It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together, but I feel pretty safe in saying that we have fun at our church. We can also be very serious. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry. There's enthusiasm that's sometimes a little noisy and there's times when it's quiet, almost too quiet. We use art and video and different media, we sing new songs and old hymns, we're very dramatic - theatrical, even! - and we talk a lot, we listen to talking and we talk together. We sit, we stand, we dance (yes, we do, really), we move about, we sit still. Occasionally, I bet someone falls asleep. You know who you are.
The point is, we engage the story of God and Jesus and us in a way that’s meaningful, in whatever way helps us to bring it into our lives because the message of Jesus is about life, and living is how we should tell it. In church and in the world. Inside and out.
That's the thing, really. This is just what we do and others do what they do. That's what can make the church both so alive and so dead. To be doing what is, not what was. That's why "church" is changing so much. It's because we are.
Right now, we're making our way through a part of the Gospel of Luke that we know as The Sermon on the Plain. It’s likely Luke’s version of what Matthew calls the Sermon on the Mount. Whether it's an actual "sermon" or they each just collected some of Jesus' best sayings into this format, it hits on many of the key themes and ideas in Jesus' ministry. Side note: might also be worth considering if there’s a metaphor here. Is there a different perspective to having someone talk to you from above (mountain) or on the same level (plain) ? Hmm.
Let’s suppose it was a "sermon." Here's how I picture this happening. Jesus starts telling the crowd about how they are already blessed and they will only know that blessing in being vulnerable and open enough to experience it. There are some woes, too, and again, it’s really about what’s happening now. Hang on, he says, and take a minute to really think about it. He's not reading from notes here, so the more impassioned he becomes, he starts moving about. They follow because they have questions about this blessing thing. There's some dialogue, maybe Jesus needs to grab a shoulder or get close to make that point about how sometimes it’s not going to be easy to follow him.
Listen, he says, looking them right in the eye, love your enemies. He might touch someone’s face or pull at their cloak when he talks about offering the other cheek when someone hits you or give more to those who take. People look confused. I’m not talking about the other person, he says, it’s about you. You, he’ll say as he touches each person around him, and you and you and you. And he’ll move quickly through the crowd, looking for eye contact with each person. He won’t always get it. So he’ll say it more emphatically, it’s about you and how you are. Show others that. Offer love, do good, give without expectations or conditions. Don’t judge others and decide their worthiness, just love. Just. Love.
"Wow, that's deep," says Peter. “So simple,” says Andrew. “You just blew my mind," says James. Luke and Matthew chime in with “I’m gonna write that down before I forget.”
"No," says Jesus, "don't just write it down. Go and live it."
And he proceeds to do just that: he shows them how to take these ideas into their hearts and live them.
That would be an awesome sermon. Not just the style and panache of Jesus. But that they heard his words, took them to heart and lived them. Inside and out.