Summary: The Rev. Rian Adams. This sermon encourages people to open their hearts to God instead of hiding from God.
Title: “You Don’t Have To Hide”
Luke 6:17-26 – Epiphany 6
The Rev. Rian Adams
Last week I looked up the lectionary reading for today and realized that it was the beatitudes. My first thought was, "Here we go again. I have to preach another sermon on ethics. I usually begin with something like this: “These teachings or proverbs of Jesus are the essences of the Christian life. They show us how to emulate Jesus and follow the way of life he modeled for us. If we live them, we can be kind, friendly people.”
But I didn’t want to preach that sermon because I’m tired of preaching that one… so I’m not going to. I want to take a very different approach today that will leave things to your imagination. Today’s sermon will look at the introductory verses to the beatitudes.
I usually get lost in the beatitudes and then I miss the first verses of the reading. We hear them once per lectionary cycle. They are familiar to us… but have we really examined them to see what they can teach us?
I’m going to see if verses 17-19 inform verses 20-16. Sometimes we need to start at the beginning… instead of joining the game in the second quarter.
The sermon today will ask us to consider if the beatitudes are only for the benefit of others, or… if we can apply them to ourselves too. The sermon is titled “You Don’t Have to Hide.”
Notice what the first sentence says about Jesus… Jesus is on a level plain. That's informative… he's not on a mountain (like Matthew’s version), he is on flat ground. He's in a place where our feet are stable. Luke's version of the beatitudes occurs while the crowd is all even.
Let that sink in… When I look at my own life and my own experiences, I'm ready to hear the Gospel when my mind is clear, and I’m level headed.
I hear Jesus when I take on the role of a learner and cease to be the expert.
When I was in seminary one of my friends preached a sermon in the chapel on kindness in the book of Isaiah. It was a good sermon, and it touched my soul... But after I overheard the Old Testament professor mumble, "He preached that out of context. I wrote the New International Commentary on Isaiah.” The student heard it, and his face fell to the floor. With Jesus, there are no experts.
The beatitudes occurred on a level ground… equality… everyone heard the message, and everyone was on a level playing field. There were no experts.
But it doesn’t stop there. It says, "There were people from Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre and Sidon. This is a pretty diverse group of people.
Jerusalem was the religious center of the Jewish temple and the seat for the priesthood. People from the pinnacle of religion came to hear Jesus.
Then it says people from Judea were there too. Judea was still closely associated with the religious happenings, but it was a bit more removed. These people were just ordinary Jews trying to listen to Jesus.
We certainly have these people show up to church too. They come on Christmas or Easter. If you asked they consider themselves, “Christian.” What does Jesus do? He welcomes these people also. He taught them even though some would say they were lax in their commitment.
Then the Gospel also says there were people from Tyre and Sidon listening to Jesus. This demographic is interesting, Tyre and Sidon were not considered Jewish territories.
Tyre and Sidon were cities on the “outside” of the Jewish religion. These folks were called "gentiles." It was pejorative.
These were the people who were considered "outside" the covenant of God. Yet we have another example of Jesus welcoming the outsider.
I've been the outsider before. I've been, as Indiana Jones’ father said, "a pilgrim in a strange land."
When I was a chaplain at Ft. Jackson, SC, there wasn't an Episcopal service. I kindly asked the Irish Catholic priest if I could come to mass. He said, "Yes, but you cannot receive the sacrament because you're not part of the fold." I passed on that opportunity.
Fast forward a few months and I found a priest on much level ground. Fr. Phillip was not concerned with Rome's rules. He welcomed an outsider to the table.
Phil invited me, as an Episcopal priest, to mass. But he didn't stop there… he asked me to concelebrate the mass with him.
It was a crucible for me. We broke the religious rules together. We were happy to leave Jerusalem (Canterbury and Rome) and visit Jesus in Tyre and Sidon. Phillip and I stood together at the altar, in holy defiance, and preached the Gospel of unity within diversity.