Have you ever heard of a man named Charles M. Schultz? He wrote a comic strip called Peanuts which has been appearing in daily newspapers since 1950. The main characters in the comic strip are Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and a dog named Snoopy.
Charles Schultz also wrote a lot of books, including one titled “Happiness Is A Warm Blanket.” The book is mostly about a little boy named Linus who carries his cuddly blue blanket with him wherever he goes. Linus carries that blanket to make him feel secure. According to Schultz, “Everyone has things that make them feel secure. “You know what? When we feel secure, we are also happy!
Jesus had something to say about being happy. The passage from Luke 6:17-26 is one of those times. The lesson begins with Jesus surrounded by a huge crowd of people. Have you ever noticed that wherever Jesus went, he drew large crowds of people? Why do you suppose that was? Maybe it was because many of them were sick, crippled, or injured and wanted Jesus to heal them. Perhaps some of them had a troubled mind and they had heard that Jesus was able to cast out demons and evil spirits just by speaking a word. In other words, many people came to Jesus because they had heard what he could do for them. The Bible says that people crowded around Jesus and tried to touch him because power was coming from him and healed them all. Do you think that made the people happy? It sure did!
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Happy are they who have a lot of money “or “Happy are they who have plenty to eat and dine in fancy restaurants.” He didn’t even say, “Happiness is a warm blanket.” What he did say was, “When you follow me, happiness will come. Leap for joy! A great reward awaits you in heaven.”
Jesus’ teachings were radical. They were a window into God’s values and priorities. He blessed those who were poor, who hunger now, who weep, who were hated and excluded. He warned those who were rich, full, happy and popular. Conventional wisdom, then and now, says quite the opposite.
The rules for living that Jesus gives us are revolutionary. Most of us don’t like rules, but at the same time we need and demand rules. For example, imagine how many traffic accidents would happen if we didn’t have traffic rules. These teachings tell us how we must live in order to fulfill Jesus’ mission, which is also our mission. Without these teachings, there is no alternative to our modern society.
The word “blessed” doesn’t mean happiness. Happiness is a gift God bestows on us. We don’t earn God’s blessings. We just need them and God notices. Those who have nothing and those who are weeping will receive God’s favour.
To be blessed means that we have God’s attention. We will never be alone. We are valued and important because God has made us priceless. God stands with the poor when they are used and abused by the rich. This is a reversal of our usual world view. The world blesses the rich and looks down on the poor. God came in the form of Jesus to live among the poor and announce the Good News to them. Woe to those who oppose God’s rule and Jesus’ message. He is firm in His statement that because He came the world as we know it is turned upside-down.
Being poor means more than just being poor financially. It also means being poor spiritually. In that sense, Jesus has come for all of us because we are poor spiritually. The poor are those who recognize that they depend on God. The rich don’t want to commit themselves. They are comfortable with the way things are now.
In Luke’s Gospel, it is clear that only God can align our lives and realities to make us whole and healthy, and to give us a life worth living. In Jesus’ mind, poverty and its accompanying hunger and sadness is powerful because it frees us from maintaining earthly power and control. God’s kingdom is not of this world, so it goes against the world’s view of what is logical or sensible. Poverty is powerful because it strips us of the illusion that power is anything but a temporary thing. Poverty involves a lack of worldly power. For the poor, being without power frees them from the need to maintain human structures of power. They are free to redefine the meaning of power and re-define their ideas of what is healthy, life-affirming and valuable.
The hungry will be blessed because they will be filled. The weeping will be blessed because there is a real chance they will cease being poor. Many of Jesus’ teachings are about how change can take place right now. It includes sharing food and resources, especially as represented by Holy Communion. The blessings are all about possessing the Kingdom of God, of being eternally satisfied in union with God, of experiencing the joy of possessing a reward in Heaven.
The poor, hungry and weeping are in a better position to receive and respond to the Kingdom than those who have security in riches, a stable environment, and personal well-being. They are in a better position to be open to spiritual matters because they are not hindered by material prosperity or self-sufficiency.
If we understand the rules Jesus outlined, what then? We might feel discouraged because we know we won’t keep all of them. We could also be like the Pharisees and the scribes, who were pleased to hear rules because they are smugly certain that they have kept them since childhood. We might also look for loopholes.
Knowing and keeping the rules doesn’t mean that we should use them to keep others out. That’s the attitude the scribes and Pharisees had at that time. They uses their elaborate set of rules to keep out people who didn’t follow them. Jesus refused to exclude people who didn’t obey the rules. He hung out with sinners and outcasts because God’s Kingdom is open to everyone who believes.
Because we know Jesus’ rules, the Holy Spirit points out the sinful areas in our lives, and we can be forgiven and brought back to life. If there are no rules, then we can’t repent. We are lost in our sins. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to say that we are innocent when He says we are guilty.
If we live for God, we will face times of adversity. Many of us have suffered from the maladies Jesus referred to in this passage. When that happens, we can trust God with our lives. It will make us better followers of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus has entered into our condition and will restore us to health if we will have faith. Whatever problems we may have, we can give them to Jesus and then get some rest. We might not feel better right away, but we will be healed in God’s time.
Even when we are persecuted, we are to continue witnessing and sharing about Christ. We are to love everyone, even those who criticize us, hate us or reject us. Even when our outer peace has crumbled, we are to speak the truth of the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t tell us to accept or receive persecution gracefully. We are to rejoice because the persecuted disciples of Jesus will receive great rewards in heaven. We will also be in the company of the prophets who were persecuted.
Jesus is placing a choice before us. Will we choose to live according to His beatitudes or according to the world’s beatitudes? What the world values is worthless. God blesses the poor, hungry and weeping. They will be filled at God’s banquet table.
Churches must make certain that they don’t neglect the poor or the marginalized. If churches really follow Jesus, they will use their resources to help the poor and marginalized. The choice is theirs and ours, and the new life Christ gives us makes such a choice possible.
When we come to worship, we come down from the stratosphere broken, bloody and hungry people. We feast on God’s Word, get up and go again as God directs our paths. Instead of criticizing the minister or the choir when we leave church, we should ask ourselves, “What did God say to me? What would God do with me?”
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1396)
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pp. 120-127)
- Macarthur, J.F. Jr.: The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- “Rejoicing in Persecution.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Jim Woodrum, “Luke’s Prescription of Hope.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org
- Jack Graham, “Iron in Your Soul.” Retrieved from www.PowerPoint.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Responding to Rejection.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 6th Sunday -C-.” Retrieved from preacherexcchange.org
- “Happiness Is…” Retrieved from sermons4kids.com
- Christy Randazzo, “The Paradox of a World Turned Upside-Down-Luke 6:17-26.” Retrieved from https://politicaltheology.com
- William Loader, “Epiphany 6:17 February Luke 6:17-26.” Retrieved from http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkEpihany6.htm
- “Sunday 6C, Epiphany 6C, Gospel.” Retrieved from lectionarystudeis.com/studyg/Sunday6cp.html
- “Sixth Sunday After Epiphany.” Retrieved from crivoice.org/lectionary/YearC/Ceiphany6nt.htm
- The Rev. Mark Larsen, “We Deserve to Weep.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/8331/-mark_larsen_we_deserve_to_weep.print