Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

First Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-10

5Thus says the Lord:
 Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
  and make mere flesh their strength,
  whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
6They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
  and shall not see when relief comes.
 They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
  in an uninhabited salt land.

7Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
  whose trust is the Lord.
8They shall be like a tree planted by water,
  sending out its roots by the stream.
 It shall not fear when heat comes,
  and its leaves shall stay green;
 in the year of drought it is not anxious,
  and it does not cease to bear fruit.

9The heart is devious above all else;
  it is perverse—
  who can understand it?
10I the Lord test the mind
  and search the heart,
 to give to all according to their ways,
  according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm: Psalm 1

1Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
  nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
  and they meditate on God’s teaching day and night. 
3They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due       season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall        prosper.
4It is not so with the wicked;
  they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,
  nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
  but the way of the wicked shall be destroyed. 

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
  20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel: Luke 6:17-26

17[Jesus] came down with [the twelve] 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.18They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
  20Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
 “Blessed are you who are poor,
  for yours is the kingdom of God.
21“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
  for you will be filled.
 “Blessed are you who weep now,
  for you will laugh.
  22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich,
  for you have received your consolation.
25“Woe to you who are full now,
  for you will be hungry.
 “Woe to you who are laughing now,
  for you will mourn and weep.
  26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  {I’m hoping the person preaching could bring a level for the children’s sermon.}  If I am correct, a level is like a 2 by 4 piece of wood.  Looks ordinary but when you look closely, there is a glass tube embedded in the middle of the board and in the middle of the glass tube is a bubble of oil or perhaps mercury – not dissimilar to a thermometer.  This bubble can move up and down as you tilt the board.

         What is this board used for?  (you put it on a surface like a wall being built to tell if the bricks are parallel to the ground.}

         If the bubble floats to either end of the tube, what does it mean?  (The wall is not level and will eventually crumble)

         If we had a level we could put it on the altar rail and see if it were level.  We could hold out our arm and balance the level on it and see if we could hold our arm level, exactly parallel to the ground.  Our eyes and our senses are not always the best feedback.  In fact when you loose your sense of balance because of medical problems, it is very dangerous because you might fall.  We know because my husband has poor balance.

Keeping our balance and building a level house is a good challenge!

Let us pray:  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock, my Redeemer and my Level.


We come to Epiphany 6 today.  We are nearing the end of the Epiphany season and beginning to make Lent plans.  But let us not jump ahead before we experience a few more “Ah ha” moments God might have for us.

  • On Epiphany 1 we remembered that our God comes to us.  We do not have to climb up to him with our good deeds. We are baptized into him! 
  • On Epiphany 2 we saw Jesus at ordinary places like weddings, using ordinary elements like water, and his timing is always right.
  • On Epiphany 3 Jesus brought Good News that he has freedom for the prisoner and the oppressed and recovery of sight for the blind.  We live in the year of the Lord’s favor – Now.
  • On Epiphany 4 we saw that we are not forced to accept God’s way as  many objected to Jesus.
  • Then last week on Epiphany 5 Jesus belled the Cat of fear of not enough, of failure and of our past.

So what more does Luke want to add to our understanding of God incarnate?

          Our text for today is very similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.  But Luke places Jesus on the plain, at a level place. Jesus has been moving south.  Luke looks at blessings but he also mentions woes.  I consider this a different sermon than Matthew’s and not just a different report by a different reporter.  How does our gospel today “level” the playing field? We are being challenged to see past the filters of our world and see through God’s eyes.  I think our text is not unlike a carpenter’s level that gives us a way to understand our lives and when that little bubble of oil is off center.  It is then we are reminded to reflect on how we are building our lives.

