Who do we trust? This year there will be a federal election, and I’m pretty sure all those standing in that election will be telling us that they can be trusted.
You’ll be relieved to know I’m not going to suggest which politicians can or can’t be trusted, but I’ll just point out to you the lesson of the prophet Jeremiah in the reading today. If you put your trust in human beings you may well be let down. Trust in God.
Trust in God sounds easy, maybe even a bit glib, but today’s gospel should remind us that trust in the word of God, in Jesus, may well involve many of us being challenged and confronted.
The gospel today is called Luke’s "Sermon on the Plain." While it is similar to Matthew’s more often quoted "Sermon on the Mount," there are obvious differences.
Luke’s sermon is much like Matthew’s as it begins with Beatitudes. But it is shorter, containing only four, while Matthew’s Beatitudes number eight. However Luke adds four "woes" that stand in contrast to his Beatitudes. He is suggesting that there is going to be a great reversal when God comes to set things right. A few weeks ago, the gospel reading was the beginning of Jesus public ministry, when he preached in the synagogue. He quoted the prophet Isaiah. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… to bring glad tidings to the poor… proclaim liberty to captives...." Jesus was initiating and proclaiming a great reversal, something the prophets promised God would do when the Messiah came.
And so today we hear that, after praying on the mountain Jesus comes down to begin God’s work of reversal, and introduce the kingdom of God.
Question for us. Who are the poor in our world, the hungry, those who weep, are insulted and locked out? They have little, while the rich seem to have everything. Who are those without power? In Jesus time, as also today, there were many who lived from day to day without the security of savings or property, there were those who were homeless, those suffering from disability without support, there were many who couldn’t find secure work, many who were despised by the rich and powerful. That was in Jesus day, and he tells us that, in the great reversal that he preaches, they are the ones who are welcome in the kingdom of God. Luke’s Jesus is very straightforward and focused upon what is important and what is not. He shows, in light of God’s coming reign, that what society values – the possessions and powers of the rich, the influence, fame and prestige of celebrities - are worthless. The gospel challenges us to honestly examine what are our priorities. What we treasure says much about who we are.
Luke’s language is blunt and uncompromising. The "woes" point to our excesses, materialism and pleasure seeking. This should challenge many of us. Do we have changes to make, which may require sacrifice and pain? We are called to live lives Jesus describes, lives turned to others. Such lives require: the poverty of sharing; the hunger for justice; the weeping with the downcast and a willingness to suffer for our kinship with the Son of Man.
Luke’s Gospel is a gospel of paradox. In Luke we find an upside down world. In the light of this Gospel, everything has to be looked at from a different perspective. This Gospel, and particularly this passage, confronts us with challenge; how do we view ourselves and others? What is the standard by which we measure who and what truly count? Who really are the important, the worthwhile people, who really are the trivial and worthless? What seems like "common sense" and "practical" to us, is seen as disastrous logic when viewed through the eyes of the Gospel. What we consider objects of the good life to be striven for, are challenged in a Gospel that calls those who are poor, hungry and weeping – blessed. While telling the rich, the full and those laughing that they are cursed. To put our trust in anyone or anything other than God and the hope held out for us in Jesus, is to court disaster.
At our worship today we have come to Jesus. We come looking for him because we know that we need a better world, that we are called to conversion. We hope to hear from him about an alternative way of seeing and living our lives. We want more integrity, to live in ways that promote the dignity of all people and that will bring justice and happiness into our lives. Just as Jesus saw the disciples and blessed them, so he blesses us who have come to him searching for the happiness of those who accept the Kingdom of God.