Luke 6: 12-26
The sermon on the plain, Luke’s version of the text which appears in all of the synoptic gospels. What does one say about the Sermon of the Mount or the Plain that hasn’t been said before?
I spent quite a bit of time this morning, reflecting on this, seeking something new, as it were.
Two songs have been going through my mind this morning after reading this passage. I haven’t been able to get them out of my head.
These hymns are two settings of this text, and I love both of them. I chose the second as our closing hymn for today a couple of weeks ago while preparing for this Prayer, yet this morning, I think it’s the first one that is singing strongly in my head.
I love this new-to-me song. I am so thankful to the people who put together Evangelical Lutheran Worship, for sharing so many of the wonderful songs from areas of the world that are not Euro-centric. It’s one of the gifts of this hymnal to the whole church. Don’t get me wrong, I also love the second hymn. But it’s the first one that is speaking to me today.
I love the images, the thought that we have a gift to receive from those who are not us. The Beatitudes have been used for a long time to justify the poor and to give the privileged a way to ignore them and feel good about it. It’s too easy for us to feel removed, to not be involved, and to do nothing. Or, we stand apart from their lives and make our own arrogant decisions about what “they” need, graciously serving up our bounty.
Okay, we don’t do that, those of us here at the School of Theology and Ministry; or at least hopefully, we don’t do that. But we have inherited that tendency, that heritage, as it were.
This song lifts up the poor and tells us of the gift that they bring to us in their very lives, in their actions. It invites us to walk alongside of them, to companion them and to learn from their lives.
It reminds me also of the richness that we have in the World Council of Churches Ecumenical prayer cycle. Each week of the year we pray for the peoples of specific countries around the world. Now, if that were the extent of the cycle it would be good in itself, but the joy, the gift comes from the fact that the prayer petitions that are offered for our use come directly from the peoples of those countries.
I have developed the practice of spending some time at that site every Sunday as I shape the Prayers of the people for my home congregation. As a Diaconal Minister I am called to bring the needs of the world into the midst of the church and this is one, tangible way that I can do this each week.
As I read their prayers, and think about their lives, I am incredibly touched. When I include their words in my prayers, I sense that they are truly present, and we are one with them. The prayers for mercy are moving, but I find often that it is the things for which they give thanks that bring the most joy into my life; I have lifted up prayers of thanks for large drums, for bamboo flutes, for dancing and for rice, for chocolate and sauerkraut, coconut and dates. I always come away from that time feeling more connected with them and their world. I’m humbled by the beauty of the prayers they post.
The Sisters of Maryknoll have a series of posters that you can purchase that show the faces of the poor from around the world to illustrate the Beatitudes, their joy and love leap from the pictures! The Beatitudes posters
So, I ask us today to think about these hymns, to look at the words, to consider what they say to us. They are both strong, wonderful hymns, both have strong gifts to bring to us from other traditions. Both enrich our worship and our contemplation.
I invite you to walk with those who are the poor, and to live into the life to which Jesus calls us in this text. Thanks be to God.
~ Diaconal Minister, Jan Cherry
Ecumenical Liturgical Coordinator
Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry