Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Blessed Life

[Below you'll find the video of today's second worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, and then, the text of today's message.]

Luke 6:17-26

In today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 6:17-26, Jesus, describes the kingdom of God, not a place on a map, but a state of being, a state of blessedness

All who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, live in this blessedness today (even when we feel burdened by grief, money, disagreements, guilt, sin, discouragement, or death) AND will live in even greater, perfect blessedness in God’s presence after Jesus has raised us from the dead. 

In verse 17, Jesus begins His description of the blessed life like this: “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”

Jesus has just been on a mountaintop, where He has chosen twelve of His followers (disciples) to be His apostles. In Luke’s gospel, mountaintops are always places of prayer and closeness with God. We need mountaintops: times of worship and prayer and reading God’s Word. It’s these times that help us face our days and weeks with the grace and hope that God wants to give to us. But there are also jobs to be done, bills to be paid, decisions to make, kids to shuttle this way and that, groceries to buy, lawns to be mowed, driveways to clear of snow, life to be lived. We have to leave the mountaintops and go to the level plains. While He was on earth, even Jesus had to do that.

When Jesus and the twelve apostles get to the flat plain, there are all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles, gathered to hear and be helped by Him. Down on the Plain--down in the everyday places of life, Jesus makes Himself accessible to all people: apostles, disciples, and the crowds who don’t yet believe, but know that there is something different about this preacher from Nazareth.

The very fact that Jesus went down to the Plain from the mountaintop, just as He once had gone from the throne room of heaven to a cattle barn to be born into this life and would one day go to a cross He didn’t deserve, tells us something about the kingdom of God. It is God’s passionate desire that all of us who would otherwise be condemned to death and separation from God will be part of it! He wants everyone to hear His call to repent and believe in Him and so, be part of His kingdom. He puts everyone on an evil plain so that those who are full of themselves and their sin will be brought down to repentance and new life through faith in Jesus and those who are oppressed or ground down by this life can be lifted to that same new life through faith in Him. 

This is what Mary had said God would accomplish in the baby Jesus then in her womb: “...[God] has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53)  Through Jesus, the kingdom of God overthrows the old order of this world. Richness and health and power and full bellies are no advantage to those who want to walk with God. The only thing that matters is whether we trust in Jesus as our God and Lord. “The work of God is this,” Jesus tells us, “to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Jesus first describes the blessed life, the kingdom of God life. Verse 20: “...Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

Here Jesus describes two blessings enjoyed by people who are in the kingdom of God today and two that we will enjoy in eternity. 

According to Jesus, the poor are blessed. Jesus isn’t saying it’s intrinsically sinful to have money. But it’s easier to make money your god when you have more of it than others do. Money has a way of fooling us into thinking that we have everything under control. We don’t. In the kingdom of God, we relish the fact that God is in control and we don’t have to be

Jesus also says that persecuted believers are blessed because in their faithfulness, they join a long line of persecuted believers who experienced a promise that only a crucified and risen Savior can make: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

The hungry who trust in Christ will be blessed one day to sit at the eternal feast with God. This is the feast that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold centuries before Jesus’ birth: “The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine.” (Isaiah 25:6) We get a foretaste of this feast every time we receive Holy Communion.

The grieving who trust in Christ will be blessed one day when Jesus welcomes them into eternity. It’s a place in which, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Jesus’ description of how He turns the ways of this world upside down in the kingdom of God continues in a set of curses. They describe the lives of those who refuse the gifts of forgiveness and new and everlasting life He offers to all people. Verse 24: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24-26)

Jesus flouts the wisdom or common sense of this world. This false wisdom tells us that the goal of this life is to make ourselves comfortable, to get as much as we can, to avoid problems and troubles at all costs, to live like kings and queens. But in the kingdom of God, the last are first and the first are last. The blessed are those who know that it’s in Jesus that we find life (John 1:4) and in Jesus alone (John 14:6). This world may make us comfortable for as long as we live here, but the person who trusts in Jesus is blessed now and in eternity. People who experience the blessedness of life in God’s kingdom know God gives so much more than what this dead world can offer to us!

I knew a woman who came from a wealthy family. She never wanted for anything. She had food to eat and money to spend. Cancer, which came to her, doesn’t care about those kinds of things though. (Neither do car crashes, heart attacks, or any of the other things that can rob us of health, life, or happiness in this world.) But this woman was blessed because she didn’t put her faith in wealth or plenty, laughter or the acceptance of others. She trusted in Jesus Christ. She was blessed.

Even as she drew her last breath, she was blessed. She is even today. You and I don’t have to imagine the kingdom of God or rely on other people’s descriptions of it. We can live in God’s kingdom right now. It’s the kingdom into which we are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s the Kingdom in which Jesus blesses those who believe in Him with forgiveness, life, peace, and hope. It’s the place we live in whenever we turn to Him to be our God and King and Savior. And through Jesus, this blessed Kingdom is ours forever. Thank God for that, the greatest blessing of all. Amen