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Another Brick in the church


Luke 6:20-31

New International Version

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Love for Enemies

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.


SERMON

It is interesting that there are two groups of people who Jesus addresses in what is known in Luke as the sermon on the plain. Just a few chapters earlier in the gospel of Luke (chapter 6) Jesus has chosen and appointed his apostles, 12 of them.

Then there are the disciples (we are not told how many of them there are), and then later he speaks to “you who are listening”, which we can take to mean the crowds.


These are an interesting three distinctions right from the start. They might lead us to question today which ones we are, or which ones we might want to be: do we just want to be part of the crowds, those on the periphery who hear what Jesus say and then go their own way?

Do we want to be his disciples who learn from him and try and put what he has said into practise and follow him?

Or do we want to go all in like the apostles, do we want to follow him, live by his words and not only have them effect our own lives but even go and minister to others with the Gospel, each in our own way? Not a bad question. But perhaps it is a question for each of us to ponder some other time. We have some other thoughts to concentrate on today.


We have heard Jesus speak in the gospel of Luke before about the poor, before he pronounces a blessing on them in this text today. We may remember in the synagogue where he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and announced his divine mandate for ministry he said that he had come to bring good news to the poor. Remembering that the poor did not just mean those without money, but those who had no rights, no status, those who were easily taken advantage of. These are the kind of people that the world pities. Some in Jesus’ time even thought that they must be poor because they had done something wrong, and God was punishing them. And Jesus, as Luke shows him doing time and time again, turns everything on its head, when he says “Blessed are the poor”.


Unlike like the beatitudes in Matthew's sermon on the mount, these beatitudes (or statements of blessing) in Luke’s sermon on the plain carry more futuristic connotations. They do not simply speak of what things will be like now but what the rewards will be like in heaven.

They contain an element of the past as well, of looking back to the way that the prophets were treated by those around them.

It seems to suggest that those who were mistreated (the prophets for example) gained some sort of reward by their life and their faith and now they are resting in that eternal life reward. That is a blessing indeed!


On all Saints day we look back to the lives of our own departed loved ones with that same eternal life-hope and we give thanks for those who have gone before, those who have lived the gospel life, and have now gone to take up that reward which was always theirs through their baptism. This reward was won for them on the cross over 2000 years ago, but it was theirs when they were baptised into the family of God, and received that inheritance.


As well as looking at the lives of others, there is also an example for us to follow as we celebrate All Saints day. We look forward with that same hope that the blessings of eternal life and a reward in heaven are ours too. We thank God for what has been handed down to us, and we resolve to make sure that it does not end with us. As the old quote says: “the church is always one generation away from extinction”. But, the fate of the church never rests only with one generation. The strength of the church is in the interplay between generations, but it’s fate never rests only with us at all. It is Christ’s church, and it’s strength is in him.


How much are we doubly blessed, to be people of faith in a country like Australia. I once hard a South American bishop say that it must be very hard to be a believer in Australia, where there are so many other things to distract us from God. But if God has given us the faith to believe in him, even in a country like this where there are so many other amazing things to concentrate on, what an amazing blessing that is!. For so many Christians around the world when their living conditions are squalid, when they are below the poverty line, when they live with civil wars persecutions and famine, faith is all they have left, all they have to hold onto. When this is what life is like heaven is sometimes all that people have left to look forward to.


But we really must give thanks for the lucky country in which we live. Ours may not be the dominant voice anymore but we are not persecuted in this country like so many are for their faith. we have a country with relatively affordable healthcare, without overly corrupt governments, a country that does experience sunshine and rain in good measure, a country with charities where people try to care for others for the most part. A country with a safety net, and welfare to help those who need it.


You know how people ask you how you are going, but are not really expecting you to answer? Or not in much detail, anyway. And we know that, don’t we? So we get in the habit of saying, “Yeah good” even when our life is falling apart. Because they don’t want to know.

Well, once when somebody asked me how I was going I stopped for a moment, looked up at them and said “Well, I live in what must be about the greatest country on earth and when I leave here I'm going to heaven so really there is no downside.” I think it shocked them a little bit.


We are constantly engaged in the struggle of not letting the good things in this life take our focus away from the life to come. And we know people who have lost that battle, who only live for the here and now, whose success in farming or business or whatever has become the only driving force in their life.


On a day like all Saints day we pray that this will not happen to us, that our lives of faith and service may be another brick in the building of God’s church, and that one day our names may be numbered among those who have done the best they can, have handed on the faith, and gone to receive their inheritance with their Lord Jesus.


All Saints day is a time to take a step back from our problems that seem so huge, and to realise that, as the writer to the Romans said: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus”, to realise that our faith is about more than just this life, and to give thanks to God for his love for us, and for those who have gone before.

There really is no downside.

How blessed we are.

Amen.

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