THE 6TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Luke 6:17-26 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Blessed? When you are poor? No, it doesn’t seem that way. Blessed? When you are hungry? Sorry, it doesn’t seem that way then either. Blessed? When you are weeping? No, can’t really see that one. Blessed? When people hate you and exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil? No, have a real hard time getting there. Blessed when all these things are over? Maybe. That I might be able to get. But blessed right in the middle of it all?
Blessed when you don’t have enough to make ends meet? Blessed when you owe more than you’ve got? Blessed when your belly is aching and grumbling? Blessed when the cupboards and fridge are bare? Blessed when your face is stained with tears? Blessed when your heart is torn in two? Blessed when people are glaring at you? Blessed when their hate is ringing in your ears? Blessed when they’re cutting you off and out? Blessed? In the future, maybe, but in that moment? Really Jesus?
Blessed when all that is over in heaven. Yes, it’s possible to see that. Blessed are you who have received the inheritance of the Father. Blessed are you who feast at the marriage banquet of the Lamb. Blessed are you who have had every tear wiped from your eyes by God. Blessed are you who hear the praise of the Father ringing in your ears. Yes, it’s easy to see that, to agree with that, but that’s not what the Lord Jesus says, when He comes down like Moses from the mountain, to speak to his disciples before the people on the plain.
Jesus doesn’t declare his disciples to be blessed at some future time. No, He declares them blessed in these very trying troubling moments. Having walked through some of them myself, I’d have to say that the last thing that I felt at those times was blessed. Blessed that things weren’t as bad as if they were twice as bad, as my grandfather used to say, yes I could get there. Blessed as things got better? Yes, I could get behind that too. But blessed in the groaning heartache of it all, at its worst most worrisome moments? No, it was, as I think most would agree, hard to feel that way at that time.
But the One who is the truth declares it to be so today. This is where we need to understand, beloved, that blessedness is not a matter of feelings. Blessedness is a state of being. Feelings must not guide or lead us here. No, feelings must submit and follow. We must rely on Christ’s Word here, and Christ’s Word alone. Faith must simply say, “amen” and direct my feelings to fall in line. I am blessed no matter how bad things may be, because the only begotten Son of God declares it to be so. Flimsy fickle feelings should not … must not be allowed to oppose or contradict Him.
The world will tell you that feelings aren’t good or bad, as it will also tell you to go with your gut and let them rule your life, which I must as a servant of Christ tell you is a damned lie and a hellish way to live. Our feelings are not some pure and sure source of truth, beloved, they are as twisted by sin as the rest of us is. God gave us our feelings and they were very good, when He created them, and so they are not evil in themselves, but sin has messed them up. They cannot be trusted or relied on, and they certainly should not be blindly followed. Our feelings, like the rest of our lives, need to be shaped and reformed by the Word of God, if they are going to be all that God created them to be for us.
Feeling was created to flow from knowing, not knowing from feeling. Feeling blessed begins with knowing that you are blessed. And knowing that you are blessed is what the Lord wants to deepen you in today as He speaks out to you here. With Word made flesh what He says, is, in the moment that He says it. It is not a “might be” or even a “will be” but an “it is” in this moment. And so as He looks out over you today and says, “Blessed are you in the midst of all the trials that you are facing.” You are blessed, whether you feel it or not. Feeling it begins with simply saying “Amen” to it.
“But how can this be?” you might ask. How can I be blessed in the midst of all this trial and trouble? I hear the Lord saying it of me but why does He say it? He says it because blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. Trial and trouble, you see, lead us away from that cursed place of woe where we put our trust in man. Trial and trouble wears out the strength of our flesh that turns our hearts away from the Lord. Trouble and trial lead us to that blessed place where the only hope that we have left is in God. Only the hopeless are ready for true hope, that comes from God and God alone.
Blessed in the midst of trial and trouble? Blessed indeed, because all that need causes us to look to and take refuge in the Blessed One. And there is no more blessed place to be, beloved, than in Christ. In Him is the fullness of all that we need and the fullness of all that we are meant to be. He came down from heaven and walked the humble way of the blessed, laying aside all His power and might and living in trust in the Father for all things, and then suffered all our woes, as He was made a curse for us on the cross for all the times that we trusted in man and the strength of our own flesh.
He who is the richest of all became the poorest of the poor that the Kingdom of heaven might be yours. He who opens up His hands to satisfy the desires of every living thing went hungry fasting for you, so that you could sit and eat your fill at Heaven’s feast. He who is the fount and source of all joy knew the deepest depths of woe, so that every tear might be wiped from your eyes. He who has the name above all names was hated and reviled and excluded on the cross for you, so that you might be welcomed into the Father’s house and clothed in honour and glory forever.
Blessed? Yes, in Christ. Blessed beyond all imagining, even when all hell is breaking loose around you and everything is going as wrong as it can possibly go. Blessed because you are in Christ and Christ is in you. And the truth of that is settled beyond question this morning as He comes to you at the altar. The truth of it rings out as He proclaims you “blessed” as He feeds you with His body and nourishes you with His blood. “Blessed forever” He declares to you today that it might echo in your ears through the rest of this week, so that each day you might confess it and so live in the truth of it.
Blessed am I because Christ is in me. Blessed am I because I am in Christ. Blessed am I because I am His and He is mine. Blessed, blessed, indeed. Amen.