Summary: The radical inversion of things that Jesus suggests!
" INSIDE OUT, UPSIDE DOWN”
Reading: Luke 6: 17-26:
Preached at Fayetteville Presbyterian Church on February 11th 2001
Inside out and upside down. What on earth was Jesus talking about in todays lesson. Blessed are the poor? Happy are the hungry? Fortunate are the tearful? I have yet to meet those happy, contented poor people. I never heard anybody say, “Isn’t this great, I’m starving!” I have never seen a person sobbing their heart out with a smile of joy on their face. Have you?
It makes me uneasy the way Jesus speaks about rich, easy going folk who enjoy a good time and are well respected in the eyes of almost everybody. “Woe to you!” says Jesus and implies that whatever you have now, you better enjoy it while you can, because when tomorrow comes you’re going to have to pay for it. Big Time. Woe to you rich.
On a worldwide scale the U.S. is a rich place. This nation is way, way, way up there in terms of Gross National product, income, life expectancy, health care, educational opportunity, and military might. In terms of what this world calls rich, if you live in the United States, you are the number one spot.
This is not the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the average life expectancy is 49 years, where 55% of child deaths are due to malnutrition, where armies from six neighbouring countries, two refugee groups and three rebel armies are fighting for possession of the nations resources and not one of them cares about the plight of the common people.
It’s not Serbia, where it is estimated that an average family needs 450 Deutshe Marks a week on which to live, but only earns 60 DM. and inflation is running at 100% a year.
It’s not Zambia, where the plague of HIV/AIDS has reduced life expectancy from 70 years to 39 years in a decade. Where the number of orphaned children caused by the epidemic is estimated to be 500,000 and is estimated to double that in the next 8 years.
Blessed are the Poor? Happy are the hungry? Fortunate are the tearful?
Everything is inside out and upside down and back to front.
It does fit in rather well though with how Jesus described his intentions at the beginning of His ministry. Remember His first sermon back in Nazareth? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind.”
Do you remember what happened shortly afterwards? Some people tried to throw Him off a cliff! Understandable when you think He’s been predicting the downfall of the rich and powerful. He wasn’t “M.r Popular” with them!
There are those who would suggest that, reading the gospels, Jesus only got what was coming to Him when they crucified Him. I mean what did He expect? Insulting the religious authorities, trampling on their traditions, speaking words they would interpret as blasphemous and suggesting even that most sacred of all institutions, the temple, would come tumbling down? Proclaiming himself a King in the process of building a Kingdom?
To the eyes of the rich and powerful, How could He not appear as a threat? As they saw the devotion and power He had amongst the outcasts and the dispossessed and the poor, how could they not be fearful for their positions in society? To them Jesus was not Good News, but Bad News.
If they didn’t take action, their whole world
could be turned upside down and inside out.
But to the poor, He was a hero. Think of the situation of the poor in the crowd to whom Jesus was talking. They did not live in a democracy. They did not choose for the Romans to come and conquer their land. They had no vote. They were in this little troublesome corner of a vast empire, governed by incompetent puppet rulers desperate to impress the powerful people back in Rome.
They were poor, not only materially but also in terms of rights and expectations and almost every other area of life. They were the downtrodden. They were the imprisoned ones. Life was not smiling down good fortune upon them. Those who had once been described as God’s children, felt like God’s orphans
Consider also the corrupt state of religion. Jesus calls the Pharisees “Whitewashed tombstones”. He describes the temple as “A den of thieves”. He accuses the teachers of the Law and the intellectual Saduccees of not knowing the Scriptures..
Put yourself in the position of the poor. You go to hear Jesus speaking. He heals your cousin from something he’d been suffering from for years but could never afford to go to the doctors for. You see in the crowd that crazy guy everyone had written off as bad news, now looking calm and in his right mind. You hear all these stories about God looking for the lost, rejoicing over those who would come to Him in childlike faith.