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Worship, prayer and Bible study resources

Second Sunday before Lent

 

For alternative readings for Epiphany 6, ordinary 6 Click Here 


Introduction

The fishing boats on Lake Galilee in Jesus' day didn't have keels. They were relatively flat-bottomed boats which could be easily pulled up on the beach to unload and used in the shallows along the shore. Great for flexibility, not good for stability in rough weather! The Sea of Galilee is a relatively small body of water about thirteen miles long and seven miles wide and prone to storms. If you were stuck in the middle of the lake in bad weather it was a terrifying situation to be in. Not surprisingly then, the disciples in the boat are petrified when one of these storms breaks upon them, fearing the worst. Only the strongest swimmer would ever be likely make it to the shore and even that was extremely unlikely from the middle of the lake. In a panic they wake Jesus, who in turn calms the storm, using the same tone and phrases as a teacher might use to get an unruly class under control. Different terrors haunt each one of us. The truth contained in the gospel passage is designed to calm all our fears and enable us to have inner peace. God Himself, through Jesus, invites our spirits to relax and let Him take care of the events that are raging beyond our control.

Opening Verses

'Not a hair of your head will perish, by your endurance you will gain your lives.' Luke Chapter 21:18

Collect Prayer  for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.  Amen.   Common Worship

Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

You alone, O God, can satisfy our deepest hunger, and protect us from the lure of wealth and power. Teach us to seek your kingdom above all else, that we may know the security and joy of those who put their trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Methodist Worship)

O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you; mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

First Bible Reading   Genesis 2: 4b-9, 15-25

4-9 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-- and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

15-25 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

 

Second Reading Revelation 4

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

 

Gospel Reading Luke 8:22-25

One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."


Post Communion Prayer

God our creator, by your gift the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise, and the bread of life at the heart of your Church: may we who have been nourished at your table on earth be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross and enjoy the delights of eternity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Commentary

Fantastic Readings
All of the bible readings set for today describe truly fantastic events. They are literally beyond human comprehension unless we suspend belief in the purely physical nature of our world. In Genesis, God takes a rib (or side) from Adam and brings forth Eve as the creation of man and woman is described. There are multiple plays on Hebrew words in this passage, God creates woman ‘ishshah’ from man ‘ish’, just as man, ‘adam, was shaped from the dust of the ground, ‘adamah. Hebrew too has no word for body, which is why these verses are now more accurately translated using the word flesh, which in itself has all the connotations of the weakness which would befall it later in the chapter. And though the world would fall, Revelation describes the glory of the heavenly world, a paradise of splendour and majesty where angelic beings worship at the throne of the lamb, the king of creation. Another fantastic story. The language of apocalyptic writings such as Revelation is richly symbolic and the importance of the visions described lie rarely in the immediate and literal meaning but rather in the imagery the writer intended to convey. It was written in a period of intense disturbance and persecution of the infant church as an encouragement against Rome and its empire (the Beast) who were being used by the real enemy, Satan, the great and only real enemy of Christ and His people. In our reading today the writer of Revelation, called John, describes God as the true and only Emperor, enthroned in heaven, surrounded by true worshippers. Revelation goes on to describe the judgement and ultimate annihilation that will come on those who persecute Christian believers and closes with an account of the beauty of the New Jerusalem which is the church, on earth. The book is broader than even this basic meaning. It shows the unchanging realities on which our faith is founded, God’s promise to be with His people, protecting them and saving them irrespective of the circumstances at any particular time in history or their personal lives. God’s promise was the foundation of the confidence in Him we read in the Old Testament. The promise of the risen Christ that, ‘I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’, gives life to the church and Christians down the ages to the present time.
The gospel reading describes another fantastic event. The calming of a storm as Jesus demonstrates authority over the elements of nature and the creation. For the disciples in the boat this was no academic exercise in understanding the authority of Jesus, no tutorial on the power of Christ. It was a practical demonstration of the creation and the creator at work, demonstrating for them and us the irrefutable truth that God is with us whatever we happen to be going through at the time and whatever our fears. When we step out with God on our journey of faith, he will never leave us stuck in the middle of nowhere, isolated from Him, in danger of going under, but will be with us always as our creator and Father, saviour and friend. The Lord God, the almighty, the ruler of all, whom we worship with our lives at His throne. Sam Cappleman
 

Meditation

Every one knows how to be resigned amid the joys and happiness of prosperity, but to be so amid storms and tempests is peculiar to the children of God. - St. Francis of Sales

Hymns

  • Thou whose almighty word

  • I the Lord of sea and sky

  • Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him

  • All creatures of our God and King

  • Lead us heavenly father lead us

     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.

