Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church faith//hope//love

  • A short(ish) sermon on Luke 6

    Luke 6: 1 – 11

    This is one of the reasons I stuck with the church, even thought there are more reasons to leave the church than stay in it. The reason I stayed is because of Jesus. One of my children calls me Jesus boy, and that’s because I am. It’s him.

    In these two chapters is almost everything I love about him. For me Jesus breaks down the institutions, the expectations, the conformities, the hierarchies, all those powers that are used to control us. And are used on a national (or even global scale), as well as personally, at work, at college, in the church, at the club … in our own families.

    With grace, patience, and determination Jesus spends his ministry disassembling the powers that would control and destroy us. This is what upsets me most about people who don’t understand the church. They think its about frocks and candles and ‘don’t’. But they have somehow missed this revolutionary, subversive, upsidedownness that Jesus brings. Mary sang of it, with the low lifted high and the high brought down, and Jesus started making it happen. This glorious, subversive, explosion of life!

    The Sabbath laws were quite tight, you couldn’t work, but there was a whole load of interpretation of what that meant. The laws were originally meant to protect people. To ensure they rested, to give them freedom to recreate, to show that there was more to life than work, work, work. But the rule had become an oppressor in itself. Rather than be an opportunity to do, it had become and instruction to do not. But human need comes before the rules. Faith is not meant to cause suffering, but to bring life. In the incident with the healing Jesus makes it clear that the Sabbath is about healing, not harm.

    What is disturbing is how, after this miracle where someone is made well, the response isn’t one of joy, it is rage, and the beginnings of the plotting against Jesus that will eventually end with him on the cross.

    So what about us? It’s easy for the church today to say ‘that was the Pharisees, law bound religious types, thank God we’re not like them, sinners and oppressors’. But the Pharisees weren’t the arch enemies of the church of that time. They were the respected and keen people. The ones who knew their stuff, who’d been faithful followers of God. To upset them would be to challenge the pillars of the church.

    And yet that’s what Jesus did, most of his strongest comments are reserved for those who were key people in the church. We’re not so immune. The question we face, as we look at this side of Jesus, who do we stand with?

    If you've stayed this far, read on Luke 6: 20 – 23 and Luke 6: 24 - 26

    Jesus subverts what everyone expects, you poor people, you’re the blessed ones. That goes against all the readings you’ve heard where God appears to promise wealth to those who follow him, it goes against the evil of the health and wealth gospel still preached by some Christians today.

    Blessed are you poor, you have a far greater wealth, without even knowing it. It is offensive to use this text to keep people in their place or to water it down, because it is saying that true wealth, God’s kingdom, is owned by those who have nothing. And you can do whatever wriggling you like, but the line Jesus seems to consistently take is that ‘stuff’, wealth, money are barriers to the kingdom, rather than blessings.

    But woe to you who are rich, you’ve already had our comfort. There is great injustice in our world, the north grows fat whilst the south goes without. God’s priority is for those who go hungry, in the end it is they who will be satisfied, not us. The rich have had their turn, the queue has turned around and those who are last find themselves at the front.

    Blessed are you who weep now, for you will find happiness. Some people are dogged by evil, or misfortune or suffering. They are the ones God notices first. It’s easy to say it’s their own fault, and perhaps every now and then it is, but we don’t know what has made them like that or brought them to that point. God does, and through him they will find happiness.

    But woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. I don’t think Jesus is against laughter, he seems to have had some fun himself. But if it’s cruel, or at the expense of others, or in denial of those who suffer and weep, then you’ve had it. Because it’s all a laugh, ignore those bits that are uncomfortable, or we don’t want to see, don’t really ask how anyone is, just make a little joke and move on, laugh loud enough and you won’t hear the cries of others.

    Life is for living, but not in isolation from, or at the expense of others. To turn off the cries of those in need is to turn off our own hearts.

    Blessed are you when people hate you and woe to you when everyone speaks well of you. In an age of celebrity, where popularity is the key, Jesus says, don’t get caught down that road.

    This chapter, the sermon on the plain as it is sometimes called, is beautiful. It subverts everything, it says no to illness, to evil, to institutions, it is the great NO to all that opposes and oppresses.

    No wonder they wanted him dead.

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Neil

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Welcome to the blog

Neil (the minister) occasionally gets round to blogging so welcome to the trivia and ramblings of an erratic stream of consciousness.

Because we try to be properly Baptist, these views aren't necessarily the views of everyone who is part of the church family here.

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