St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“A New Vision: Jesus VS Scribes and Pharisees Rhetoric


February 17, 2019


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre


Luke told us that Jesus delivered a sermon on a level place (a plain) in which he blessed the poor and cursed the rich; he blessed the hungry and cursed the full; he blessed those who weep and cursed those who are laughing.

Many people hear these words and select to believe that Jesus is inviting us to be poor, hungry, in tears on earth and miserable so that we can be saved and happy in heaven. Is it the case?

Jesus grew up being a Jew, poor, living in a country occupied by the super power of his time. He responded to the prophetical tradition and was anointed by God to fight evil. The evil that material obsession represented; a material success that the occupying power got in colonizing weaker countries, material success that Scribes and Pharisees were seeking so much so that they would distort the word of God and give it a different meaning.

Jesus found his task in restoring the authenticity of the word of God by standing with the marginalized. So much so that he blessed them because God had chosen a side. And God continues to choose a side. God is not standing with the oppressors to oppress more but God is on the side of the oppressed to offer hope, to invite them to resist and even to overthrow the kingdom of evil. The kingdom of evil is a kingdom in which inequality and injustice rule, and in which what divides human beings prevails. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love, justice and equality in which we are called to stand together and share the gifts and grace of God. When Jesus delivered that sermon, it was not to invite the oppressed to be content with their situation on earth because something better was waiting for them in heaven. It was to tell his disciples and us that what the kingdom God wants, if we claim to belong to God, is a kingdom in which the poor, the hungry, the weeping can meet with the goodness of God here and now. It is to tell the greedy of his time and the greedy of all time that the kingdom of God is not there when all we seek is earthly happiness. There is something much more important than enjoying one’s wealth when others are in poverty, something more important than eating when others are hungry, something more important than laughing when our neighbor is mourning.

Some of us, two thousand years after Jesus, still believe that salvation is personal/individual. Some of us are still seeking to be rich, laughing and full. Today’s story is a reminder that until we all are free from sin, we are all slaves. As long as hunger is on earth there will be no peace.  As long as we are keeping people out because of fear that we won’t have enough while every day, in back of our church we see how much food is thrown into the garbage, we need to question our lifestyle, our policies and values.

Sometimes, it is we, the church people, that evil uses to bring chaos into the world. It is we who need to learn how to share. It is we who need to practice mutual care. When outsiders look at what members of Christ’s body are doing, the way we are at each other, they are not encouraged to follow our ways. Churches are empty because we have stopped being relevant to our surroundings. Let me invite you to join with me so that we change our obsession for individual success into a determination to become children of God.

Jesus is not cursing the rich because they are rich. Jesus is cursing the ways we use to become rich and the way we use wealth to differentiate us instead of as a blessing that can be shared with the have-nots. Jesus is not cursing the laughing because laughing is not good. He is cursing those who laugh at others as if they feel they are better than those who are weeping. The Sermon on the Plain that we heard today in the Gospel of Luke is the same Sermon on the Mountain reported in the Gospel of Mathew. They are an invitation to build the kingdom of God here and now. A kingdom where poverty will be no more, sadness and suffering will be conquered and in which everyone will enjoy the bread of love Jesus represents. Wealth does not have to be the difference between two human beings. Suffering of one must not make another happy. There is always enough bread for us all to have a piece. The Sermon on the Plain establishes a new vision. Jesus is laying the ground of his mission on earth: to feed the hungry, cure those who suffer and proclaim the kingdom of God, the only kingdom in which love prevails and we are all equal and spiritual beings.