…Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Feb 24th, March 10, 17, 31. We will have Morning Prayer March 3 and 24. Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Ash Wednesday at noon, March 6, 2019.
…Start marking your calendars: We will begin our Lenten early morning (9am) Sunday School with Father Riley March 10th. The theme this year is to seek guidance from Father Riley on topics from the Bible and Prayer Book which we may not fully understand.
6 EPIPHANY - C - 19 LUKE 6. 17-26
Today’s gospel scene stands in mark contrast to last week’s where Peter, James and John were stunned by a late morning catch of fish from the
Sea of Galilee.
Even though it was the biggest catch they had ever made, or perhaps had ever
seen, they left it on the beach and followed Him who had instructed them to
cast their nets.
Here Jesus has been up on a mountain praying with his disciples around him. When he has finished his prayers, he chooses 12 from among those disciples present. These, including Peter, James and John, are to continue with him on his journey to
and the cross. Jerusalem
After choosing his disciples, Jesus descends the mountain to a level place where a large crowd is waiting for him. The people just wanted to touch him and when they did he could feel the power go out of him. He heals all that were diseased, and cast out many demons.
Then he begins to deliver a homily that sounds very much like the Beatitudes from Matthew’s “sermon on the mount,” but with only four blessings instead of eight and with the addition of four woes, or warnings if you will. The crowd he was speaking to was a mixed one. It contained both Jews from Judea and Gentiles from
and . Sidon
The “blessings” would sound familiar to the Jews who were present that day, as they reflect promises contained in many of the sayings of the Old Testament prophets. As they would have been received as good news to the Gentile listeners. However, the “blessings” are not to be understood as the qualifications necessary for admission to the
. kingdom of God
Instead, they indicate the blessings, which the
in the person of
Jesus Christ brings to the disciples, to whom the sayings are addressed, and
the reversal of the existing order, which the kingdom involves. The idea of a reversal
of the existing order would have been upsetting to the Jews and yet something
that the Gentiles would have applauded whom heretofore saw themselves outside
the reach of God’s love and mercy. kingdom
The woes are peculiar to Luke and are not addressed to the disciples but to those who reject the kingdom by rejecting Jesus. The ultimate rejection resulted in his being nailed to the cross. Jesus’ teachings fulfilled the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “The Lord tests the mind and searches the heart.”
We might say that Luke’s story is one that contrasts two expressions, or two directions of the heart. Jeremiah sets forth the two directions in terms of blessing or curse. “Cursed be the heart that turns from the Lord. Blessed be the heart that looks to the Lord in hope.”
The four promises and four woes are presented in terms of
great scriptural codes in the book of Deuteronomy. Here there were long lists
of “blessings” for those who obeyed the law, and “curses” for those who did
not. These formed part of the charter, the covenant, the binding agreement
between God and Israel . Israel
Now with the renewed
around him, Jesus gave his own version of the same thing. And a radical version
it is. It is an up side down code, or perhaps Jesus might add, a right-way up
code instead of the up side down one people have been following. God is doing
something new, as Jesus emphasized in the synagogue at Israel . Nazareth
Did the disciples understand what Jesus was saying? If not then, they eventually would. Did the crowd understand that Jesus was leveling the playing field for all who would put their trust in Him? Probably not. Do we?
Why is the heart so important? Throughout the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, the heart is the key to understanding and responding to God who is love. God can be in our mind (thoughts) and on our lips, but if He is not in our hearts, we deceive ourselves in believing that we are united to Him.
“Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16.7). The word of God addressed to the heart demands action. In order for conversion to take place, that is choosing to take the path to God, one must first hear the Word.
Not all do. Not all did that day at the foot of the mountain. As Jeremiah says, there are two directions of the heart: one towards God and the other away from him. Living the Word in deed is a blessing. It is a means of being united with God. Whereas refusal or rejection of the Word is a denial of God’s commandments, a denial Jesus warns against.
The woes here are not merely of sorrow, but a warning that those who prize the vices listed here are liable to the utmost misery. As Jeremiah says: “The Lord tests the mind, and searches the heart to give to all according to their wages, according to the fruits of their doings.”
Why, then, would one not chose the promises over the warnings? That is a good question.
The answer can only be that they have not truly heard the Word of God. The Word of God has not resonated with them. Thus, their heart has not been moved to conversion. They have not been convicted of their sin. There is no contrition, no sorrow for their sin. Their heart does not belong to God.
They prefer instead to live their lives up side down or we might say at cross-purposes to God’s right-way up. Life is in the here and now and they mean to make the best of it. Their hope, if you will, is in something other than God in Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Contrast that with the assurances of
that Jesus Christ risen from the dead is our Hope, our Blessing, and our way to
the kingdom. Those who hear His words and take them to heart are the ones who
are truly blessed in this life and in the life to come. AMEN+ St. Paul