Reflection Sunday 13 February 2022
Luke 6:17-26 Good news for people who are poor
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Is our gospel really good news for people who are poor?
Forty five years ago, Ron Sider published his book ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’. At first he had great difficulty in getting a Christian Publishing house to publish it as they thought it was too radical. Some called him a Marxist, others called him a new ager, a communist and others said his book was one of the most dangerous books of the decade. In response, many leading and wealthy Tv Evangelists went into overdrive promoting their gospel of prosperity.
The Gospel was originally very much good news for the poor and spread amongst the poorest in the world but eventually as the church became richer those in leadership began to defend their wealth and their lifestyles.
For many Christians the beatitudes are the most important teaching of Jesus and a guide by which they try to live their lives, for others the beatitudes are a stumbling block on which their faith comes crashing down. They find it conflicts too much with the life they want to live.
How can we make the gospel good news again for people who are poor?
From our reading today we hear that Jesus had no trouble in attracting people to himself. The crowds of people who followed him had great needs. Luke 6:18,19 says - They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Jesus healed the people in their bodies and brought peace to their minds and taught their spirits. For those who would hear that day Jesus taught them about blessings and warnings.
"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 and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But 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. "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets."
Jesus expressed the view that the world was not right. Jesus’ words spoke directly to the longings of people who were poor and downtrodden, those who were constantly hungry for whom food was scarce, those who wept because of their lot in life and Jesus said consider it a blessing when people hate you, exclude you, revile you and defame you because of me the son of man.
In taking the title ‘The Son of man’ (which I always translate as ‘the true human’), Jesus was not just saying he was the perfect example of a human being whom we all should take as our model but that in following him and believing in him and trusting in him, true humanity was to be found and enjoyed by all, a humanity where there is no disparity between those who are poor and those who are rich. Our shared humanity in Christ means an equitable sharing of all the resources of the world for the good of all: access for all to food and water, to health and education, to clean air and to live on one’s land, the weakest and poorest are all included and valued and cherished. This was not a pronunciation of blessings or curses upon individuals but on all humanity. Jesus was the new Israel, through believing and trusting in Jesus, people were born by the Spirit into one body, a new humanity, a new people, a new life shared by all.
Jesus’ message is challenging. The Gospels weren’t written to tell us about the faith of people who encountered Jesus, they were written to challenge the faith of us the readers who are to ask, “where do I stand?” (Francis Maloney quoted in Theosony p.144 by Noirin Ni Riain) The gospel is an invitation from Jesus to his hearers to move to a new level of understanding… to the level of the holy (Thomas Brodie quoted in Theosony p.45 by Noirin Ni Riain) or in other words to the level of the Kingdom of God. The challenge for us as hearers of the gospel is to distinguish between hearing the gospel through the level of our cultures and through the level of the kingdom of God.
Listen carefully with open ears to the words of Jesus. Listen for the sacred word that really is good news for all humanity.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation