February 17, 2019
“Level Places, Loving Spaces”
(Jeremiah 17:5-10, Luke 6:17-26)
The words from Luke today are familiar to us, because they come from Jesus’ most famous sermon, featuring the Beatitudes. And yet, did you notice something askew in the first verse of the Luke passage? We think of Jesus’ sermon as the “Sermon on the Mount,” yet the first verse describes Jesus speaking from a “level place,” not from a mountainside. What gives? Here are a couple of possibilities. First, just before today’s passage, Jesus and his disciples have been on a mountain for a time of prayer. It could be as they descend from the mountain, Jesus comes to a level place on the mountainside. Therefore, the sermon is actually being preached from a level place on a mountainside. Another possibility is that since Jesus was an itinerant preacher, he provides the same sermon in multiple places. After all, it’s not as if Jesus had a church, and preached to the same people each week. Instead, Jesus was on the move. So it could be that Matthew and Luke are referring to the same sermon, preached in different locations. Yet what we should focus on this morning is what this “level place” is referring to. You see, at that time a “level place” was often associated with a place of suffering, grief and misery. For example, a graveyard was often referred to as a “level place.” So in today’s reading, what we have is Jesus speaking from a recognized place of misery, providing instruction to the people on how to bring reconciliation and renewal to a broken world. This is where the Beatitudes come in. If you want to bring healing to “level places,” this is how to do it. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” refers to those who drain themselves of their pride and ego (spirit) so that God can dwell in the hearts. “Blessed are those who hunger” refers to those who hunger for righteousness (God’s kingdom.) Each one of the Beatitudes speak to what sort of priorities we are to have as Jesus followers. When we embrace Jesus’ priorities, we bring healing to “level places.”
The Jeremiah reading works well with Jesus’ teachings today. Jeremiah the prophet warned people to turn from the way they were living. For a people who had previously been living faithfully in relationship with God, they had left God and had turned to idol worship as a way of filling their pockets, stomachs while satisfying their evil desires. Jeremiah chastised the people, warning that devastating consequences would come if they did not repent. By 586 BC, Judah fell as a result of their unfaithfulness, with the people led away for what would turn out to be 50 years of enslavement and exile.
What are those “level places” in our world today? We see it in the news each day; pain, heartache, injustice and oppression, extremism-all the result of living apart from God’s intention for us. We may even find “level places” in our own personal lives-those places of pain and darkness we journey through. Jesus and Jeremiah teach us another way: that by embracing the Beatitudes, by emptying ourselves in favor of the presence of God, we bring the Kingdom in our world and into our hearts. Amen!