If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

Lord, teach me to trust you in whatever situations I may find myself. Help me to pray, not just when my boat is sinking, but in all the times and places of my life where you can make a real difference. Help me with my family and friends to establish better relationships, in my place of work to allow you to inform the way I behave. Forgive me when I make you a stranger and walk with me always. Amen.

Creator God, in the beginning your word subdued the chaos and in the fullness of time you sent Jesus, your Son, to rebuke the forces of evil and to make all things new. By that same power transform our fear into faith that we might have courage to follow in the way of your Kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Father God, we all know what it is like to be gripped with fear, perhaps not just for a moment of time, but for weeks on end. Thank you for strengthening our faith, and the faith of the church. Thank you for sending Jesus to bring us to yourself. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and in us. Thank you that not a sparrow falls to the ground without you knowing it. Thank you for the comfort of your presence. Help us be assured of your presence with us always, not matter what we fear. Amen

Father forgive our unbelief. Teach us, and strengthen us so that our faith will appropriately reflect your greatness. Amen When we fathom the life of things and of conditionality we reach the indissoluble, when we dispute the life of things and of conditionality we wind up before the nothing, when we consecrate life, we encounter the living creator God. Amen adap Martin Buber (1878 – 1965)

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Father forgive our unbelief. Teach us, and strengthen us so that our faith will appropriately reflect your greatness. Amen When we fathom the life of things and of conditionality we reach the indissoluble, when we dispute the life of things and of conditionality we wind up before the nothing, when we consecrate life, we encounter the living creator God. Amen adap Martin Buber (1878 – 1965)

Commentary

The ministry of Jesus was full of dangerous episodes. Indeed it would be possible to say that it was characterised by scenes of terrible conflict with people, spirits and in this episode with nature itself. I wonder how we would have felt if we were in that boat on Lake Galilee when the storm came and the waves started washing over the boat? Would the fact that you had Jesus with you have made any difference as you watched the water filling the inside of the sinking boat? Imagine no flares, no life jackets, no lifeboats, just you and the others and the imminent prospect of a dangerous swim. Undoubtedly the disciples were terrified, they had real fear and even the fact that Jesus was with them made no difference to their terror. The words of Jesus are a rebuke to the storm, but also a rebuke to the disciples "Where is your faith?" From his words should we conclude that Jesus expected the disciples to have been more calm? I doubt it, to be fearful in the face of life threatening situations is more likely to be a God given gift which helps us to survive, it is foolish to walk without fear into danger. I am sure that Jesus would have understood the adrenalin rush as the waves leapt over the boat and the concern of the disciples in the face of the storm. However we know from reports of the episode in the other Gospels that Jesus was hurt by the critical words of the disciples which went further than fear and doubted his care and love for them. The early Christian Church would have shared the same lives of confrontation as Jesus. They too knew the anger of the religious authorities, betrayal by friends and family. They would also have recognised evil in the world and understood that they were up against real spiritual evil. So they also may have been tempted to wonder whether Jesus cared for them when they were being killed for their faith. So let us bring that message up to date and apply it to ourselves. You and I are in the boat and we face throughout our lives all manner of storms and crises which make us fearful. We cannot stop ourselves from being afraid when we are in perilous situations but we must never doubt that in that perilous situation Jesus is present with us and cares for us. The early readers of the Gospels would have been reminded of the presence of their Risen Lord with them at all times, even in the face of organised state persecution and martyrdom. Only by trusting, even when we are afraid, can we come to know that same reassurance and peace which our Saviour brings. (Charles Royden)

Alternative Readings for Epiphany 6  Ordinary 6

Introduction

Jesus teaches the BeatitudesThere are those who think that being well off, physically fit or even having lots of material goods is a sign of God's blessing. In the Old Testament in  Deuteronomy the people of Israel were told that God would bless them if they were obedient to the law and curse them if they were not. This was the covenant and it formed the most essential part of the Jewish faith. However, this was not the message which Jesus taught. Jesus had a different covenant in mind and he had a new way for his followers to behave. We catch a glimpse of the new ways of Jesus in the Beatitudes today.

In these Beatitudes Jesus gives his disciples a way of living which stands the normal expected way of doing things on their head. The poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who were hated. These were the people that God would bless. Jesus pronounced that the justice of God would turn the world upside down.

If we are mourning, poor, or if you suffer injustice, then the Kingdom of God has a special place for you.

 Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
 


Collect for the Day—Before we read we pray

You alone, O God, can satisfy our deepest hunger, and protect us from the lure of wealth and power. Teach us to seek your kingdom above all else, that we may know the security and joy of those who put their trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Methodist Worship)

 

picture of trees by streamFirst Bible Reading  Jeremiah Chapter 17:5-10

 

This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

 

 

 

artwork of Jesus risen from death

 

Second Bible Reading  1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Verses 12-20

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

 

Gospel Reading  Luke Chapter 6 Verses 17-26

 
He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon,
who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (This is the word of the Lord -- Thanks be to God)

Post Communion Prayer

God our creator, by your gift the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise, and the bread of life at the heart of your Church: may we who have been nourished at your table on earth be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross and enjoy the delights of eternity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commentary

Luke reports people coming from large distances to see Jesus. Jesus instructs the people and heals them and they become aware of God’s power through Jesus words and actions. At a stage in the Gospel when opposition from religious leaders is rising, Jesus is represented as a charismatic teacher who speaks and acts with divine authority. It is this Jesus who addresses his followers, both those present and the wider group of Luke’s readers then and now. Mirroring the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches in what could be described as the “Sermon on the Plain” (vs17). The Beatitudes, a series of promised blessings, are given to those who really are poor, starving, disconsolate and despised for their faith, for God’s concern and blessing is for them. However, in contrast to Matthew, Luke does not allow any possibility of the spiritualizing of Jesus’ words: in reality, these people have little or no status, power, influence, they really are the poor, the marginalized and oppressed. The contrasting woes are a timely warning to those who enjoy a luxurious lifestyle in the present, without doing anything to help those who are suffering.

In the Gospel of Luke the theme of the values and assumptions of society being turned upside down is frequently heard. Jesus constantly challenges the ethical and moral standards of his contemporary society and this of course presents a challenge for us today as we seek to follow Jesus. The promise of blessing not only needs to be regarded as being fulfilled at some point in the future, but we must also consider that it should be made a reality in the here and now. This can only happen when the existing world order is challenged and overturned. As disciples of Christ we need to consider how we endeavour to ensure the Blessing of the Poor is realised in our society today. If it is not, then we should challenge the structures and practices which keep the poor in poverty, the marginalized on the edge of society and the persecuted in oppression. It is a challenge which we dare not neglect. Let us seek God’s guidance as we work towards a fully inclusive and integrated society, where the poor and marginalized are not just patronised with words, but are empowered to lead just and fulfilling lives.

 

Meditation

“Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice.”

“It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards "having" rather than "being", and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.”
Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #36

Hymns

MP 37 As the deer pants (See back page)
MP 572 Rejoice! Rejoice! (See back page)
H&Ps 739 May the Mind of Christ my saviour
H&Ps 668 Blessed Assurance

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

prayer as seed growing

 

Dialogued Prayer on the Beatitudes
Based on Matthew’s version, Mt. 5:1-12

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Keep us from being pre-occupied with money and worldly goods, and with trying to increase them at the expense of justice.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."
Help us not to be ruthless with one another, and to eliminate the discord and violence that exists in the world around us.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Let us not be impatient under our own burdens and unconcerned about the burdens of others.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled."
Make us thirst for you, the fountain of all holiness, and actively spread your influence in our private lives and in society.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Grant that we may be quick to forgive and slow to condemn.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God."
Free us from our senses and our evil desires, and help us to fix our eyes on you.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
Aid us to make peace in our families, in our country, and in the world.

Lord Jesus, you said,
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for the kingdom of heaven in theirs."
Make us willing to suffer for the sake of right rather than to practice injustice; and do not let us discriminate against our neighbours and oppress and persecute them.

 

A Children’s Prayer

little angel
Now I lay me down
to sleep,
Let 14 angels watch
over me,
2 at my right, 2 at my left
2 at my head, 2 at my feet
2 that will cover me
2 that will wake me and
2 that will take me to heaven where
angels sing joyfully forever,
Amen

Prayers for grown ups

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen. Collect for second before Lent - Common Worship

Grant us, O Lord, a resurrection faith - a faith that is radiant in the knowledge of your victory over sin and death - a faith that is confident in your care and your love. Bless now, we pray, with joy those who call out in your name and those who labour as you have directed. Bless too those we hold before you - and work a work of healing and salvation in their lives.
 

Gracious Father, fill your whole Church with truth and peace; where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; and where it is divided and torn asunder, heal and bind its wounds; through Christ our Lord. Amen
William Laud, 1573-1645

Our God, forgive us for failing to understand and accept the great demands placed upon us by your love. We enlist in your causes, but find ourselves losing interest. We promise to be courageous, but find ourselves afraid. We want to be sensitive, but find ourselves hard and callous. Forgive us; take our limitations and turn them into possibilities for service. Have mercy on us and grant us your peace. Amen.

God our heavenly Father, when the thought of you wakes in our hearts, let its awakening not be like a startled bird that flies about in fear. Instead, let it be like a child waking from sleep with a heavenly smile. Søren Kierkegaard

The Grail Prayer Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do. I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me your Father and all mankind. I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.

Alternative Resources

Hymns

O for a heart 495, I will enter his gates 307 & Ascribe greatness 40, In Loving kindness Jesus came 333, There is a Redeemer 673, Glorious things of thee are spoken 173.

Meditation

Kierkegaard once said, "Oh, would that there was truth in the intercourse between men! One man defends Christianity, another attacks it and in the end, if one examines their lives, neither of them bothers very much about it."

O Christ, our Morning Star, Splendour of Light Eternal, shining with the glory of the rainbow, come and waken us from the greyness of our apathy, and renew in us your gift of hope. Amen. (Bede the Venerable)

Commentary

Luke 6:17-26 ‘The Sermon on the Plain’

In the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" Jesus goes up on the mountain side to teach the people. There is a huge crowd gathered around him - so huge that some of the people who are on the outer edge of the crowd cannot hear his words and must ask others what the master has said. As Jesus pronounces what have become known as the beatitudes - one of the characters in the movie - desperate to know what Jesus is saying asks a man who is ahead of him the crowd — "what is he saying - what is he saying?" The man checks with a person in front of him, who in turn checks with someone else and then the message is relayed back—the Master says - "Blessed Are The Cheese Makers."

This is perhaps just a reminder to us of how often we get wrong what Jesus has said. and as a way of making us think about who is blessed and who is not. Who are the blessed ones anyway? Who is it that God favours? And who is that God looks askance at? Who is it that God warns - that God threatens - with troubles and woes?

If you listen to the preachers on cable TV and in some churches the answer seems clear. Those who succeed in life are the ones that God favours: - Those who have money in their pockets, smiles on their faces, well behaved children and who do not get sick without a miraculous healing next week in church. These are the blessed - while those who struggle with depression and despair, - those who live in poverty who perform menial tasks each day - those who serve others rather than living as their equals - and whose children are an embarrassment - these are the cursed and the afflicted. But is it true? Is this what Jesus taught?

The author of the third gospel - the Physician we know as Luke - clearly thought a great deal about whom God blesses and whom God does not. I say that because Luke's account of what we call the Sermon on The Mount is different than Matthew's version. Luke gives us a different view of Jesus' sermon, and in some ways a clearer view. First - in Luke - the sermon is not set on a hillside - where Jesus can look over the top of the crowd and hand down the word from on high to those who are beneath him. Rather it is set on a plain - on a level place - where a large crowd has gathered and pressed in upon him - and where Jesus has been walking among them - healing their diseases and curing their afflictions. And secondly in Luke Jesus announces a series of matching curses or woes: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God - woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled - woe to you are full now, for you will be hungry. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh - woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on the account of the Son of Man, - woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." Think about it. What does this list say about our aspirations? About our dreams? About our rushing out to buy lottery tickets so that we might win the big one?

God reverses all our expectations and we need to know it. God understands our pain, poverty, despair, fear. The promise of Christ in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel according to Luke, is that there is joy on the other side of grief, laughter on the other side of tears, fulfilment on the other side of hunger, and joyful reward on the other side of the abuse and the ridicule we receive because we cling to him and live in a way that is strange to the world - a way that is opposed to the world's way. Charles Royden