I thought I would take some time to consider this week, the idea of living in a level place. Jesus this week preaches in a “level” place (Luke 6.17-26) or maybe on a plateau which would play with the Gospel of Matthew nicely (Matthew 5-7). The reason that I am interested in a level place is because of what it would have meant to the people who were listening to and considering Luke’s Gospel as original hearers. You see, a level place is a place of corpses, disgrace, idolatry, suffering, misery, hunger, annihilation and mourning. Jesus comes to bring the kingdom to such places in this world and to have it exist in the midst of such places.
Jesus proclaims the kingdom in level places to show that the present realities are going to change. Jesus comes to draw people to himself. You see this and hear this in the Gospel: people are coming from all over to hear, to be healed and to be rescued from evil. People are coming to Jesus so that they can be made healthy and whole. Jesus was healing and restoring them all. God is visiting and redeeming his people. The Gospel is preached so that people will now that change is coming and that life will be transformed by the coming and presence of the kingdom of God. It is a reversal of the life we know in this level place. This does not mean that life is going to be turned upside down but right side up from its inverted stance. And this is going to happen through turning the Church inside out.
Life will go from being what you can do and be in your own strength to living life from within the missional community empowered by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. Which I think brings us to the idea and reality of being blessed. I think it is true to say that being blessed is not about getting what you want – though in North American culture we seem to act that way. It also is not about the absence or dismissal of trials and troubles. Being blessed enables and draws us through trials and tribulations, helping us to overcome obstacles and opposition. What we need to keep in mind is that these things are temporary – that we will come through them by the grace and strength of God. And heaven is not the place we wait for to get away from all that.
Did not Jesus himself tell his followers (which includes us) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16.33)
There is pity for those who have all that they want and desire in this life because they have not recognized that they have been blessed and not brought the resources, their time, talents and treasures to bear on the missional community so that we can proclaim together the Good News of God in Christ. Their accounts have been paid in full and they will at some point experience the emptiness that the prosecution of their personal comfort and happiness has brought them. The good news is that a person under their woeful verdict is invited to repent and return. It might not be painful and there might not be suffering in this moment but it will become evident at some point and you will have received what you wanted.
Therefore, if you discover that you are poor in spirit and you need God, you just might be headed to the kingdom. If you find that you are hungering for right relationships with God and with the people around you, you might be headed to the kingdom. And if you find yourself in an increasing state of mourning for the way life is being lived in this world, you just might be headed for the kingdom.