Crowds: “healing them all”

“Power was coming from him and healing them all.”  Our context is a plain, a level place, and people from various cities like Jerusalem, Type and Sidon and from various areas around Judea and from coastal areas gather to hear and to be healed.  Last week Jesus climbed in a boat and preached, allowing all to come to him.  This week Luke reports not only were all allowed to come but that power was flowing from Jesus and all the people that came were healed.  That’s a lot of power.  Illness of the body and illness of the soul as well as exorcisms occurred.  All were healed.

         Let’s think about that.  Jesus did not just heal the Pentecostals who pray so emotionally nor did he just heal the Lutherans or the Catholics or the poor who could not afford to visit a doctor nor the educated who could understand.  God’s power was available for all and flowed in ways we do not understand nor can we control. 

         It is not just the Christians who get better.  God can choose to work within Islam, with Hindus or in prisons or on streets with addicts.  This is shocking information.  God is not racist or prejudice.  His sun shines on all, not because they are good or believe but because God is good.  The passage does not indicate that he demanded faith and certainly did not check their tithe record or their communion record.  Yet again we are confronted with the boxes we put around God and the ways we think he should act. 

         Our text starts with grace … grace for all.  That’s where our journey starts, with grace, God’s grace.  Last week we were in the crowds pushing to get close to Jesus.  Today we stand in the presence of a Savior who has power to deal with all our problems, diseases and challenges.  I don’t understand how that works but I know the bottom line is that God has power for even you and me.  We do not have to wait for our theology to be right, for our life to get cleaned up, or for social acceptance.  Jesus has power that can work in our lives. We only need to come to him.  All are welcome.


Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those weeping, and those hated for his sake.  Jesus talks about four categories of distress that affects all of his creation.  The “blesseds” level the focus of God’s actions.

         Matthew says it this way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  Luke just says, “Blessed are the poor.”  We all have days when we feel poor, when the resources at hand do not meet the needs banging on our door.  If we listen to the evening news about the court cases against the famous and powerful, we know they too are scrambling.  When I hear about world leaders trying to figure out negotiations for Ukraine, or about those facing starvation in Afghanistan or Africa, I know that being “poor” is a universal condition.  My “poor” may be the despair at facing the diseases of age that rob me of my abilities and dignity, or my “poor” may be the feeling of inadequacy in the dating game or corporate hierarchy but “poor” is what we feel. 

         When we feel “poor” we cry out for help…from the USA, from government, from courts, and ultimately from God.  The power to heal all problems flows from Jesus.  As we turn to him we become inheritors of the kingdom of God with an eternal inheritance that is being kept safe in a place where moth and rust and inflation cannot diminish it.  We are humbled and brought level with other person who may be having a bad day too!

         “Blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied.”  To be alive is to be hungry physically.  All people hunger.  But I suspect Jesus is talking about that hollow feeling in our gut that feels like existential hunger.  Hunger for love, for acceptance, for inclusion, and for respect–common to all people.  Hunger, physical and emotional is true of all people.  I am a product of the United States and have been blessed with opportunities for education, for employment, with access to multiple stores and food shelves.  I may get hungry but I usually have access to resources.  I have also lived in a famine relief camp in the desert in Kenya surrounded by 5,000 starving people where the only thing on the shop’s shelf was a block of lard or a small package of salt.  Children tossed around the dead bodies of their baby goats that died the night before.  In that poverty I found generosity, love and laughter. 

         One of my most touching moments was when I was hiding my last cup of sugar for my son’s birthday cake when a friend came to the door.  I sighed and started to offer her half of mine when she shhhh-ed me and said to come to her house at 4 pm as she had gotten some sugar and wanted to share with me!  She thought of me.  We all hunger regardless of economic class and we all love.

         Weeping, I suspect that we all know what it is to close the door of our life and weep.  Sorrow levels the human experience for we all sorrow.  Disappointment and death come to us all.  It is at those moments that we have the opportunity to have a good cry and wail out our grief to a God who is always listening.  I love Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  Sorrow always seems like it will last forever but in fact, the clock keeps ticking and gradually we regain our equilibrium and we are surprised and laugh.  Perhaps we open a scrapbook and review those good moments so that when we feel down we remember the issue will pass.  Perhaps we turn on music or read a good book.  Perhaps the phone rings or a friend comes by.  We all weep and hopefully we all have moments of laughter and gratitude.

