February 17 2019 Ellene Brandt *Luke 6.17-26, Jeremiah 17.5-10 “Blessed Love…Cursed Love” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Instead of being high on a hill, verse 17 says Jesus came down with the people and stood on a level place, level ground. [ slide # 1 Jesus teaching] Level is good. Jesus comes to us on level ground, insisting on the justice of a level playing field. Level is good. When things are on the level, we are blessed. [slide # 2 not level playing field]
When we are blessed, even poverty is overcome by the riches of the Kingdom of God which are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. How can we be poor if we live right, if we have a peace that surpasses all our understanding, and if we have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts? Even the richest person on earth is poor if they do not live right, or do not treasure the peace and joy of Jesus. [slide # 3 joy of Jesus…heart]
When we are blessed, we may be hungry, but we need never be food insecure. We know that it is just a matter of time before our faithful God will provide a feast for us. We know that we are not forsaken or forgotten, but that God will fill us. We know that God has a purpose and a plan that is not only tasty, but sweet and satisfying. [slide # 4 taste and see…]
When we are sad and have suffered loss after loss after loss, we know that weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. [slide # 5 weeping….] Though a sorrowful and broken spirit can dry up our bones and sap our strength, a joyful heart is good medicine; the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy is a blessing of the fruit of the Spirit.
In verse 22 Jesus tells the leveled crowd “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man, on account of Jesus who is as human as can be. Mark such days on your calendar because those are windfall days. Those are days when you win the lottery, when your ship comes in when you are rewarded a special gift from Heaven, from that vault in the sky where good and Godly things come to light and a higher power is working out justice and mercy beyond our imagining. [slide # 6 great is your reward…]
Jesus continues the conversation in verse 24 with some tough love through woes and warnings. A woe is a warning of the consequences. A woe is a reminder that certain paths are risky, cursed, unproductive, unfruitful, and that traveling in that direction leads to heartache, misery, distress, failure, and unhappiness.
Jesus warns us that if we choose to find our comfort in money and fail to comfort others who have no money, that comfort we give ourselves will not be sustainable; it won’t be deep enough to diminish the inevitable pains of life.
“Woe unto the one who is full, for later they will be hungry.” Let not the eloquent poetic language distract you from Jesus’ directive in verse 25. “Woe unto the one who is full for later they will be hungry.” It is a blessing to be full and overflowing with good food and the goodness of all things good. It is a curse to be full of ourselves, to be full of it, to be full when others are hungering and thirsting for light and love, not to mention hungering for food and safety.
“Woe unto you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” Laughter is medicine. [slide # 7 Norman Cousins]
Norman Cousins was a longtime editor of the Saturday Review, global peacemaker, receiver of hundreds of awards including the UN Peace Medal and nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees.
In 1964 following a very stressful trip to Russia, he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a degenerative disease causing the breakdown of collagen), which left him in almost constant pain and motivated his doctor to say he would die within a few months. He disagreed and reasoned that if stress had somehow contributed to his illness (he was not sick before the trip to Russia), then positive emotions should help him feel better. With his doctors’ consent, he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel across the street and began taking extremely high doses of vitamin C while exposing himself to a continuous stream of humorous films and similar “laughing matter”. He later claimed that 10 minutes of belly rippling laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep, when nothing else, not even morphine could help him. (Wikipedia)
Filmmaker Anthony McCarten of New Zealand (slide # 8 McCarten) suggests that laughter indicates our primitive recognition that animal danger has passed! Laughing together is awesome because it makes us Inducers of hope, embracers of strangers, eradicators of hopelessness, physicians and peacemakers. If we can laugh together, we can live together because jokes connect us, embrace us and in sheer and spontaneous gratitude, our mouths open, our chest fills with air and we make a sound made by no other creature in the universe.
He affirms that comedy is the clash of one point of view colliding with another…one sensibility with another…high with low, east with west, light with dark, old with young; a collision of two world views, of two civilizations, and like two pieces of flint being struck together, a life-giving spark is given off, and with this spark, you can light a fire.
We all can agree: Laughter is good and our meetings and minds do well to be filled with healing laughter. Not all laughter is healing as we know. There is a laughter that hates, hides, humiliates, and horrifies. Jesus warns that mourning and weeping come with that kind of laughter.
Finally, the last of Jesus’ warnings can be the most perplexing. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” We want to be liked. We want to be showered with compliments. The day comes, however, when we as three-dimensional human beings, see a side of ourselves that needs work and repair, healing and help. God sees and loves all of us. Others may see us and love all of us. We need to see ourselves and love ourselves.
If those closest to us only know one side of us, they are not in a position to really care about us. Flattery is fraud, designed to use and abuse. False prophets are prophets /messengers/ leaders who do not accept that they may be in error. When we do not want to hear the truth, those who do not want to fight may just settle for telling us what we want to hear. False prophets may hear the truth spoken in love about their lives but they do not work to change.
I am curious about the shooting this week in Arora Illinois. During the 15 years he worked he was a felon. Did management implement healthy boundaries? Was he spoken the truth in love. It is a new day in this world and I am appreciating the boundaries that I see. A basketball player was fined $25 thousand for cursing. A hockey player was benched one game as a penalty for …was it fighting?
Ted Bunch tells the story that his neighbor beat up his wife and while she was in the hospital, he and a couple guys went over and said, we heard what you did to her. We don’t do that here, so don’t do it again. He says if guys would do that on their jobs…and on the golf course saying, we do not do that here and this is the last game we will play with you if you do that again. Giving a dose of Jesus’ woe unto you brings mercy and justice.
Those who care, see all sides of humanity and prayerfully become agents of healing and hope, learning to speak the truth in love until our love is strong [slide # 9 heart] enough to make a difference! Amen. [slide # 10 …lacking no good thing]