Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sermon on a Level Place

Luke 6:17-23 (ESV)
And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, [18] who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. [19] And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
[20] And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [21] "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
"Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. [22] "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! [23] Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

This sounds an awful lot like the sermon on the mount. But it is the sermon on the level place, which is opposite of a mount. It shouldn’t be surprising that it sounds familiar. Jesus was a rabbi. He was a teacher, good teachers are cognizant of the fact that if it is worth teaching than it is worth repeating. My best teachers in College and Seminary always taught the same class regardless of what the syllabus called it. Rosenbladt would go into the same tirades over and over again. Some thought he was just being funny. No, he was hammering in important lessons. So with Jesus, he probably gave this sermon a hundred times, if not more, It is recorded here in Luke, and on the Mt. in Matthew. It gives the apostles a chance to learn to take it to heart. They get to study it, pick it apart, learn his thought process, what underlying principles he starts from, chew on it, and inwardly digest it. This is how good teachers do it. Pastor’s could learn from that a little too. Its ok to return to a theme a few times. The sermon doesn’t have to be the same all the time, but you can return to a theme a few times, use the same catch phrases, a stock tirade. If it is worth teaching it is worth repeating. But not too much, you have to mix it up a little, hit the theme from a different angle, throw a new them into the mix for a while. Change it out for a different one. But don’t think that because you have told them once, you have literally told them a thousand times. The opposite is more true, if you tell them a thousand times, it is as if you have told them once. Repitition, it is in fact the mother of all learning. That is why Bible verse memory is such a good thing. You have to repeat it a lot to memorize it. just repeating it starts to bring out the meaning of it, shedding layers of it out before you. I do that with Greek and Hebrew these days, funny, he amount of grammer I begin to learn and understand as I never have before trying to memorize charts, just memorizing verses in Greek and Hebrew, and then the theology that unfolds before you, and a seemingly insignificant verse becomes a gold mine of information. It is quite invigorating to a geek like me, makes a bike ride go by in a flash.
Blessed are the poor. This is where he starts. He looks out at a mixed crowd. He says blessed are the poor. There were a lot of poor people. Poor in material goods, and therefore poor Spiritually too. It often happens that way. Every once in a while I run into poor for whom this verse has made them smug and self-righteous. The depths of man’s sin will never be plumbed in this life. One man thinks he is blessed because he is rich, the other because he is poor. It’s almost funny. Almost.
No, being poor in Israel resulted in being poor of Spirit more often than not. It resulted in a humility that hoped on God and went about one’s business. The Pharisees for the most part were a middle class sect. Perhaps a bit like your typical suburban church today, where all the kids think they rock because the youth pastor took them on a mission trip to Mexico where they built outhouses for the poor. Jesus loves them now… Poor, poor people, they can’t afford to do good works, they just spend all their time cleaning up your mess. It’s a piss poor mentality. I once knew a girl who quit her minimum wage job so she could go do church work, and dedicate her life more there. It is a monks attitude. As if church work was sacred work, that earns you more points with God. I think about her from time to time. I bet she feels guilty because she had to pick up some other part time job to support her family. Blessed are the poor. They do what they have to, and hope on forgiveness.
Sometimes a person is given to soul searching. Sometimes I wonder when it comes to our views on sex and marriage, how much of what we say and do, has more to do with what middle class thinks is right, vrs what the Bible actually says. I think about mothers staying with the father’s of their children, being faithful to him, even though he won’t man up and marry her, and then she is shuned by the church. I feel dirty and sick to my stomach for that. I’m guilty. Truth is she is doing everything right, despite some mistakes in the past. But we think through these things clumsily at times. And that is the way it is. Somehow we manage to make church a middle class ghetto for the self-righteous. Jesus says blessed are the poor to the same crowd. They can’t afford to be self-righteous. Further we subjugate them and turn them away, because they don’t talk like we do, nor do they understand us, because we won’t “stoop to their level” that would be unsanctified.
Blessed are the poor, they have good news preached to them. God’s kingdom is there. It is a free gift that only needs to be received. It comes with the forgiveness of sins believed. You hope on God, and God delivers. His son came for the poor.

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