Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
17 February 2019
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We really should have expected this from a god who gets himself born to an unwed mother.
“Blessed are you who are poor … woe to you who are rich …
Blessed are you who are hungry now … woe to you who are full now …”
What is this bleeding-heart left-wing nonsense that they are reading in churches all over the world today?
Oh? It is Jesus! Really?
I do not like him saying things like that. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
Read my lips, says Jesus.
It has been very so tempting to stop right there and go back to my seat …
More than enough for us to work on during the week?
As I reflect on the Beatitudes in Luke a few things strike me:
Luke’s version is usually seen as closer to what Jesus would have actually said.
Luke’s version moves from speaking about “them” to addressing us (“you”). We have moved from ideas to praxis, from theory to real life.
Luke’s version is more confronting for people like us.
We are not poor, for the most part …
We are not hungry now, or really ever …
We do not have much reason to be sad, and the things that should make us weep we mostly ignore …
We rarely have people saying seriously bad stuff about us …
On the other hand …
We are rich, compared to most people alive in the world now and almost everyone else in human history …
We are so full so much of the time that we have health issues from over-consumption …
We love to laugh and be entertained, and we prefer politicians who promise to keep us safe from scary people and nasty situations … even when we know they are lying
We mostly are people about whom others speak well …
We are respectable, comfortable, nice and good people.
We are Anglicans.
We are Cathedral people!
Jesus according to Luke
You may recall that this is the Year of Luke, and we are paying special attention to Luke’s way of talking about Jesus this year.
As we noticed in the Dean’s Forum a couple of weeks back, Luke wrote for people like us: nice people with comfortable lives and some degree of social status.
Yet Luke preserves the prophetic words of Jesus in a form that disturbs us and make us uncomfortable.
Were Jesus standing for parliament most of us would not vote for him.
He would raise our taxes and spend the funds on assistance to the poor.
And he wants our vote?
No, Jesus does not want our vote. It is much worse than that. Jesus wants our whole being: our hearts, our minds, our assets and our souls.
He is no politician.
Jesus is far more dangerous than a politician.
In recent Australian politics we have experienced the famous “captain’s pick” on more than one occasion.
God makes captain’s picks as well, but she does it differently.
God chooses the poor, the widows, the orphans, the overlooked younger sibling, the refugees and the asylum seekers, the collaborators (“tax collectors”) and the women with reputations (“the sinners”).
Phew! That gives us all a chance …
That is why the priest says each Sunday as we are called to the Table of Jesus:
The gifts of God for the people of God.
Holy things for holy people.
Broken things for broken people.
We are all people with some form of brokenness in our lives: sometimes that brokenness is visible but most of the time it is invisible.
But the God who subverts calls us (yes, us) to be agents of change and communities of reconciliation.
The victory song that Luke puts on the lips of Mary in his carefully crafted account of the conception and birth of Jesus captures the essence of the Holy Rebel from Nazareth:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
(Luke 1:46–53 NRSV)
Christians who really believe these words change the world … starting with Grafton.