Today’s sermon in the gospel according to Luke should sound familiar. This is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount which appears in the gospel according to Matthew. In Matthew, Jesus begins his public ministry by sharing everything. He sits on a mountain top, surrounded by his disciples and a crowd. When we see Jesus there, he looks like he’s standing between the earth and heaven. We are looking up to Jesus. His words, in this context, point us to “a covenant made with a community to which [we] aspire to belong” (Thomas Frank in Feasting on the Gospels – Luke Volume 1, 2014). Luke’s sermon starts in a different place. Jesus isn’t on a mountaintop. Instead, Jesus comes down from one and teaches while standing “on a level place.”
The crowd gathering around Jesus is filled with different kinds of people. Some come from Judea (the area around Jerusalem) while others come from the city of Jerusalem itself. Another group, however, comes from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon are old cities and city-states founded and ruled by the ancient Philistines. The Philistines fought wars against Israel, King David, and the early Israelites. At one point, they even captured the Ark of the Covenant itself! Tyre and Sidon are also areas associated with kings and queens who ruled parts of Israel and encouraged the people of Israel to follow other gods. As cities on the coast, Tyre and Sidon did have faithful Jewish merchants and followers of God living within their walls. But Tyre and Sidon are places that should be hostile to God. But this crowd is different. This great multitude is full of the “right” kind of believers and the “wrong” kind too. There are people hear who we do not expect. But these unexpected people are standing alongside us, wanting to be healed and learn what God is doing in the world. So Jesus, seeing this crowd full of unexpected people, does a very unexpected thing. He is not standing above the crowd; he is inside of it. Jesus, when he looks at the people around him, is standing at eye level. He in the middle of this crowd full of the right and wrong kind of people. God is doing more than inspiring us to join what God is doing in the world. God is coming into the middle of us, meeting us where we are at right now, and bringing us into God’s future.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 11/06/2016.