Sermons 2007

"Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Epiphany 6C 2007 Luke 6:17-26

There are two stories called “A Few Good Followers”: A young woman was filling out an application for college when she came across the question: Are you a leader? She thought she had better be brutally honest, so she answered, "No." She was convinced that she'd never hear from them because of that answer.

But she received a letter back from the school that read: "We have reviewed numerous applications and, to date, there will be some 1,452 new leaders attending school next year. We have decided to accept your application because we felt it was imperative that they have at
least one follower."

One man bought a sign and put it on his office door. The sign read: "I'm the boss." The next day he came to work he noticed that someone had put a post-it on his sign that said, "Your wife called. She wants her sign back."

We can't all be the boss. And what good are leaders without followers? In actuality, we need to be both.

Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. We lead by example, but we still follow role models. We lead by sharing our expertise, but we remain open to the wisdom of others.

There are numerous courses and lessons on leadership. Yet the best leaders are also excellent followers. They know how to listen, they respect and follow good ideas from those around them, and they are humble enough to seek help when it's needed. (1)

Jesus was talking something like this when he delivered his Sermon on the Plain. We note immediately that these sharp edged weals and woes Beatitudes in Luke are different in tone and tenor from the warmer, fuzzier, softer feel good ones in Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount. Why is that, do you suppose? At one level, it could be that the two writers heard two different oral traditions. It could be that the church each was writing for needed to hear two different things and they shaped each passage accordingly.

I like to think that Jesus actually gave two different sermons at two different times in two different places to two different groups of people. This lies at the heart of the homiletical art. Several weeks ago I officiated at two healing services, one here on Wednesday and the other at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Thursday. The liturgies were exactly the same. But because the two congregations were different, in different circumstances, what I said to each was very different, one from the other.

So, too, the people at the Sermon on the Plain needed to hear something different from those on the Sermon on the Mount, whether exactly as Jesus said it or as modified by Luke to meet the circumstances of the people to and for whom he was writing. Crowds of people from all over Ancient Palestine had come to hear Jesus and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

The stories about a few good followers pointed out the need for leaders and followers alike to be humble and attentive to others, not arrogant and/or selfish and self-centered. Listen again closely to what Jesus said that day:

Blessed are the poor...but woe to the rich.
Blessed are the hungry...but woe to those who are full.
Blessed are the weeping...but woe to the laughing.
Blessed are the rejected...but woe to those who are accepted and admired. (2)

If we take those words literally, many, perhaps most of us, would be shifting, squirming, nervously in our seats. At its root this passage is a question of theodicy, the nature of God’s work in the world. Life’s often harsh enigmas can make it difficult for an individual to believe in a loving God. Theodicy is the attempt to defend divine justice in the face of something, such as Jesus words about the rich, the nor hungry, the laughing, and the thought well of that suggests that God is indifferent or hostile toward people who might be considered virtuous otherwise. Theodicy was never just a theoretical problem of the individual. Divine justice involved society itself—the distribution of goods, access to knowledge and power, the formation of legal statutes. Care for the poor, hungry, homeless, orphaned. (3)

Jesus is telling us in the woes and weals of the Sermon on the Plain that the world is not the same now that he has come. The old rules don’t apply. The new rule is to love God and love your neighbor – nothing else counts in the kingdom of God whether in heaven or in earth. Jesus is telling us that we were sent into the world not only to make a difference in the world but to make the world different as well. (4) So let’s get on with it.


1. From Life Support email newsletter, 5 February 2007
2. Adapted from Day 1, "Blessing or Curse?" The Rev. Sarah Shelton, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Speaker
3. “Theodicy”, Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 6, electronic edition
4. Sentence adapted from “Dream on”, Homiletics on Line for 15 February 1998