20Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21“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 on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25“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.
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Every time Jesus tells us to love our enemies, I can’t help but to think about the joke I heard…
A pastor gets up in front of her congregation and begins to tell her parishioners that they must learn to love and pray for their enemies.
A little elderly woman – in her nineties, stood up and she said to her pastor, “Pastor, I don’t have any enemies.”
The pastor responds, “Wow! That is really wonderful. Can you tell us how you have managed not to have enemies?
And she tells her pastor, “Well…they’re all dead. I outlived every single one of them.”
Today, again, we hear Jesus tell us to love our enemies…
Pray for those who abuse you.
If someone strikes your cheek, let them strike the other one too.
Give to anyone who needs even the shirt off of your back.
And before that…we hear what we call the Beatitudes, except in Luke’s gospel Jesus is on level ground with the people, instead of a mountain. And he tells the crowds…
Blessed if you are poor…and woe to those who are rich.
Blessed if you are hungry…but woe if you are full now.
Blessed if you are crying now…but woe if you are laughing.
Blessed if there are those who hate you because of my name, but woe to you if people speak well of you.
Jesus ends his sermon with what we call the ‘Golden Rule.’ Do to others as you would have them do to you
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I fail on almost all counts.
I’m not hungry. I’m not poor. I love to laugh and enjoy this life I have on earth.
I struggle with loving my enemies and even harder of a struggle to pray for those who have hurt me.
And, do unto others as they do to me…Well, honestly…I try…but we know how that sometimes go…
But today is All Saints Day. Today we remember all those who have gone before us and have entered the holy Triumph of our Lord before us…
Why this text for a Sunday like this one? Is this our list for what we are to achieve before we too, hope to enter the Kingdom of God?
Is this a warning to those of us who fail the list that Jesus gives?
Woe to you who are rich.
Woe to you who are full.
Woe to you who are laughing.
Woe to you if people speak well of you.
Jesus has a way of turning everything upside down and inside out. Jesus wants people to think, reflect, understand their human nature. It’s the reason he often talked in parables. He has a way about him that makes us pause, causing each of us to dig deep into our souls, –
Jesus knows who we are. He knows how we are wired because his Father created us and made us. He knows how we think, and even more, he knows our hearts – He knows our hearts because He lives in our hearts –
I participated in a skit one time where Peter was standing at the pearly gates. Peter stood there as people came before him asking if they can go into the gates of heaven. He had the power to decide if you got to go to heaven or not.
People would come to the gates wanting to go to heaven – all kinds of people – alcoholics, murderers, drug addicts – every kind of sinner you can possibly imagine.
I’m standing by the gate and Peter looks at me and says, I need you to take over for a while. God wants to talk to me for a moment.
So, I’m standing there with all of these people coming up wanting to be let into heaven.
It hits me hard as I realize I cannot make that decision. I begin to talk to others who have made the same mistakes I made while on earth. If I don’t let them in, that means I cannot go in either.
I realize that I don’t know their hearts. I know that I have asked for forgiveness, but how would I know if that other person is sorry for the mistakes that they have made…
Of course, the skit was designed to demonstrate that even though we often judge others for their sins and for who they are – we cannot know their hearts –
And not only that…in our judgement, we may realize that we really are not any different than what we are judging others for.
There is only one person who has that ability to know our hearts and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…
You see…if we look deeply into this text, Jesus isn’t trying to make us feel bad for who we are or trying to point the finger at us for messing up –
The Blessings in these beatitudes are God-centered. They are God-seeking.
Jesus knows our lives that while things might be good right now…we will have rainy and hard days…
Our lives can change at the drop of a hat. And I see it every single day. I experience it in some way every day – and I know you do too.
God doesn’t promise us that we will live a life of roses – there will be days of suffering. Jesus suffered, and so will we.
These blessings that Jesus gives to each of us are blessings of hope and love for us. Because when life gets hard…Jesus is wants us to know that he has us – there is a place where there will no longer be suffering.
The woes are when we have the tendency to turn away from God and we seek ourselves.
I believe with my whole heart that God has no desire for us to be poor, sick, or unhappy in this life. The problem is that often when life is good – we tend to turn away from God thinking that we don’t need Him.
The “Woe” is a warning to remind us to turn back to God – turn back to our Lord and Savior who loves us.
Don’t take for granted the material things or the people you love in your life. Don’t forget that everything you have belongs to God.
Because here is the thing…as soon as we think we have it all under control, it can all change at the drop of a hat.
But in those good days that we have – Jesus tells us how we can stay focused on Him.
Remember to love your enemies and pray for those who have hurt you.
Because, Jesus says, they are my children too and I love them. And I promise you aren’t perfect either and if you think hard enough, you will realize that there have been people in your lifetime that you have hurt too….
And don’t retaliate when those physically hurt you. Turn away – walk away. Turn the other way. Let God do the punishing. Let God handle the issue. Don’t take matters into your own hands.
And when you have plenty, give to those who have nothing. Even let them have the shirt off your back.
Because here is the thing…if you were in that same situation, you would want someone to help you and do the same for you.
In 1895, Mary T. Lathrap writes:
“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.
There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.
For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.
So, it’s really simple – Just treat others the way that you would like to be treated.
…Forgive others as you would want to be forgiven.
God’s grace and mercy are enough. It is enough to sustain us even in the worst of times…
And is certainly enough when we are in our last days.
So why wait? Why not now? Why not let today be the day that we let go of all the hurt and the pain that our enemies have caused us?
Let today be the day that we come to the Table with our hearts open to all of God’s possibilities not just for ourselves, but for our church, our community, our country, and the world.
Let today be the day that we lean on Jesus Christ even when our lives feel full, and we are happy – but to remember God’s blessings of grace, mercy, and love…Not just for ourselves, but for all of humankind.
Let today be the day that we leave here with our hearts full of God’s love –
Walking beside our neighbors and certain of our future…
To be with all the saints that have all gone before us.