Materials for Worship for Epiphany 6, Sunday 13th February

Moira writes….  This morning our readings are challenging us and encouraging us to stay grounded in our faith as we struggle with discipleship in our everyday lives.

As you light your candle and prepare for worship, you may wish to read the OT lesson from Jeremiah chapter 17 verses 5-10 and the Gospel reading from Luke chapter 6 verses 17 to 26.

 This morning in our Gospel passage we, like the disciples of Jesus, are receiving a message which grounds us in our faith. This passage is often described as ‘the sermon on the plain’ (as opposed to ‘the Sermon on the Mount.’)   Quite often when Jesus was preaching and teaching, he would do so on a hillside, or from a boat on the water or in the Temple. Today’s passage however says that Jesus came down from the hillside and stood on level ground, and the King James version says, he ‘stood on the plain.’  In this sermon Jesus is speaking not just to the twelve, but to all the disciples who followed him, the “great crowd of his disciples” as verse 17 says.  All of these disciples are the “you” that is addressed throughout the sermon, which shows us that his teaching here is not for the super-spiritual.  It is meant for every follower of Jesus – including you and me.

In this art image from Jesus Mafa, the sermon is being preached on the ground and not in a high place. The words of Jesus are not high and lofty, but plain and clear, down to earth. In his ‘sermon on the plain,’ Jesus is reminding us of the blessings we receive from the Father, but also warns us of the perils of falling away from our faith when we turn to the things of the world. Unlike the blessings and woes in Matthew’s gospel which are more general and speak of ‘they’ (Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.)   Here Luke is more personal and speaks of ‘you’ (Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.)   Another great reminder that we alone are responsible for the decisions we make in our lives of faith.

The blessings and woes in this passage parallel each other, poor/rich, hungry/full, weep/laugh, and revile you/speak well of you. Luke is dealing here with literal riches, food, laughter and social acceptance as he relates the words of Jesus to the great crowd of disciples. Not for him a sermon given from a high place to those beneath, but a down to earth telling of down to earth values for ‘walking the walk’ not just ‘talking the talk.’   The words of Jesus are also a challenge and encourage us to ask ourselves, am I with the ones who are suffering for faithfulness and will be blessed, or am I with the ones who have compromised to gain the world’s favour and will be judged?

Fortunately, we don’t live in a society that really persecutes people for their beliefs, but people can and are ridiculed, slandered, rejected and lose their jobs because of their faith.  Jesus challenges us, when we face any kind of suffering for our faith, to remain faithful, despite the consequences. It’s a tough challenge for many, especially in times of crises, times of sadness and times of ill health in their lives. When Jesus blesses the poor and hungry, the sorrowful and the ridiculed, he isn’t saying that we should all aspire to poverty, hunger, sorrow, or to being verbally abused. He is saying that God is present with us, even when the world has abandoned us, that God loves us, even when everyone else hates us. As people of God, we find blessing in seeking God, in being hungry for God and for his Word, loving those whom God loves, no matter what.

When Jesus announces woe to those who are rich, eat well, and enjoy fame and admiration from people, he isn’t saying that wealth, good food, and popularity are bad things.   He is saying that when we start to take material blessings for granted, or worse, think that we have somehow acquired these gifts by our own efforts alone, we abandon God, and our self-dependence will be our spiritual doom. When we are hungry for God, we want the things God wants. God wants every person on earth to know him and love him. When we are seeking God, we feel the pain and sorrow God feels for people who are hurting. These are the people God loves, and he loves every person on earth. When we are focused on spiritual wealth, money loses its power over us. As we practice generosity, we lose the desire to accumulate more than we actually need, and we may even find that we need considerably less than we thought we did before. When we stand up to injustice with love and generosity, we affirm that every human being is loved by God, worthy in God’s sight. We are called to be the people of God, blessed and cursed in equal measure. Let us all stand up to the challenge, grounded in our faith, so that we do not fall at the last hurdle.

“Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place…”     Amen.


In your prayers this morning you may wish to pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me a channel of your peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love;

where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

 where there is error, I may bring truth;

where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

where there is despair, I may bring hope;

where there are shadows, I may bring light;

where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;

to understand than to be understood;

to love than to be loved.

For it is by forgetting self that one finds oneself;

it is by forgiving that one is forgiven; 

it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. Amen.