The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; this day around the world, our fellow Christians are gathering together to celebrate the life and ministry of Your son Jesus Christ and to worship You. Guide our time together this morning, that we may hear and understand your message for us. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
I asked God to take away my pain. God said, No.
It’s not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No. Her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience. God said, No.
Patience is a by-product of tribulation; it isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, No.
I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, No.
You will grow in my word, but I will prune you to make you more fruitful.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me love others, as much as He loves me.
God smiled and said…Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.
As we were blessed by the readings today from Jeremiah and 1st Corinthians, some may consider themselves fortunate the liturgy for Epiphany 6 does not come around very often. Because Easter is pretty late this year, we experience both the 6th and 7th Sundays of Epiphany. Today’s reading from Luke captures a glimpse of the power and the passion that eminates whenever we come to understand the love of God, and wherever we reflect this love to others. Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, and wherever God’s personal touch is felt by people in need.
Luke reports that Jesus has now moved from the Peter’s boat on the sea shore to a flat clearing. We find Jesus seated on that clearing surrounded by a multitude of people. People who followed Him and hungered after a word of hope; stretching out arms and hands to perhaps receive the personal touch of the one who brings life and healing to all.
They followed Jesus, and they were cured; they were freed from the demons that held their hearts and minds captive; they were given hope for a renewed future in the glow of a gracious saviour; they were made whole.
At this time in Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus, He had just selected the 12 that would become His Apostles. These chosen Disciples were called to follow Him, set apart to learn from Him and then to share with many others the Good News of Jesus, the example of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the personal touch of Jesus. Yes, the powerful healing touch of Jesus was shared with the Apostles, along with the authority of His spoken testimony of God’s presence in the world.
Now Jesus begins to teach these Disciples, in the hearing of the multitude. He taught the core truths of Christian living. Of living in faith to face the challenges that lay ahead of every Christian in every time and every place. Matthew describes these teachings a bit different from Luke. In Matthew, we have the gentle teacher, presenting the beatitudes from the mount, within a context of spirituality and God’s grace. Luke describes a more human Jesus, conscious of the human needs that surround him.
Jesus begins this teaching by describing the blessings of God for those who are disadvantaged. And the woes of those who have set God aside from their advantaged lives. Essentially, Jesus is talking about human suffering.
All too often, people are caught in their human circumstances. All too often people suffer because it’s so difficult to see beyond these circumstances.
Jesus points out that both the poor and the wealthy dwell on possessions; the poor because of their need and the wealthy because of their abundance.
Jesus proclaims the truth that both the hungry and the well fed dwell on food; the hungry because of empty bellies and the well fed because they are over filled. Both the disadvantaged and the advantaged dwell on their circumstances; the disadvantaged because of their anger and envy, and the advantaged because of their pride and arrogance.
I suspect that Jesus was trying to tell us that all too often people suffer because they cannot see God in their circumstances; or because they see God dimly through the reflection of their circumstances. They grieve because they feel God has forsaken them in their need; and they discount God in favour of their own initiatives in their abundance.
Luke describes Jesus beginning his lengthy teaching from that quiet place on clearing with these truths of the human condition, because Jesus wants to minister to all people at the very heart of human suffering – the poor, the hungry, the disadvantaged, the grieving, the abandoned.
Jesus almost cries out that “Nothing stays the same for ever.” Except life in eternity, of course. If things are going good – enjoy the time because things will likely get tough and all that will change. If things are going particularly tough – take heart and don’t despair because they will get better.
We only need look to the droughts in one place and the floods in another to find an example of this polar disparity. We should always hold to our faith and remain steadfast to our testimony that Jesus is sharing in our lives, sharing in our celebrations, and sharing in our suffering.
The thought for this week, should be “The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and seeing Jesus in our lives, no matter how much or how little we have or need. And always hold on to our hope.”
The next time we begin to feel discouraged or even when we feel especially encouraged; the next time we feel disadvantaged, or especially advantaged;
the next time that we feel especially blessed or especially afflicted; consider that Jesus is beside each one of us, in our life, sharing those feelings; that He understands our condition; and that He continues to love us without limit or condition.
We can recognise God’s presence in everything that we do, think and feel. Then we can take courage and rejoice that God is with us – Emanuel. The true epiphany of Christian living.
In the epiphany of Christ Jesus, may God make us ever mindful of the multitude of ways that we receive His love. His love that is working in our lives every day as a witness that Jesus Christ is Lord. And may God enable us to represent that love to others as a witness to them, in every circumstance of life. Caring where we find need and reaching out when we are in need. Knowing that our Saviour is present with us always.
May the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Rev. David Thompson.