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We may have noticed a trend developing throughout Epiphany. Over the past few weeks we have been reading about how Jesus is beginning his ministry. We read about how he calls people to be his disciples to “follow him.” His call and presence is so compelling that people drop everything and follow him. There are no good byes to family or last minute tasks to complete. There are no loose ends to bring to a convenient end. No. As Jesus moves from town to town, region to region, people are called and compelled to leave everything and follow.  

As we hear how Jesus calls together his disciples we can begin to see and imagine the work of Jesus and God gaining momentum and spreading. Very quickly we hear how Jesus’s reputation and the reputation of the disciples go before them. Before they even enter a new community people have already heard. They are already aware of this guy Jesus and what he is up to.  

Today we hear Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. While similar to Matthew’s account, there are some stark differences with Luke. In Matthew we learn about nine “blessings” and then Jesus goes on to talk about people being the salt of the earth. In Luke we read about four “blessings” and four woes.” There are no woes in Matthew’s account. Rather the woes are implied. With Matthew this teaching from Jesus takes place on a mountain top, whereas for Luke this happens on a “level place” (Luke 6: 17). The level places, may be exactly that, level ground, they are also where the poor, downtrodden and destitute are to be found. Quickly we realize Luke’s concern for the poor and justice. Jesus is not on a mountain top, speaking down to the crowd or the disciples; rather Jesus is speaking on level ground where he can look people in the eye.  

Level plains, justice, the poor and the trappings of wealth are what Jesus is wanting us to hear today. He is not on a mountain top, where he has an advantage, the spotlight and where it is comfortable. No, this is a Jesus who is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the very muck of life. He is talking about the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are hated and persecuted. 

It is significant that Jesus is speaking directly to the disciples today. In speaking to them, he is speaking to us, the Church. This is a message for us. He is looking us in the eye and saying, “Blessed are these people, God’s beloved people, come now and help. This is our work; this is the work of the church.” If we truly believe that we are called to follow Christ, to pattern our lives towards God and hasten the Kingdom of God in our world as a present everyday reality, we have our work cut out for us.  

And herein lies our woe. It is clear in today’s Gospel that this call to action demands our all; we are to jump in with both feet and join Jesus on the level places in our world. Because half heartedness - paying the token amount of time, talent or resource is not enough, and in fact becomes our trapping and woe. This is the other side of Luke’s message, the four woes that accompany the four blessings. As David Ostendorf points out, “God does not take kindly to half heartedness” (Feasting of the Word, Year C, Vol 1, 2009, pg 360).  

Half heartedness is disappointing to God, it is disappointing to the People of God and if we are truly honest with ourselves, disappointing to us as well. Surely we don’t want to move through life half-heartedly. Surely we don’t take our faith half-heartedly either. Because Jesus doesn’t take us halfheartedly. Jesus gives his whole self to us and our world. We, as the Church, are obliged to respond in like manner. We are not blessed if we remain idle and continue the status quo. We are certainly not blessed if we remain comfortable and hold before the world our pretty buildings, gather with like-minded people who think and look like us and bask in the praise of those who come and follow us.    

But how easy it is for us to remain comfortable. To decide that we will throw money at a “problem” to make it go away. So long as we don’t have to do anything ourselves, so long as the normal rhythms of our lives are undisturbed - all shall be well until the next ask, request or call to respond to a need comes our way. Our wealth and abundance, our privilege can serve as a barrier of which we hide behind to avoid getting our hands dirty with Jesus. Cause believe me, we are among the wealthy. We are on a mountain top and we are privileged in more ways than we care to realize.  

Oh church these are harsh words for us today from Luke’s gospel. They are meant to be. They are meant to make us uncomfortable and to examine more intentionally what we truly value as people and a church. But all is not lost. Nothing is ever lost with God. We too are not beyond the reach of salvation and blessing from God. The question for us, that Jesus looks us in the eye to ask us, to demand from us, is how do we use our abundance, privilege and status to better the work of the Kingdom of God in this world, today? What do we value and reject about Christian living today? Are we happy with the status quo or do we believe that God continues to call us into a better way of being in the world where we are drawn even deeper into the mystery of our faith and understanding of God and God’s Kingdom?  

I believe that we are called to live a better way and I believe that deep down you believe this too. Jesus is talking to us today. Today we receive our call to action where we need to leave the comfort of the mountain top and get our hands dirty on the level places where Jesus calls us to meet God.