Reflections - Rector's Letter
From Tim, our Rector:
I am very touched by the fact that, recently, a number of you have found it helpful when I have sent round the notes from my Sunday morning talk.
So here are today's.
Onwards and upwards,
Reading: Luke 6:17-26
17 He came down with them 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. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘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[d] on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
‘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.
I have wrestled quite a lot with what to say to you this morning.
Our reading, in part, echoes of the famous beatitudes that Matthew records for us at the start of the sermon on the mount, but what Luke gives us here is far from the same!
Where as Matthew gives us a longer list of challenging situations where blessing will come,
Luke gives us a much shorter similar list like that, but then records Jesus speaking woes too, words of alarm and warning, not just blessing!
In their own way, the blessings are challenging enough!
I don’t think any of us would naturally choose to be poor, hungry, weeping or excluded!
Even with the promise of blessing when we are, it takes real faith to open our eyes in these situations, trusting that the blessing will come!
But then Luke gives us the woes too!
Here, this morning, in honesty, in so many ways we are rich, well fed, in good humour and well regarded! Oh dear! What does this mean! What is the caution we need to hear?
It is important for us to see what is happening around Jesus as he says these things.
Luke tells us that:
“great number of people (from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who) had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
This was a place where good things were happening.
There is clear enthusiasm in the crowd.
People are being made well, set free and touched by God’s power!
In this we see the words of the blessings happening in front of us!
But what do we do with these woes!
The easy option is just to avert our gaze, but it never pays to avert our gaze where Jesus is concerned!
Especially as it would seem that most of us are in the sort of situations mentioned, one way or another!
So what are the blessings and cautions that Jesus is speaking to us here and now?
What is he calling us to embrace and what is he calling us to change?
To answer that, we have to see our starting point.
Where are we now?
What different things make up the place where we hear him say these things now?
Most of you know that I tested positive two weeks ago tomorrow and then spent over a week isolating at home! A cereal experience in all sorts of ways, especially because the rules are clear, I had to do it, but it caused so much disruption and were the benefits really worth it? Then to cap it all, on the day I was finally allowed out, Boris says he is going to change the rules early!
I know I can not explain all the rights and wrongs of recent months to myself or to you!
I think the time we are in now is a bit like the time after a big flood? I think the waters are receding now, but boy what a mess they are leaving behind!
As I was preparing this, I found myself thinking of the news footage you sometimes get after cyclones or wild fires, where there is a seemingly random mix of total destruction and complete preservation, where one house is untouched, but the one next door is simply not there any more!
Our individual experience of the last two years has differed hugely, for some of us, as the flood waters fall, we hardly recognise where we are! For others it is as if nothing has changed!
In this place God calls us to “love our neighbours as ourselves.”
In this place of healing, Jesus speaks blessings and woes to us.
He brings peace and challenge,
But it is all about healing!
whose Son went among the crowds
and brought healing with his touch:
help us to show his love,
in your Church as we gather together,
and by our lives as they are transformed
into the image of Christ our Lord.
Rev'd Tim Erridge
Parish Priest: Bleadon and Bournville
Tel: 01934 815 404