RCL Year C Epiphany 6
Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, I Corinthians 15:12-20, Saint Luke 6:17-26

The Gospel proclaimed today both disturbs and comforts. It is a mix of “blessed” and “woe.” What is more bothersome is that the blessed conditions hardly seem blessed at all, like being poor and hungry, and the woeful situations, like being rich and laughing, seem very desirable. It seems as if Jesus is setting out “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable,” as someone once said. The word “blessed” simply means “happy.” The word “woe” is used as a warning. A sense of doom circles menacingly around it. Jesus seems to be saying, “you who are really in hard places are happy.” And, “you who are comfortable are doomed.” Which are we at Good Shepherd? Have we accepted the challenges of our circumstances, or do we lie back accepting the comforts of them? Are we “blessed” or is “woe” on our horizon?

Jesus, Lord of all, voluntarily accepts “woe,” makes himself poor, even to the point of the worst kind of death in order to make us “blessed,” in order generously and lavishly to give love and forgiveness to all of us. What are we to make of this? He’s made us blessed. What are we to make of this and to do in response?

First, we must accept that God’s ways are not our ways. God’s wisdom seems foolish and contradictory to most of us. God gave us love and forgiveness in a lavish fashion. God did not give us this gift because we did something for him. In fact God’s giving of love and forgiveness coincides with a horrible offense against God, Jesus’ death on the cross. This is very different from the way most of us are. Too many of us accept the comforts and not the challenges of our circumstances. We don’t voluntarily accept any “woe.” For example, if we accept that verse of Scripture which we often use in our services, “All things come from thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee,”[1] we give to God at bargain rates: ten cents on the dollar—that is, if we tithe.

Secondly, since we cannot repay God for the gift of lavish, unconditional love, we cannot earn or deserve God’s lavish, unconditional love. That love defies logic. But, it seems that God loves us all with equal, unending, and eternal love.

And, finally, since we can’t really understand it and really can’t deserve God’s love, what are we to do? My answer is this: we are called to use our gifts, our spiritual and financial gifts, to perform our ministry, our part in reconciling the world to God, to make sure that this parish is better than when it first welcomed us: healthier and stronger, more active, and fuller with more determined disciples. And to do this, we begin by accepting the challenges we have and not relying on our comforts. Then and only then can we give back what we have received. Then and only then can we be truly “blessed” with no “woes” attached.

[1] 1 Chronicles 29:14.