Sermon – preached on 14 February 2010

Here is what I said this morning:

The readings that we have had this morning are the readings set for the day – the sixth Sunday after Epiphany. Most of the time, the readings that we use in St Mary’s are the same as the readings that many of our friends use in other local and indeed far distant churches. But not this week. This week, there is an option. You can either do the readings for the day or chose a special set for the Sunday before Lent.

I tend to have an opinion on this, which is that Lent is long enough already without adding an extra week counting down to Easter. Indeed, the idea of a week which celebrates the coming of a season which itself celebrates the coming of another seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse.

Seasons of the Sundays before Lent are an abomination before the Lord, at least in my head and we don’t do them.

However, when I then turned up the readings for today and tried to think about how to preach on them, I found myself wondering whether I had made the best choice. Sundays before Lent might be an abomination before the Lord, but perhaps the readings might be easier to preach from. That’s the trouble with the human spirit – always wanting to see whether the grass is greener over the fence, whether the apple from this tree is sweeter than from the trees that we’ve been told we can eat from, or whether the readings that you are not going to have offer more possibility for erudition, teaching and delight than the ones you have been given.

So, I sneaked a look at what most people are preaching on.

In many churches, they are reading the story of Jesus going up the mountain and being transfigured and shining brightly before the disciple.

Not here. Here we are reading about Jesus coming and standing on a level place and teaching.

For we are reading the Beatitudes as we find them in Luke.

And that bit about Jesus coming and standing in a level place and teaching them is rather odd, for we are more familiar with Matthew’s beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, blessed are the pure in heart and so on. But the thing we know from Matthews account is that Jesus preached them from a high place. For we call them the sermon on the mount.

Luke has similar but not identical teaching, but Luke puts Jesus not on the mountainside, not on a high place, not up the hill, but distinctly and decisively down here amongst us.

And that seems to me to be important. Those high place experiences are part of the spiritual life. These plain, low pace experiences are part of life with God too.

Last week, when AKMA was preaching, he reminded us of the reality of being caught up in the holiness of God, the awesomeness of divinity, which can take us by surprise, take us soaring high on the heights of praise and worship. Mystical experiences do happen. God is real.

This morning though, we have another side of the same story, which is that we don’t always encounter God in that way.

Sometimes God comes to us and walks with us on the plain. Sometimes God comes to us in the everyday, in the mundane and the ordinary. Sometimes God teaches us new things in exactly the situation in which we find ourselves.

Such things do happen. God is real.

It isn’t the mountaintop experience of transfiguration that we are looking at today. The sermon isn’t even on the mount. We are reminded by Luke’s placing of Jesus on the plain that God deals with us too on the straight and level.

Blessed are the poor – for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus begins with poverty, not mysticism. A reminded to us that when we read Luke’s gospel, we encounter a God who always seems to be on the side of those who are poor and disadvantaged.

Blessed are you who are hungry – for you will be filled.

For we worship a God who seems to think that creation is not yet complete whilst there is hunger and want and need.

Blessed are you who weep now – for you will laugh.

For our God meets us when we weep and wants better days for us than when we are upset and weary and sad.

I sometimes despair of the teaching of some churches which don’t seem to be able to acknowledge that being sad is part of who we are and that knowing grief and pain is part of being human.

But there is truth in the idea that the Christian faith does not believe that death or grief or sadness or pain or weariness can ever be the last word on who we really are.

God comes to us in our everyday places and levels with us: you were not designed to be hungry and neither were your neighbours. You were not made to weep forever – you were made for laughing too. You were not destined to be poor forever, for there is enough goodness and enough food to go around. Maybe we’ll all work out that’s a priority one day. And by the way, the world was not created to be a place where people hate one another. It wasn’t made for exclusion or revulsion and human beings were not intended to engage in defamation. Not on account of Jesus Christ. Not, I say on account of anything.

The world was made for better than this, says Jesus in his teaching. Plenty and laughter and rejoicing. These are the signs of God’s intentions being fulfilled. You can hear the resurrection happening in the laughter of friends just as clearly as you will hear it in a few week’s time when a stone rolls away from a tomb.

So, the great season of Epiphany comes to an end.

We set out to look for Jesus thinking we would find a baby. We’ve found over the last few weeks so much more too.

We’ve discovered a God who can be known in the stories of Jesus. Who can be encountered in sacraments like baptism and wedding banquets. Who can be known in heights of worship. And who also deals with us on the level, in the ordinary and mundane land of the everyday.

That’s the God whom we have found in this season that is past. But come here on Wednesday and we’ll begin an whole other journey. Trying to work out who we are in response.

But that’s for then.

For now, let that word blessed roll around in your mind for a couple of days.

That’s what God’s hope is for you. A happier day than today. A world where the poor get food, the grieving get to laugh and all that’s wrong gets put to rights.

Being Blessed.

It’s for you. It’s for the world.



  1. David | Dah•veed says

    Seasons of the Sundays before Lent are an abomination before the Lord

    Thus saith the oracle unto the Lord of Host at St Mary’s Glasgow.
    So say we all.
    Let it be written, let it be done.

    I tend to agree with your reasoning.

  2. Kelvin says

    I blame the Church of England. Though not, on this occasion, Rowan Williams.

  3. Bah Humbug I! say to Sunday’s before Lent – let us revel in the joys of Epiphany a little while longer, plus I just couldn’t resist Jerimiah’s devious heart reading for Valentine’s Day!

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