         Similarly, Luke points out the problem of hatred that is experienced by people who represent Jesus.  I note the hatred he is talking about is not the hatred for the mistakes we make, the unkind words that pop out of our mouths, or for our ignorance.  Jesus is talking about the persecution that comes from representing him.  For most Americans today persecution is not a problem but for many in our world, they pay a price for their faith.  The price we pay may not be in the overt hatred but our faith hopefully sets a standard in our lives that makes us different.  We may refuse to lie on income tax.  We may refuse to barhop on Friday night.  We may have standards that are considered culturally ridiculous and we feel the pressure from friends.  Jesus encourages us to look at the bigger picture and not just the moment.  The prophets of old were hated.  Christians in minority places are hated.  Taking flack for our faith happens to all and is possible for everyone regardless.  We are not being picked on by life but are standing in solidarity with the saints.

         Luke shares Jesus’ words, “Blessed” are the poor, the hungry, those weeping, and those hated for his sake.   Those feelings characterize all of humanity and level us before his love and with each other.  We are not wrong to feel poor for indeed problems are often bigger than resources but we look at our spiritual level and if  we are “half a bubble off level,”  as my sister in New York shared that people say, then we know we need to turn to God and get that bubble back to level so we deal with poverty, hunger, sorrow and hatred as God would have us do.  It does not change the problem but it does change our awareness of our resources.  We do not want to be “half a bubble off level.” 

“Woe to…”

         Jesus continues to talk of the woes that come to all people.  Again, woes level life for we all have trouble, even the rich, the healthy, and the talented.  I notice, though, that the woes are the blessings reversed. 

  • The poor can look forward to the kingdom of God where they will be rewarded.  But those who are rich have already tasted consolation, will find themselves with those poor people who they worked so hard to get ahead of.  Perhaps the question to ask is if their satisfaction and worldly wealth numbs their realization of their need for God.  The woe is not the wealth but when that wealth leads to a poverty towards God.  We must ask ourselves if we are in danger of complacency because we are so blessed?
  • The hungry will be filled but the filled will be hungry.  Contentment is a fleeting sensation unless that contentment is focused on eternal satisfaction.  Again, the woe is not the hunger but that our appetites can distract us from living water, from Jesus. As Matthew writes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
  • The weepers will laugh and those who laugh will weep.  We have good days with ups but that can change in an instant with a phone call, a careless driver, or even an email.   The verse challenges us to reflect on what brings us true joy.  Are we laughing with or laughing at?  Are we mocking or truly enjoying.  James reminds us to “Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know the testing of our faith produces….” maturity. God is available to anyone who needs wisdom.

The rich, the well fed, those who laugh, and those who are so well spoken of  need to realize that those blessings can easily turn to woes because their good days can reverse at a moment.  That is true for all of us.  The Gospel levels us for it is true not only for those who are blessed but also for those who “are half a bubble off level.”  The only way to level is always to refocus on Jesus.

         So where does this leave us today?  The level is not a tool that is just there at the final inspection of the building.  The level is a tool used continually as the building is being built to let the builder known that all is going well.  When we struggle with poverty, hunger, sorrow and hate received for our faith, emotions that are common to all people, we are reminded to check that bubble in our level and make sure we are not “half a bubble off level.”  The foot of the cross is level.  The question is whether our challenges are focusing us on our efforts, successes and failures, or drawing us to Jesus.  The prophet Isaiah put it this way as he prophesized.

Isaiah 40:3-5

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Thank you Lord for leveling the rough places in my life when I feel poor, hungry, sad and hated because of you.  Help me to trust your hand working in my life!

And the people of God said, “AMEN!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: