A while ago, during a series on Luke's gospel, I produced the following meditation to get people thinking about the impact of Jesus' manifesto on his audience. I was reminded of it the other day as someone asked if they could have a copy. So I thought I'd share it for a wider audience.
It's the introduction to some reflections on Luke 6 and seem to resonate on this day of debate about wealth taxes and kick-starting the economy...
You can imagine the crowd turning up – a right mixed bag:
poor folk and rich ones;
people in fine clothes who have breakfasted well
and people in work-wear who haven’t eaten yet today;
people able to take a morning off,
others who risk not earning what they need to eat today…
They’ve all come because they’re interested; they’re keen to know what this Jesus is all about; perhaps they even crave a spiritual experience – some might even have received one already.
Jesus’ words would have left each of them spluttering, like they do us – if we’re paying attention:
blessed are you when your benefits are cut
and the damp’s rising in the wall of your temporary accommodation…
blessed are you when you can’t afford your five-a-day
and the payday loan is due…
blessed are you when people call you scrounger and cheat…
woe to you if your salary is 80 times that of your workers
and your table’s heaving with enough food
to feed a small Malian village…
woe to you when people say how well you’re doing…
The lucky people are not the healed and healthy, the well-healed and wealthy, but those who know they’re bankrupt and busted and only God can help them.
I imagine that by v26 he either had their attention or could see them turning and walking away – which was his intention. This is not Robbie Williams saying ‘let me entertain you…’ This is God’s Son grabbing his audience’s attention; calling us to a life of discipleship: do we stay or do we go?
For those with nothing, the choice is easier than it is for those laden with stuff; but for both there’s a sense of disbelief to overcome – does he mean it?
· Is there good news for the likes of us; those the world looks down on; those who feel their poverty and ill-health to be God’s punishment? It sounds like there is…shall we hang around to hear more?
· Is there good news for the likes of us; we who’ve worked hard and saved, got an education, bought a stake in the race and are reaping the rewards? Sounds like there isn’t… Should we hang around to hear more?
Jesus is speaking to disciples (17b, 20a), to those who are listening (27; 7:1): this is good news for everyone: a radical shake-up that changes everything and from which everyone emerges a winner… No wonder there’s singing at the back!