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09.24.17 Blessing in the Big Picture Luke 6:20-28 Sermon Summary

by on September 25, 2017

Even though James is one of the least distinctively Christian books in the New Testament, it strongly agrees with Jesus about the rich.

Summary Points

  • Summary of last two weeks
  • God’s Kingdom as inversion of this world
  • The rich and the poor have different experiences of this inversion
  • Looking to the end to see how the inversion is good news for the rich also

The last two weeks we’ve been looking at the idea of blessing. We saw that God blesses us in order for us to bless others, like the Jordan River which gives life to the Sea of Galilee by passing through it. The two parts of a blessing are the gift we receive from God and the way we use it to give life to others. We also saw that we know we are a blessing to others when we give them reason to be thankful.

To conclude this mini-series on blessing, I want to consider where we look for blessings and the power to pass them on to others.

It’s often said that God’s Kingdom is an inversion of this world. That’s why Jesus’ parables so often surprise and challenge us. When he says, “the Kingdom of God is like . . .” the end is little like what we know the kingdom of the world to be like.

In his first sermon, Jesus already begins to turn the world upside down. He quotes Isaiah and claims that he has been anointed to “proclaim good news to the poor, and freedom for the oppressed.” Good news to them may not be good news for others. What about those who benefit from the poverty and oppression of others? It is harder for them to recognize Jesus’ proclamation as good news. It may feel like bad news; inconvenient news.

The Kingdom as inversion feels good for those who are on the bottom. But not so much for those on top. James predicts it will be miserable. For people on the top, their treasures will rot away and their fine clothes will be eaten by moths. The victims of injustice will cry out to God who will finally hear them. The inversion of God’s Kingdom will reveal that our high living has simply fattened us for our slaughter.

At this point we may agree with Luther who didn’t find much of value in the book of James. And we may look to Jesus the Savior for a word of comfort. But what we’ll find is Jesus proclaiming “woe” to the rich, for they have received their consolation. And to the satisfied, for they will be hungry. And upon those who laugh now, for they will mourn and weep. This good news for the poor and oppressed, for the ones on the bottom of society, does not sound so good for the ones on top; not so good for the rich and privileged.

But isn’t Jesus the Savior of all? Shouldn’t good news be good news for everyone—poor and rich? Luke tells us that Jesus is addressing his disciples, most of whom were poor and oppressed, but apparently some were rich and satisfied. How IS the good news good for them?

To see the good news for everyone we have to look at blessing in the big picture. Jesus desires that we live now as we will for eternity, that we live on earth now as we will in heaven. He desires that we live in the present political sphere as we will in God’s kingdom.

The longer we choose NOT to live this way, and the degree to which we don’t, the harder the adjustment will be when we enter God’s Kingdom. Jesus came to show us how to make the adjustment easier. He revealed our destiny, and desires to guide our lives in the meantime, between now and our arrival. He showed us the North Star so we can navigate our lives around it. He showed us the end of the story so we could narrate our lives towards it.

Theologians call this the “eschatological perspective,” living our lives with the end in view. Doing this will make the adjustment easier when this life ends and our life after this one begins.

The greatest obstacle to this way of living is our attachment to this life. It is attachment to our riches and the lifestyle that causes or necessitates the poverty and oppression of others.

In the right-side-up world we hear, “You should never lack for anything. You should never be hungry. You should never be bored but always entertained and laughing.” It tells us, “You should hate your enemies and despise those who wrong you. And you should always retaliate. And let others pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” The right-side-up world has no time for forgiveness, mercy, kindness, or sacrificial generosity. The kingdoms of this world are not concerned with providing a blessing for others.

But in the inverted Kingdom of God, Jesus says, “the measure we give, will be the measure we get back.” How we act determines our reality. If we refuse peace and justice, we will perpetuate conflict. If we refuse to forgive, we bind ourselves to our victimization. If we refuse to love, we’ll soon question God’s love. If we refuse to bless others, we’ll soon question whether God blesses us.

Jesus calls us to live in God’s inverted Kingdom, to be his disciples, those who listen to him. He calls us to be children of the Most High who, like God, are kind to the ungrateful and even the wicked. He makes it easier for us to do this by showing us the end, by placing us in the eschatological horizon of God’s Kingdom. This is the blessing we have received as God’s children, and the blessing we can give to others.

John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us, writes

Our longing for the eternal kindles our imagination to bless. Regardless of how we configure the eternal, the human heart continues to dream of a state of wholeness, a place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of a life’s journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now. (p. 199)

May we who belong to Christ follow his eschatological vision and bless others as we have been blessed. Blessing in the big picture includes us all.

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