“And he came down with them and stood on a level place…” Today’s reading is known as the sermon on the plain it is a bit different than the sermon on the mount…it feels edgier much more direct and of course it’s on a plain not on a mount.
This is the first thing that catches my ear is that Jesus comes down and is on the same level as all those around him…God emptied the Godself into the child and became man…Do you hear the similarity?
Luke seems to be emphasizing Jesus’ humanity here he is on the same level as all of us and now he has some healings to offer, he was calming those who had troubled spirits, and everyone was trying to touch him…if they could just touch him, they would experience something, for when they did touch him, power went from him to whomever touched him
Kind of sounds like a crowd just trying to get a piece of a celebrity …ok to give you an idea of how my mind works as I was typing this, I wondered … what if we had a lock of Jesus’ hair…
“Item: Tresses from Elvis Presley
Winning Bid: $115,000
Winning Bid: $115,000
Apart from his soulful voice and swinging hips, Elvis Presley was known for his hair. So, it's perhaps no surprise that a strand from the King of Rock 'n' Roll's pompadour — surreptitiously hoarded by his personal barber — would bring in more dough than hair from John Lennon ($48,000), John F. Kennedy ($3,000) and Beethoven ($7,300) combined. MastroNet Inc, the Oak Brook, Ill., company behind the Internet auction of such macabre memorabilia, has made a small fortune selling the tresses of celebrities, dead (Mickey Mantle, $6,900) or alive (Neil Armstrong, $3,000). Even former government officials are cashing in. In 2007, an ex-CIA employee sold a tuft of Che Guevara's hair, along with fingerprints and death photographs, for $119,500.”
If you think that is silly remember you can still find a piece of the true cross on eBay for 1500 dollars.
So, Jesus’ celebrity lives on…so can you imagine in this time of Jesus celebrity where there were crowds pushing against him, trying to touch him, hear him, just see him, and there he stands among them as an equal and gives us two sermons.
Unlike Mathews beatitudes these are rather direct and specific, Nicolas king says …
“Again, the reader must decide whether Luke is speaking to an audience that is largely affluent. Certainly, he does not, as Mathew does, speak of the ‘poor in spirit’; and although he has fewer ‘Congratulations’ than Mathew in the sermon on the mount, he sharpens the effect by throwing in four ‘woes’ to match the ‘congratulations. These two sections the woes and the congratulations, are nicely balanced; some scholars see here the original beatitudes.”
Nicely balanced indeed but are they nice? And to whom are these addressed. Well in likes gospel Jesus is addressing his disciples his followers directly and down through the ages Jesus’ voice comes to us.
Unlike Mathews Blessed are those… this seems to be more direct.
Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at the Divinity School, Duke University reminds us that;
“In comparing these two versions of the sermon, we note that Luke’s rendition is briefer, edgier, with a sharp contrasting of the “you” who are blessed and “you” who are cursed. In Luke, Jesus addresses his followers. In Matthew, Jesus appears to address the “multitudes,” and his disciples listen in on his words to the crowd. Matthew’s sermon is noted for its abstract, bordering on sublime language: “Blessed are poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3 NRSV); by contrast, Luke’s version of the sermon is a straightforward announcement of the nature of Jesus’s reign: “Blessed are you who are poor. . .. Woe to you who are rich.” The Sermon on the Plain is a forceful prophetic statement.”
So, there are really two sermons here or two parts to this sermon and remember Jesus is addressing his disciples here
Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:
Congratulations to the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Bless you, all you poor. When everything in this This world seems to function for the rich, helping the rich get richer and forcing the poor into even greater poverty. Good news! In heaven, those whom the world—through its taxes, its legal structures, its systems of punishment, its racism, prejudices, and put-downs—makes poor, you who are poor will be made rich.
Congratulations to those who are hungry now, for you will be sated.
Oh, how lucky are those of you who are hungry. I know there is not much greater sadness than hunger, but in God’s heaven that’s coming, there will be more than enough for you. There will be more than enough food, more than enough opportunity, a wonder filled future rather than this broken tomorrow that the world offers you. Nobody will be forced to go to bed hungry. You are about to be filled. Because God has a special place in heaven for those of you who the world sends away empty.
Congratulations to those who weep now, because you will laugh.
Oh, you lucky ones who are now weeping. Your tears will turn to laughter. Those of you who have received so much bad news will be the recipients of good news. Heaven is coming, and once it arrives, those who mourn because of the losses they have suffered in this world will receive a new world in which laughter will be the order of the day.
