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Bridging the gap

Sermon preached on Luke 6:17-26 At the All Age Worship service at St John's and St Philip's in The Hague

During this service I had a couple of interactive moments with the congregation, below you will also find a recording of my sermon as I was trying it out beforehand.

Before I am going to start my sermon, I need a couple of helpers, let’s start with two to read something out for us.

Sometimes the Bible can be a bit difficult to understand. For me, with English as my second language, I don’t always know what every word really means, and then it can help to look at the text from a different Bible. Can we get the reading back on the screen? So let’s look at this: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled, blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Can ............ read this: from the International Children’s Bible:

“Poor people, you are happy, because God’s kingdom belongs to you. 21 You people who are now hungry are happy, because you will be satisfied. You people who are now crying are happy, because you will laugh with joy.

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Who is happy when they are poor? I am not, I would think about it all the time and worry. Who is happy when they are hungry? I am not, I get really cranky and moody.

Who is happy when they are crying? Sometimes I cry from laughter. But most of the time I am not happy when I cry. Did Jesus make a mistake? Does he have the emotions mixed up, because everything he says, is opposite from how I would react in that situation. Let’s look at the second part then. 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. Can ............ read this: from the International Children’s Bible: 24 “But how terrible it will be for you who are rich, because you have had your easy life. 25 How terrible it will be for you who are full now, because you will be hungry. How terrible it will be for you who are laughing now, because you will be sad and cry.

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Once again, it’s all opposites isn’t it. Do you think God is saying that it is better to be poor than rich? That he prefers us to be hungry? Or that God only loves us when we cry? Does anyone have an idea?

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What if it is about balance? About what lies between poor and rich, hungry and full, crying and laughing. Jesus is talking to people like you and me, who all have our own lives, with our own events. And it is very easy for us to look at our neighbour and say, they have it better than I do, or, I have it better than them. We compare ourselves to other people, and create a division or a gap. It’s the same with the people who came to listen to Jesus in our gospel, they were sick, poor, hungry. Jesus can’t heal everyone, he can’t give everyone food. But he can give them God’s promise. Which is that God is there, for everyone. God sees you, God loves you, and God wants you to be well.

However the gap between people who have one thing and the people who don’t have that, is still there. How can we bridge that gap? We can share some of our food, we can share some of our money, but is that really going to solve it?

I was living in Rome, two years ago. And in Rome you have a lot of people who are homeless. And whenever I would go to the supermarket across the road, a man was sitting there on a little kiddie chair. He had a plate in front of him and asked people for change. I never carried cash when I went to that supermarket, I just payed by card. One time Eric, my flatmate, and I went to get some food, and I bought a big bunch of orange’s. As we left the store, the homeless man was there asking for money. I said I didn’t have any and kept on walking, but Eric felt bad and as we walked he asked if he could have some of my oranges to give to the homeless man. So I gave him some, and waited while he ran back. The following scene unfolded before my eyes. Eric goes up to the man and says, sorry, we don’t have money, but here are some oranges’s to at least have something to eat! He puts the oranges’s on the plate. The homeless man looked him up and down, spat on the ground and said: “I don’t want your orange’s, who do you think I am!” Eric starts apologising, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you...”, but the homeless man didn’t want any of it. He picked up the bunch, and started throwing them at Eric, shouting. “I don’t want your oranges, who do you think I am! This is not what I asked for! Ridiculous!”

Ofcourse it is very funny. But it also shows that we weren’t very good at balancing and bridging the gap between him and us. We thought we did him a favour by giving him food, but he literally, threw it right back at us. It was not what he thought he needed. We can’t decide for other people what they need, because we don’t know their situation. What we can do though, is to sit, listen and pay attention. Just like Jesus gave attention to all those who came to him to be healed, to be heard, to touch him and be touched by him. And that is where the secret lies. I don’t have to give material things, food, money, I can give something more important. If I pay attention, and carefully listen with my heart to the person at the other side of the gap, we are already making that gap smaller. We can build a bridge on kindness, humbleness, gentleness and love, and meet eachother in the middle, find that balance that Jesus is talking about and find happiness, not only in heaven but here, now, where we are, as Christians in our modern day-to-day lives.

Amen.

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