A close-up photograph of a cross-shaped headstone in Trinity Churchyard with trees and Trinity Church in the background

Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: An Upside-Down World

Jesus looked up at 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 will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward
is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors 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 will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:20–31

The great preacher Fred B. Craddock (1928–2015) wrote a book titled Overhearing the Gospel. That title comes to mind when I think about what’s going on at this famous Sermon on the Plain. In the lead up to the scene (which is not included in the passage), Jesus is with his disciples and a “great crowd” who have come to be healed from all manner of conditions. Then Jesus addresses the disciples while the crowd listens in. 

They overhear the gospel, the good news. Jesus seems to be talking about a kind of sorting book in which the poor, hungry, grieving, and excluded are “blessed” and the rich, full, happy, and well-liked should expect to be full of “woe.” They overhear a set of odd instructions which amount to loving and blessing people who are doing terrible things to you. At first glance, it seems that Jesus is setting out a diagram of opposites. It is an upside-down world: the great reversal that the reign of God brings.

We should not be too surprised to hear something like this from Luke. Throughout the Gospel, Luke is constantly telling us that God is with the “lowly” (check out Mary’s Magnificat). God is where people are the most vulnerable and needy. So, let’s be honest, isn’t it when we are struggling and facing difficulty that we are most aware of or long for God’s presence and reach out to God? When things are going really well, we (hopefully) are thankful and may express gratitude. But it is all too common that hunger for God’s presence is not as acute in the “good” times. 

So maybe Jesus isn’t categorizing people but describing how the reign of God works: those who are struggling are blessed by knowing the nearness of God. The “woe” points to how far we are from God when we are satisfied with the circumstances of our lives. For none of us is far from hunger, poverty, grief, or exclusion. We are one human family and all of us struggle at one time or another. As God’s people, who are made in God’s image, we are called to recognize this and show the same love and generosity to everyone around us, no matter who they are or what they have done. We sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.

On this day when we celebrate All Saints, we remember all the faithful who have come before us and we are bolstered by their life examples. This is a day we get to overhear the gospel through their faithful lives as well.  

—Ruth Frey

Debie Thomas notes that “our God is a God of both comfort and challenge.”

Jaime L. Waters points out that “Jesus calls his followers to fix the problems that cause injustice and inequity in the first place.”

“All Saints’ Day” by Kandinsky

November 8 is Election Day! Make sure you get out and vote. The country needs you! In addition to voting, offer up your prayers. Here are some prayers the Rev. Elizabeth Blunt offered our community in 2020.

“Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light)” is typically sung during the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. Many composers have set it to music over the centuries. This performance by the Gesualdo Six is by Spanish Renaissance composer Cristóbal de Morales. Listen to this as you remember those who have come before us.

May eternal light shine upon them, Lord,
with your saints forever, for you are good.

Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and may light perpetual shine upon them,
with your saints forever, for you are good.

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Coming Soon

Sundays through November 20 | 10am
Discovery: Creation, EarthCare and Environmental Justice
The Bible has a lot to say about our interconnectedness to Creation and stewardship of the earth. Learn more in this series with Summerlee Staten, Executive Director of Trinity’s Faith Formation and Education department, Dr. Ellen Davis of Duke University Divinity School, and eco-philsopher Lyanda Haupt.

Fridays, Nov. 11–Dec. 16 | Online 
Trinity Book Club
Trinity Book Club meets weekly to discuss the mysteries of the Christian faith through the medium of literature. This session, we’ll read Art and Faith: A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura. 

Monday, November 14 | Online 
Environmental Justice Ministry Group
A faith-based group that examines, increases awareness, and acts around the most pressing problems of climate change and environmental justice. At this meeting, we’ll hear from Megan Wolff of Beyond Plastics on plastic pollution.