Which Way?

February 15, 2019

There are two ways to live:  God’s way and the other way.  Which one are you going to choose?

 

That’s the essence of our readings today.  And at first glance, it doesn’t sound so hard.  After all you know what the right answer is.

 

Psalm 1 puts it pretty clearly:  there is the way of the righteous, and the way of the wicked.  The one who is righteous delights in the way of God, meditates on God’s ways day and night, and is like a tree planted by streams of water, nourished, yielding fruit, thriving.  The wicked, not so much.

 

Jeremiah picks up where the psalmist left off.  Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes and its leaves shall stay green.  But cursed are those who trust in mere mortals, whose hearts turn away from the Lord; they shall live in the parched places of the wilderness.

 

Two ways.  God’s way and the other way.  Which one are you going to choose?  Still seems obvious, right?

 

But just when we thought it was an easy choice, along comes Jesus to up the ante.

 

Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, who are hated and excluded.

 

But woe to you who are rich, who are full, who are laughing, who are spoken well of.

 

It still sounds like two ways.  But what’s your choice now?  Will you still choose God’s way?

 

Jesus has spent the whole night on a mountain in prayer to God.  And when day comes, he calls his disciples, the twelve, and goes down to a level place, and there is a huge crowd that has come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.  And he says to them,

 

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

 

This sounds like crazy talk.  It is counter-intuitive, it is counter-cultural.  Blessed.  Happy, satisfied, unburdened, to be envied, at peace, that’s the sense of the word.  Why should the poor be envied?  Why should they be satisfied or at peace?

 

“Blessed are you who are poor - for yours is the kingdom of God.”

 

It seems to me that the kingdom of God is the key to understanding what’s going on here.  What, then, is the kingdom of God?

 

Good question.  In fact it is perhaps the central question of the gospels, the central message of Jesus’ proclamation.  Since we are going through the gospel of Luke this year, let’s have a look at what some of the key figures in Luke’s gospel have to say about the kingdom of God.

 

Let’s start with Mary.  Remember her song, the Magnificat.  Here’s what she said about what God is doing:

 

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

 

Then came John the Baptist, proclaiming:

 

“Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill made low.  If you have two coats, give one to someone who has none.”

 

Then Jesus, in his opening message, he said:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.”

 

Are you sensing a theme here?

 

The kingdom of God is not an ideal.  The kingdom of God is not a place.  The kingdom of God is not static and can’t be simply spiritualized.  The kingdom of God is a movement, a powerful, transformative movement that is bringing healing, that is doing justice, that is liberating people, that is reversing the entrenched power structures and social and economic injustice of this world, starting here and now.

 

The kingdom of God is a movement that changes everything.

 

Now you get to choose.  Are you part of this movement or not?

 

For someone who’s poor, the answer is pretty obvious.  A movement that will lift up the poor, level out income inequality, deliver economic justice, and bring down those who exercise power and oppress me?  If I’m poor, I’m all in! 

 

Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who are hungry, who weep, who are excluded.  This is for you.  You will be filled, you will laugh, you will rejoice.  That’s where this movement is going, and because it’s God’s movement, you know we will get there.

 

However . . .

 

How about you who are rich?  What do you think of this movement to deliver social and economic justice, to reverse the power structures of this world, to do away with privilege, to put everyone on the same level?  Are you part of this movement or not?

 

Umm.  Could you give me a few more details?  I don’t want to rush into anything.  Maybe there’s a better way to frame the question.  Can I get back to you tomorrow?

 

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.

 

Now let’s understand here, the word “Woe” is not a curse, it’s not even a judgement.  It is a warning.

 

“Watch out!” you who are rich!

 

or in the words of the Message translation,

 

“It’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made, it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself, it’s trouble ahead if you think life is all fun and games.”

 

Repent.  For the kingdom of God is near.

 

Here’s the dilemma.  When we’re rich, well-fed and happy, we don’t really want things to change.  But the kingdom of God is a movement that changes everything, changes the whole way this world operates for the sake of healing and justice and liberation.  God’s way is the way of change, God’s way is the way of reversals - but if I’m honest with myself, I don’t want change and reversals. My life’s pretty good, I’m sitting at the top of the hill with a lot of people below me, and I’m not in any rush to give that up.

 

Do you want to be part of the movement that changes everything?  The poor person says “of course”.  Me, I say, “can I get back to you on that tomorrow?”

 

And that’s why Jesus is calling me out, that’s why he’s warning me.  Not because my privileged circumstances prevent me from being part of God’s movement, not because I’m not invited, but rather because my privileged circumstances are likely to make me resist being part of God’s movement or to make me want to avoid the question altogether.  And that’s not good enough.

 

We have been called to be part of the kingdom of God, to be part of a movement that will change everything.  Sometimes we talk about loving our neighbours as ourselves without fully realizing just what it is we are saying.  Loving our neighbours as ourselves means healing the brokenness of this world and restoring the dignity of every single one of God’s children.  It means social and economic justice.  It means the undoing of oppressive power structures.  It means that those with power and privilege must give it up or have it taken away for the sake of those who are oppressed.  It means that those in high places will be brought down and those in low places will be lifted up and that we will all be brought to a level place.  The kingdom of God is a movement that will bring all of this and much more to fruition.  The kingdom of God changes everything.  Are you in?

 

There are two ways to live:  God’s way and the other way.  Which one are you going to choose?

 

Amen.

 

Homily: Yr C P6 February 17 2019, St. Albans

Readings: Jeremiah 17.5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15.12-20; Luke 6.17-26

Image by YeeChao Koh, Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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