Summary: Jesus shares several pieces of Good News. One is that God is with us in the midst of tragedies and scarcity. Another piece of Good News is that Happiness can be experienced in the midst of the struggles of life. Luke’s sermon on the plain tells us how.
“Work hard!” “Dream Big!” “The world is your oyster to crack and grab the pearl.” We grow up hearing these phrases and others like them. “America is the land of opportunity,” we are told. “Anyone can become president.” We hear enough rags to riches stories to validate these ideas, but it doesn’t take us long, once we have entered the real world, to realize that these words are merely whitewash that covers up a dark, ugly truth.
The playing field is not level. We may be skilled, talented, hard workers, but it is not what we do, but who we know that enables us to successfully climb the career ladder. Most of the countries of the world are structured so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is certainly true in the United States where the gap between the rich and poor is growing at an alarming rate.
Another ugly truth is hidden behind the first. We don’t care that world is tilted in favor of the rich—unless it directly, adversely affects us. In a few weeks we will focus on the fashion attire of the stars as they parade their way to the Oscars, and ignore the plight of the homeless a few blocks away. We will immerse ourselves in making ends meet and looking successful (even though it may be a sham). We will ignore the fact 17 (quickview)  million children in the United States who live in poverty, the 40% of Africans who are inflicted with the AIDS virus, or the thousands of people who are still displaced and struggling from the devastation of Katrina.
This is the world in which we live, and this is who we are. Because of this, we are shocked by the words of Jesus. The world may have forgotten and ignored the poor and needy, but God hasn’t. In fact, in God’s scheme of things (better known as the kingdom of God) the poor and needy have the advantage. The tables are turned. This is good news not only for the poor and needy, but also for us.
TIPING THE WORLD RIGHT SIDE UP
During the time of Jesus, it was commonly assumed that the rich and power were blessed by God. They were blessed by God because they were better and more righteous—more deserving of blessings—than others. The poor and needy were seen as being under God’s judgment because of their situation in life. Jesus words contradict this popular assumption.
The kingdom of God is a classless society; no one is better than anyone else. Jesus died for the whole world, not just a select few. This is boldly proclaimed in the gospel of John. It is also demonstrated by God’s actions—the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the revelation of Jesus’ birth to the foreign magi, the rejection of Jesus by the political and religious powerful and the acceptance of Jesus by the common people.
In God’s kingdom, the tables are turned. The poor have the advantage. Jesus blesses the poor and needy in this sermon, and denounces the rich and the powerful. His words, like the screeching of caulk on a blackboard shocked his listeners, giving hope to the poor and offending the rich.