Luke 6:17-38, Feb. 24, 2019, Rev. Karen Bowles
Most weeks the clergy here don their gowns for this time of worship. And why? Because it signals that this is a time that is different in each week. If I showed up at the supermarket or the theatre dressed like this I might be met with raised eyebrows. But here it seems right. Why do we gown?
Well for me – it is to signal the importance of this time set aside – time for affirming the necessity of finding time for the Spirit – the careful preparations made in choosing scripture passages and songs, in preparing prayer and writing sermons – all for allowing, for permitting, for recognizing, the need for the Spirit in each of our lives. When the choir sings – do you feel it – the spirit moving to fill the space between us. When the silence permeates prayer and makes it pregnant with the presence of the spirit – do you feel it? – the Spirit close as your heartbeat and breath.
And just as we provide permission, invite participation for the spirit to move us in this time of worship – so too is Jesus doing the same on the plain at the foot of the mountain. He is preaching faithful living. And this is not faithful to a set of rules or laws – God knows they had a ton of those in Jesus day. Rules around ritual purity and marriage and lineage and roles – rules about who was in and who was out – dictated mostly by the perceived need to maintain a homogenous group – the tribe.
No Jesus throws down the gauntlet – kind of his version of the mic drop. He takes our inclination to be compassionate toward those we love, those in our families, those who look like us – and challenges us to build a much larger house – one that leaves no one out. And more than that – he claims such deliberate and extravagant acts are the prescription for a poverty of spirit – giving to those who have stolen from you – praying sincerely for those who have treated you wrong – forget Mosaic law he is saying – an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth – live out of abundance not scarcity. That is faithful living to Jesus – living into faith.
And what is this faith about? Accessing the Spirit within, between and among you – this that Jesus knows intimately – he invites you to experience with him. Not because of him – except insofar as he is the teacher – but with him. What Jesus could not have known intellectually was that he was describing what science keeps uncovering – the connection of all to all without exception. And not only the connection but effect of all on all. Your reaction to the actions of another can perpetuate a paucity of spirit or provide an injection of spirit and where the spirit moves – that other’s reaction moving forward might change – might transform.
The first reading described the situation
The second reading – the prescription to alleviate that situation
The first reading held the hope for those whose Spirits can see abundance in the middle of scarcity and the warning to those who can see only scarcity in the midst of abundance.
The second reading – the prescription to remedy spiritual poverty.
The first reading comforts those afflicted and admonishes those who have forgotten their own affliction.
The second the prescription for every individual to uncover/recover their spiritual strength by remembering who they are – beloved of God – and that remembering extends to the community and one another when we act out of love without exception – love of enemies, love of those who would hurt us – love of those who seem strange to our own culture and tribe.
‘To you who are ready for the truth, listen,’ Jesus says then and now.
Just as we connect to our bodies and our minds with doing and learning so too we need to connect to our Spirit, to gain spiritual strength and grow spiritual power.
So gowned, we steal away to Jesus. In our Sunday go to meeting clothes, we steal away to Jesus. Forever in blue jeans, we steal away to Jesus – we set aside this time in our week to access, revel and joy in the Spirit between, within and among us so that we may become increasingly better equipped for faithful living in the week ahead.
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life;
Such a Way as gives us breath,
Such a Truth as ends all strife,
Such a Life as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength;
Such a Light as shows a Feast,
Such a Feast as mends in length,
Such a Strength as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart;
Such a Joy as none can move,
Such a Love as none can part,
Such a Heart as joys in love
We steal away to Jesus – yet again.