On a Level Place
Twelve ministers were on a plane going to a conference in Seattle. When they came into a large storm, they told the flight attendants to tell the pilot that everything would be okay because 12 ministers were on board. Later, one flight attendant returned from the cockpit. “What did the pilot say?” one preacher asked playfully. “He said he was glad to have 12 ministers aboard, but he would rather have four good engines.”
That little story made me smile because I could see the pilot’s point of view. If a minister wants to pray for anything in such a situation as that, probably a good place to start would be for the plane’s engines to keep running smoothly.
Sometime there is a necessity for faith to be down to earth and practical.
It is a bit like the book of James (2:14-16)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
Our witness for Christ is complete only when we engage ourselves in the lives of others and work to make a practical difference.
In our text we see Jesus coming down from a mountain after spending time in prayer. He picks those who would be his disciples, and then we are told, “Luke 6:17 “He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.”
People came from all over Judea, and Jerusalem. Some came from as far away as Northwest above Galilee, from Tyre and Sidon; along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There were men, women, and children; Jew and probably Gentile.
They came because Jesus reputation as a healer and teacher was beginning to spread, and the way the story is told Jesus met them there on that level place. He didn’t stay high up on the mountain top, but rather Jesus journeyed down the hill and among the crowd.
Have you ever been in a crowd of people? Sometimes you can’t even see around because of people being in the way. You can’t get to where you want to go and if something happens at a short distance you might never know it. The scripture pictures Jesus in the midst of the people and close to their needs, hurts, and fears. He was at hands reach of their illnesses and diseases. Right next to every hungry and hurting soul.
It is there that Jesus turned to his disciples and with every bit of bread shared among them said, “Blessed are the hungry because you shall be made full.” With every tear shed out of pain and the joy of seeing a loved one healed, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for you will laugh.” With every tattered bit of clothes hanging on a person who had hardly a place to live and yet in that moment of community Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor for yours is the kingdom of God.”
That day through Jesus God was offering people hope and the promise of restoration. Those lacking so much in this life were now to realize God’s favor. As Jesus was healing and teaching, this was already taking place.
His words here are obviously like the beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, but the context is more down to earth. Where Matthew say things like Blessed are the poor in Spirit… Luke simply says blessed are the poor. Matthew says, blessed are the those who hunger and thirst of righteousness… Luke says blessed are the hungry. There is a greater physicality in Luke’s gospel. The sayings are less prone toward simply being spiritualized. I think this is intentional. Luke wants us down on that level place with everyone around us. There is a necessity for the Christian witness to be active in real life.
Also, Luke does something that Matthew does not at this point. He turns from blessings to Woes. The reverse of the sayings is added. This also serves to make the story real and God’s call upon us harder to ignore.
Woe to the rich, the well off, those who laugh, and those who are admired by all; to those who are the in-crowd, Jesus says woe to you, for you have gotten all that you are going to get, the road to success has become a dead end.
Now we have not just a nice encounter of Jesus with a crowd of people, but we encounter a disturbing thought for ourselves; if we think about it.
Maybe I can and want to put myself amidst the blessings, but do I belong in the woes? I mean I might not be as rich as some, but I am not a bad off as others. (houses) I might not eat the finest foods every day, but I am far from hungry, (Internet: Aspen Lunch Tab for over $27,000 17,000 was for spraying champaign on one another) (Tap House fish dinner) and I know at least as much about joy and laughter as I do about sadness and loss. (Medical Diagnosis; loss of loved ones vs children and grandchild)
Suddenly my world is being pulled by Jesus words between two points –A world of need and a work of greed, and I can’t ignore my desire and hope to be blessed, and my fear that I have already gotten my fill. Where does that put me in this life? I think this tension is intentional.
If you noticed, we were told that Jesus turned and spoke these words to his disciples. These words while being prophesy and the announcement of God’s hope, being fulfilled in this life among the people; they are also a teaching moment for us who would follow Jesus.
Down on the level plain, among the people of our world, with the needs, hurts and fears of others, how are we to relate? Are we not challenged to be more than just self-satisfied?
Are we not compelled to put what we have to use in helping God’s work become a reality in the lives of others? Who will share God’s presence and love with those who have nothing? Who will feed the hungry and comfort those who mourn? Who will invite those with very little to share in God’s work and will within this world?
Jesus words compel us to make these concerns our own. However, it is not a matter of duty or even an obligation of service. We cannot earn our way into to heaven. It is not about helping and healing because we can, but it is about doing because we can do no other. It is an issue of whether or not our hearts really care.
I can put a dollar in the salvation army kettle at Christmas time because I can, but I tend to say yes when someone ask me for help because I feel I can do no other. It is the same reason why I became a minister to begin with. Because I felt I could do no other. As Christians, we belong down on the level ground. It is the place where God is, and ministry happens. We rejoice in the blessings for those without and at the same time we must feel the woes.
One preacher put it this way our call is not to make a difference in the world, but to make a different world. The question is how well do we see the needs of others rather than our own? Are we able to see the physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational needs of those around us, and if so, are we striving to bring God’s word and blessing to one another?
Jesus stepped down into the crowds and embraced the people. He blessed them with God’s favor and challenged his disciples with a word of woe upon the self-satisfied life.
We likewise must use our hearts, minds and enthusiasm, and follow God into sharing in life with others. When we do then we shall be blessed. Amen.