Sunday, February 13, 2022 – Luke 6:17-26
People of Peace – indeed, peace be with you. Thank you.
In preparation for this sermon today, I read through several commentaries and interpretations of today’s Gospel text. One commentator recommended that the preacher, in this case me, rewrite some of the “blesseds” and “woes” to contextualize them for their (rather, my) particular time and space.
Here was my first try:
- Blessed are you who root for the Rams, for you have home field advantage. Woe to you who root for the Bengals, for your Cinderella story ends today.
To be honest, my second attempt wasn’t much better:
- Blessed are you who watch the Superbowl for the commercials, for you will certainly be entertained. Woe to you who talk through those same commercials, for that’s the best part of watching the Superbowl at all.
Hmm, maybe I should shift gears slightly, and look towards tomorrow: ● Blessed are you who have a gift prepared to offer someone you love on Valentine’s Day, for you will be appreciated. Woe to you who would like to eat out tomorrow but do not have a reservation, for you will have better luck doing drive-through for supper.
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.1
Nope, that doesn’t really work either. Back to the drawing board…
I’m learning that in my preparations for preaching, that sometimes a Gospel text or a moment in worship sparks some inspiration that guides my sermon writing process.
Last month I got to preach on the story of the Baptism of Jesus. I was inspired by the fact that we were celebrating a baptism in worship that day, which led me to include in my sermon the five promises found in our Affirmation of Baptism service in the cranberry hymnals in your pews (page 237).
Do you remember these promises?
- To live among God’s faithful people,
- To hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, ● To Proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, ● To Serve all people following the example of Jesus, and ● To Strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
I invited you to dwell with these promises as you hear other Jesus stories, and to reflect on your own life of faith through the lens of these baptismal promises.
That was last month. This month, in preparation for today’s sermon, I read commentaries, listened to podcasts, reflected on Pastor Nate’s recent sermons, and read through the Gospel of Luke to contextualize today’s Gospel text.
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.2
In reading the passage directly preceding today’s Gospel lesson, I read about how Jesus chose the twelve apostles.
Jesus had gone on one of his popular mountain retreats with his disciples. After a night spent in prayer, Jesus called together his disciples, and from among his followers, he named his 12 apostles.
(This is a small but important nuance for Luke’s Gospel. Some of you may remember that Luke not only wrote this Gospel we’re reading through this year, but he also wrote the book of Acts, also known as Acts of the Apostles. While Luke is quite concerned with Jesus’ life and ministry, he also keeps an eye towards the ministry of the apostles after Jesus’ ascension and the birth of the early church.)
Back to our text for today. It begins with Jesus coming down from the mountain to a “great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people.”
I see three groups of people with Jesus at the very beginning of today’s text. First, the “great multitude of people” from all over the region. Second, the “great crowd” of disciples, some of whom are fresh off that mountain retreat. Third, the newly minted apostles.
(My baby blue Lutheran Study Bible includes a side note about the distinction between disciples and apostles. “A disciple is someone who follows a teacher. An apostle is someone sent to carry a message.”)
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.3
Some of the crowd have come with curiosity about Jesus’ teachings. Some have come to be healed and cast off the burdens they carry. All the crowd was there to encounter the power and presence of Jesus the Healer.
The “great crowd of his disciples” is present to see Jesus act, and hear Jesus speak. The disciples want to learn and be inspired by Jesus the Teacher.
The apostles, called and claimed by Jesus, are no doubt hanging on every word, deed, and decision of Jesus, knowing that they have been called out as the ones to bear the Good News of Jesus to people and places far beyond their homeland.
How do you approach Jesus? Who do you want Jesus to be for you? There are no wrong answers, so be honest with yourself.
Do you come to Jesus today as a member of the crowd, seeking to be in the presence of the Divine Healer? Indeed, that is a faithful, hopeful, and good approach to encounter Jesus the Christ.
Do you come to Jesus today as a disciple, desiring to learn from how Jesus acts and from what Jesus says? Indeed, that too is a faithful, hopeful, and good approach to encounter Jesus the Christ.
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.4
Do you come to Jesus today as an apostle, being called to not only hear the Good News but to bear that costly gift of grace to the world around you? Indeed, that too is a faithful, hopeful, and good approach to encounter Jesus the Christ.
The second half of our text for today is spoken by Jesus to the disciples and the apostles, a smaller subset of the greater crowd joining Jesus today.
These “blessings and woes” are, at first glance, somewhat troubling and certainly disrupting.
“Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, and weeping…” I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been financially strapped, hungry, or in mourning, I don’t feel particularly #blessed.
“But woe to you who are rich, full, and are laughing…” Wait, I’ve been seeking financial stability my entire adult life; I enjoy the feeling of a good meal; and I LOVE to laugh! Woe to me??
C’mon Jesus, really?
One of my seminary professors challenges the common understandings of “blessed” and “woe.” What if we understand “blessed” not as happy or successful, but as being more in line with “owed attention to”, or “worthwhile for consideration”.
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.5
“Worthy are you who are poor, hungry, and weeping…” for yours is the Kingdom of God. That sparks the ol’ theological imagination, doesn’t it!
And what if we understand “woe” not as final judgment rendered, but perhaps more as a cautionary “watch out” or “pay attention.”
“Pay attention, you who are rich, full, and laughing…” because there is more to the Kingdom of God than this.
We see throughout the four Gospels that Jesus constantly challenges the systems of power, the cultural status quo, and the expected outcomes of being the Messiah.
Once again Jesus is inviting those around him, whether members of the crowd, disciples, or apostles, to reimagine power structures, places of privilege, and measures of meaningful life.
And so what does it mean, then, for us to be called and to promise “to strive for peace and justice in all the world?”
What systems, approaches, or perspectives in our lives need to repent, to turn around, to reflect the Kingdom of God in our here and now?
Whether we come as members of the crowd, as disciples, or as apostles ourselves, it is faithful, hopeful, and good to encounter, to learn, and to bear the Good News of Jesus the Christ for the sake of the world.
“Blessings and Woes to Turn our World Around” Jeske, Luke 6:17-26; p.6
Liturgy © 2022 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now”; Johann Gottfried Walther, from Wedding Music, Part 2, General Service Music; © 1952 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.
“Let Justice Flow like Streams”; text: Jane Parker Huber, b. 1926; music: Aaron Williams, 1731-1776; text © 1984 Jane Parker Huber, admin. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.
“Peace Like a River with Amazing Grace”; arr. Joel Raney; © 2013 Hope Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.
“O Christ, Your Heart, Compassionate”; text: Herman G. Stuempfle Jr., b. 1923; music: German melody, 18th cent.; adapt. X. L. Hartig, Melodien zum Mainzer Gesangbuche, 1833. text © 2000 GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.
“By Your Hand You Feed Your People”; text: Susan R. Briehl, b. 1952; music: Marty Haugen, b. 1950; text and music © 2002 GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.