Congratulations when people hate you, and when they ostracize you and heap insults on you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap about. For look your reward is great in Heaven; for in just the same way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
If you’ve ever been put down, insulted, left out, shamed, felt marginalized or disrespected because of Jesus, rejoice! If you have been punished because of your faith in Jesus, you are about to receive your reward. This is the way the world has always treated people who tell the truth, serve the truth, and try to be obedient and faithful to the teachings of God and Jesus. God loves you! God loves you as much as God loves all of the great but persecuted prophets of old.
So, this is the end of the first part of today’s sermon…Was Jesus speaking to you? Did you hear some of your life captured there? Does this bring you hope? Are you feeling pretty good right now? As a disciple of Christ this is truly Good news … But wait there is more
There is a part two. Jesus voice now changes from one of compassion to one that is kind of accusatory. Ok not kind of it truly is accusatory, judgmental even harsh. So, Is Jesus addressing you?
But woe to you who are rich, for you have your comfort in full.
Bad news for those of you who have lots of stuff. Yikes we Americans are known for accumulating stuff. Jesus says Your day is coming. You have had the best that you could afford. You take great joy in your possessions, feeling that they secure you and your family from misfortune. You see your stuff as earned for your hard work and prudence. You have already received all that you wanted. And now that’s over.
Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.
“Those of you who have fat pension plans, big houses, three-car garages, big cars, and plenty of opportunities, now is your time to have less. You are about to feel, for the first time in your life, emptiness, knowing hunger, and a sense of the void inside of you. Sorry.”
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Sorry for you who are happy, who feel good about how your life is going. Unfortunately for you, it’s your turn to mourn and weep. You who have experienced the world as a joyful and pleasant place will now get to see the other side of the story.
Woe to you whenever all people speak well of you, for in just the same way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets
Bad times ahead for those of you who everyone is your friend. Unfortunately, if you have received praise and adulation in this world, you are going to get to experience how the other half lives.
So, this is the end of the second part or the second sermon. Which one of these was Jesus preaching to you? Did any of this second way make you feel a bit uncomfortable?
“Of course, we would all prefer to receive blessing rather than condemnation. But this sermon, much like its counterpart in Matthew, the more familiar Sermon on the Mount, is not so much blessing and condemning as it is painting a picture of the shape of God’s coming reign. You remember how Jesus began his first sermon in Nazareth? He said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach good news to the poor, good news that God is coming. This Sermon on the Plain announces the news that God’s promises are being fulfilled, that God is coming into the world. The one who preaches, Jesus, is the one who not only announces but also embodies that new world order: God’s kindom.
We pray the Lord’s Prayer here most every Sunday. In that prayer, we always say, “thy kingdom come, thy will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain—or maybe more accurately, his two Sermons on the Plain—make me wonder if we really mean what we pray. Do we really want God’s kingdom to come, God’s will to be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven?”
The more I think about this sermon on the plain it definitely is not plain. It is extraordinary in a way that is exciting. Why because I know that technically I am in both categories of the woes and the congratulations depending where and when I am in my life.
The congratulations are there to comfort me in my sorrow, in my hunger, in my broken spirit. The Woes are there to remind me to be cautious and aware of my abundance. Those are times I should count my blessings and see where I might share and or do more with the abundance I receive.
One commentator says; “An initial reading of the Lukan beatitudes might prompt us to accuse Luke of “pie in the sky by and by” attitude; that is, he encourages people to endure their present suffering by holding out hope for rewards sometime in the indefinite future. When we take into account both the time elements (“now” verses the future) and the issue of divine verses human assessment, however something more complex emerges from this passage. A crude paraphrase might be, “Things are not always what they seem.” Those who seem to be prospering may not be, not in God’s sight. Those who seem to be suffering may be blessed, at least in God’s sight. Paul puts it somewhat differently in 1 Cor. !:25 “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
All I n all what I hear in this message is a warning to us disciples to just check our attitude and check our judgements we know not what others are going through…This also says to me that perhaps we need to look deeper than at the surface of this world.
In spiritual care we learn never ask someone how they are doing? Why? (anyone) because the answer is fine and you. But if you ask so how is your day going? Or anything special happen today? You are going to get a deeper more honest answer, and, in that answer, we may learn how we can better serve.
If someone comes to the church and sis seeking food and we say here is a bag here is the food that is one thing. But if we ask so how are things at home? How has this week been for you> we may learn there are other needs going on?
This is just one example. What I am saying here just as the sermon on the plain is anything but a plain ole sermon there are many ways, we can see to be in deeper relationship with one another and the world around us. Do we want to be a plain ole church or anything but plain? Something to think about
King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.
Cousar, Charles B. Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary, Based on the NRSV. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.