November 03, 2019 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Luke 6:20-31
I'll light a couple more here, as I'm thinking about a couple more loved ones -- plus for the symmetry of it, I see you guys have done very good on the bottom here, but ...
So do you feel blessed? I want to ask you guys that question this morning, do you feel blessed? I suppose it depends on how we define it. Because blessing can mean different things for different people. And just as Mary was talking about how maybe having all your Halloween candy eaten might not seem like a blessing. But to others it might, because they see the long game of it and all that sugar is not going to go in their body now. But we live in a society, too, where you buy a nice new pair of shoes and you take a photo, put it on Instagram, #Blessed, right? Tends to cheapen the word a little bit.
So do you feel blessed? Honestly, I think it's a more complicated question than originally thought.
In the Greek world, to be blessed was really a far-off concept. In the Greek world, you had the wealthy class and the working class and there really was no middle class. There was no in-between working your way up. You either were in or you were out. And the working class had it hard. No OSHA back in the Greek days, the working class had it hard. Even the wealthy class felt they had it hard because of the spectre of death and the problems that just mortality brings. So the idea of blessing, back then, to be blessed was basically that you were a god. Kind of hard to attain that for the mortal. The gods were blessed because they didn't have to deal with the stuff of mortality. They didn't have to work the fields or any of that. So to be blessed as a Greek, must either be a god or to be dead and join the realm of the gods.
And in that vein, Jesus would have sounded like a total crackpot talking to his disciples here and presumably the hearers around him, too, during the sermon on the plain, and Luke -- when Jesus looks up and says, "blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the son of man. Rejoice in that day. Leap for joy for surely your reward is great in heaven. For that is what their ancestors did to the prophets."
Well, maybe the disciples were used to hearing Jesus say odd things like that. But really, what a nutty thing to say. Right? Even in our own concept, even in our own terms with #Blessed running around out there, blessed are the poor? That can't be right. How can those who suffer be truly blessed?
And for those of us that, you know, we we live a pretty decent life, had some hardships, but maybe not too bad, overall on the positive. Right? We can afford good things. We do feel blessed. We also are overwhelmed by the way of this world. Sometimes we're blessed with the situation in life, but we're so hopelessly overwhelmed and we feel lonely. That spectre of mortality is ever upon us. We deal with things that don't feel like blessings in our life.
Jesus speaks to that, too. Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Warn to you when all speak well of you. That is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Being blessed is kind of a odd category. And there's a mixture within it that I think we struggle with no matter our lot in life. I think it's pretty safe to say that the poor, the destitute, those that have nothing at all when they hear Jesus word, yours is the kingdom of God. Likely little consolation in the moment. But yet Jesus speaks this as truth. So, too, for the rich. The woe is there because Jesus says you're already blessed. You have consolation, and that consolation leads you to believe that perhaps you don't need more than what you see in front of you. You are full now. You will be hungry.
I struggled with this myself, and especially on All Saints Day. It's a weird text to have. It really is for All Saints Day as we look upon this lit cross and we see these candles of people that we remember that have gone before us in the faith. Some who have died after a long, good, ripe old age and some that were just seemed ripped away too early, too harsh.
So do you feel blessed? Jesus says these words. And speaks truth in these words, knowing the ultimate end of the sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection to new life on the third day so that you and I would know the ultimate love of God. Know ultimate forgiveness in our lives. Know the promise of life forever in the presence of God, who IS love.
It is the only way that these words are true. They don't speak to things we should necessarily strive for. They speak to things no matter where we are in our life. No one's going to run out and try to be excluded and reviled. But if you are excluded and reviled for your faith in the good news, you are blessed to know the good news. If you truly have nothing in this world, you are blessed because of the ultimate love of God who is beyond this world.
Jesus, who would have sounded utterly mad went on to say, "but I say to you, listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. Anyone who takes away your coat, don't hesitate to give your shirt too. Give to everyone who begs from you. And if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you."
Well, in this world of stuff and mortality, I need justice. I need what I can get out of this world. And I don't know about you, I feel blessed. But when I am wronged, I demand justice. Sometimes I want my stuff back. I think sometimes you do, too.
When you're living a blessed life it truly does help to open up your mind, to realize that there is more to this than what we can see, than what we can gather in, than what we can maximize in our limited mortal life. So we go to this cross and light these candles in honor and memory of those that have gone before us, not necessarily in a way of mourning -- although the mourning is there -- in a way of hope and joy. Hope and joy because we are blessed. We are blessed to know the love of God in our lives. We are blessed to be invited to the font, to be baptized into this wonderful reality that God has placed before us. We are blessed to come to the table and share in this feast of forgiveness that God has offered.
Jesus reminds us that we are blessed no matter our lot in life. If we are poor, we are blessed. If we are rich, we are blessed. And that blessing goes beyond the material stuff in this world. In fact, it helps us to understand the world better, a world that can use our abundance, our joy, our hope for the sake of all.
For we are blessed, and in that blessing, we are blessed to be a blessing to others so that all may know God's good news. God's ultimate love in our lives, in the lives of others. The ultimate hope of everlasting life in that eternal love. In those moments when you don't feel blessed, may you hear God's eternal reminder. Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that you indeed are forgiven and welcome into eternal life. May that hope lead us on our way. Amen.