Very good discussion this Sunday, but, as always, there were things I was hoping to get to that we could not. We were looking at Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. He makes sharp divisions between good and evil and is very clear that the best result, the ultimate end, is the reversal of fortune for those at the top and those at the bottom. One thing we did discuss is that things are not so clear now – and probably weren’t in Luke’s time, either. This forces us to ask who we are in Jesus’ proclamations of blessings and woe and rarely results in easy answers.
The truth is, we likely shift between Luke’s categories all the time. We all experience degrees of poverty and prosperity. It’s less likely that people in Church in the Cliff have experienced true hunger or food insecurity, but it’s possible. I’m certain that many of us have gorged ourselves on food we didn’t need, but enjoyed all the same. Maybe that’s just me. I know that we have all grieved and mourned, whether it was the loss of a relationship or a loved one or a job that brought us to tears. And I know that we laugh.
Because we slide so easily from grief to laughter, it strikes me that one way to read Luke is as a simple description of reality. Not a prediction. Not a judgment. Just an assessment. No matter how good things are going, it can always go bad. For some, it may not be until age and illness overtake us. For some, it’s just some personal tragedy, some minor misfortune, that turns the tide. And, no matter how bad things are going, I know that it can get better. Not without effort and support and even luck, but it can get better. It will get better. Maybe it’s a career change. Maybe it’s a new love. Maybe it’s coming out to your family. Maybe it’s just realizing that we are loved and we are good and we are children of God, but it will get better.
In this light, what might seem like a judgment in Luke is actually message of hope. Things will turn. And in the meantime, as Jesus tells us in the passage following the Sermon on the Plain, the best thing to do is to love our enemies, to return cruelty with kindness. This is how God acts. This is how we should act. This is life in God. This is the reward. This is the means by which the world experiences the Great Reversal. It gets better because we treat each other better. Because we love each other. Because we have compassion. And because we learn to cherish all the moments, the good and the bad, that come with being human.