Light – Many Blessings
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” I want to talk to Jesus and say, that sounds great, but when I weep, I don’t see laughter as helpful to hear at that moment. Perhaps I am in a space where I truly wonder when I will laugh again?” Today, we are promised that weeping and sorrow are healed with laughter.
Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” begins the same way as the Gospel of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, by painting a picture of a world turned upside down. Remember, at the start of his ministry, when he read from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, Jesus promised that the poor would receive good news, the captives would be released, and that the blind would see. That crowd turned pretty-ugly that day attempting to push Jesus over the cliff. But here on the plain, this is a different day and a different crowd. The great multitude gathered around him are exactly the kind of people Jesus came to proclaim favored by God. And here is Jesus, not high on some mountain talking down to them, as he does in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, but he is right there among them; in-the-midst of their pain and suffering, promising laughter.
As a matter of fact, he might even be below them. The one detail in this passage that has always intrigued me is that even as he is busy healing the crowd’s diseases, Jesus literally must “look up” to see his disciples before he can teach. Are they somehow above him, for Jesus had to come down? Have they removed themselves from the seething mass of suffering? Is this why Jesus must make sure that the disciples really take notice of these poor, sad, discarded folk? “Don’t you realize these are the blessed of God,” he seems to say, “This is where we should focus our attention because it is these people who have God’s attention. God sees them even when no one else does.”
To be blessed, after all, is to know that you have God’s attention. To know that wherever you go, you will not be alone. To be blessed is to know that you are valued and important simply because God has made you priceless. And suddenly the separation between the disciples and the crowd is removed. Everyone is connected because the only possession anyone really has is the blessing of God.
In Luke, Jesus is also clear that wealth and privilege are real dangers that have the power to separate one from God and from the human community. Jesus spells out the “woes” of which the comfortable and wealthy better beware. The kingdom of God belongs to those who have nothing except God. There seems to be two categories here, the blessed and the woeful. The warning is this; when we sit with wealth and comfort and priviledge, we might ignore our brokenness.
After all, we are all broken. Some of us have lost health or lost relationships or lost jobs. Our brokenness is personal, it’s unique, it’s truly ours, it’s no one else’s. And yet it connects us with one another because we are all broken in some way. But when Jesus says blessed are those who weep, he’s pointing out that this sadness is also a sign of something deeper, that all of us mourn because the world is so far from God’s purposes. Instead of separating us into some kind of hierarchy of need, we are brought closer in our shared weeping over this world; thus we are all blessed.
We look around, we see injustice, we see exploitation, we see violence, and the faithful cannot help but mourn. I think that includes all of us, no matter our economic status, our gender, or our ethnic background, we are all mourning. We hear of borders closed and walls being built and we know, we know this is not how God works. We hear of Hispanic and Islamic brothers and sisters living in fear, and we mourn. We listen to spiteful words coming to us from all sides, and we wonder from where is our comfort to come?
Well, here’s the good news. Blessed are those who weep. God hears you. God knows you. God comes close to you. And God will not let you go. We all deserve to weep, we are all blessed. We are not alone. How would we look at our neighbors if we saw them as both broken and blessed? Would we see our brother or sister more than a nuisance, not a threat? Would we hear Jesus say, “Come, you are blessed!. Join me here on the plain.”
There’s a wonderful little video that I came across years ago that I keep thinking about. It begins with a businessman going about his usual day, except the day isn’t going very well. It seems as each minute passes, the day gets worse and his frustration level rises. He starts to pull out of the driveway, and almost runs over a child on a bike. He gets to his favorite coffee outlet, but a woman steals his parking place. The man in front of him in line places an order for his entire office building. When he finally gets to the counter, he’s told that it will be a few minutes because they need to brew a fresh batch of coffee.
Sitting in a corner, seething in frustration, a man walks up and hands him a pair of sunglasses and then disappears. Confused, he puts the glasses on and all of sudden little bubbles, like in the comic strips, appear above everyone’s head. Instead of dialog however, he can read what is really going on in everyone’s life.
The woman who cut him off is distracted because her child is sick. The man who placed the huge coffee order is worried about a medical diagnosis he just received. The server in the coffee shop is struggling with addiction. And finally, returning home a bit shaken, he sees the child again with a bubble above his head which says, “Just need someone who cares.”
The man gets out of his car and walks over to help the boy fix his bike. How would we treat each other if we could really see what was in everyone’s bubble? I believe that all the walls and all the distance we place between ourselves and others would disappear.
After all, we worship a God who was not content to look down upon us from some safe haven, light years away. We follow a savior who gets down, right down on the same plain with those in the deepest pain, with those who have nothing left.
He looks up, at us, his disciples, and invites us to join him there. He reminds us that this is where God is looking. And by the way, we are not so different. We are broken, too. We yearn for a world turned upside down. And we all are blessed. Amen.