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02.17.19 Christian Roots and Fruits Psalm 1 Luke 6 Sermon Summary

by on February 20, 2019

Psalm 1 was placed at the beginning of the book to guide us in how to read the rest of the psalms. It lays out two paths in life, the righteous one and the sinful one. Like other “wisdom literature,” it uses metaphors from nature to teach. In this case, the righteous are like fruitful trees and the wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away.

In wisdom literature, the advice on living is often simple, but sometimes simplistic. Jesus was a wisdom teacher, but he was one who respected the complexities of life. For Jesus, there are not just two simple ways through life. Indeed, there are many ways to follow Jesus.

While Jesus occasionally drives people away, like the Rich Man to whom he said, “you must sell all you have and give to the poor,” (Luke 18:18ff) or the crowd to which he said, “you must partake of my body and blood,” (John 6:53ff) most of the time he lets people follow him for their own reasons, at their own pace, or not at all.

Something I’ve learned over the years as a pastor and as I read the Gospels is that not everyone comes to Jesus to be a disciple. And not everyone who comes to Jesus becomes a disciple. And this seems to be OK with him.

We get a picture of this from Luke’s “sermon on the plains.” Jesus has spent the night in prayer to discern whom to appoint as apostles, that is, “sent ones,” from among his disciples. Returning then to active ministry, Luke describes the Twelve Apostles, a great crowd of disciples, and a great multitude of people.

The great multitude came to Jesus, some to hear him, some to be healed of diseases, and some to settle troubling spirits. These may sound familiar to you, because on Sunday and throughout the week people come to the church, the visible manifestation of Jesus, for all these same reasons.

Luke has good news for all of them. No matter why you come to Jesus, whether as multitude, disciple, or apostle, Luke reports that Jesus healed them all. Perhaps Luke is making a spiritual statement here, that healing occurs in the presence of God, and that letting Jesus into your life brings healing.

Regardless, Luke seems to suggest there’s room on the path of Jesus for a lot of people to come for whatever reason they come. There’s room for me and you.

But there is also a distinction, for in the midst of this multitude, “Jesus looked up at his disciples,” Luke says, and begins to teach. The sayings that follow are for disciples. “Blessed” are the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the hated. And “woe” is pronounced upon the rich, the satisfied, the rejoicing, and those well-spoken of.

Apparently even among the disciples there is great variety. Some are poor, others rich. Some are hungry, others full. Some are mourning, others are celebrating. Some are persecuted, others popular.

Some interpreters say Jesus is speaking of the afterlife here, of a great reversal of fortunes in a last judgment. Maybe. Or maybe Jesus is simply revealing reality: A present reality we easily overlook and that is also real in the future.

Jesus’ term for this reality is the “Kingdom of God.” And it is no less real for Jesus in this life than it is in the future. So Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor for theirs IS the Kingdom of God,” and “Blessed are those who hunger now for they WILL be filled.”

This is the reality of the Kingdom of God, and is it not ALSO reality that the rich will experience woe? For riches do not ultimately satisfy us. Ask most people, even the rich, “How much money would it take for you to be happy?” And the answer is always the same: “Just a little bit more.”

And the same is true with the satisfied, the celebrating, and well-spoken of. Woe is coming in this life and in the future, for these happy circumstances are rooted in happenstance and are not the enduring blessings of the Kingdom.

Luke has given us all good news, whether we are part of the multitude who came to hear, be healed, or with troubled spirits, or among the disciples who may be poor or rich, sad or happy. No matter what our circumstances, the Kingdom of God has already come in Christ and will ultimately prevail over our circumstances. Luke wants to teach us that we can orient our lives around this truth and experience blessing.

Jesus surely knew Psalm 1 with its stark, binary contrast: The righteous who meditate on the law on one side and the sinners who follow the wicked on the other. Jesus also sees these two ways, but he sees a larger picture and takes a longer view.

We might combine Psalm 1 and Jesus’ teaching into a “law of returns”: Whatever you return to IN your life will determine the returns ON your life.

If you return to Jesus again and again, first for healing, perhaps, or to comfort a troubled spirit, eventually the returns on your life will be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But if you return to riches again and again, the return on your life will be woe.

Just as many came to Jesus with a variety of needs, so we come to his Table with a variety of needs. We come to be reminded that we live by bread, but not by bread alone. We come to be reminded that wine gladdens the human heart, but that it is just a foretaste of divine presence.

We come to be reminded that we may come to Jesus for whatever reason, by whatever cause, trusting him to provide for our needs, over and over, with more and more of our lives.

And we come to be reminded that we may return again and again, rooting our lives in Christ, finding our way blessed, until we reach that final Kingdom like that tree planted by streams of water, eventually bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

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