Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

  Northern Great Lakes SynodEvangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaBethany on Facebook  

All Saints 11/7

Luke 6.20-49
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice 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. 24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25“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. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

As some of you may know, I work for a local nonprofit as the marketing and public relations person. One of the things we do each year is put on a conference for nonprofits in the U.P. It’s a pretty typical conference – we have a theme and a keynote speaker, workshops and exhibitors – the essential conference elements.

We also have drawings. People love drawings and frankly, I have a lot of fun giving away prizes.  It almost always makes people smile and when you win something just because you’re there and for whatever reason, your name got thrown into some hat, it’s automatically like frosting on the cake.

To get prizes for the drawings, we ask our exhibitors and others if they have anything they would like to contribute. So we’ll end up with things like a sweatshirt from a place like Fortune Lake or Presbytery Point, or a bag of books and goodies from the library. One of the items we got this year was a recently published and very substantial manual on nonprofit management. It’s a really nice tool. I added it to my table of prizes and walked away. Within minutes, somebody took it.

I was astounded. This was a conference of nonprofit people, people whose careers and volunteer hours and passions centered on missions that improve our communities. These were trustworthy people. And this stolen book really rocked my world for a minute.

I immediately did what I needed to do and told the necessary people about what had happened. But when I started talking to my boss about it, I realized that in the big scheme of things, this book didn’t really matter very much. I really was surrounded by a group of people who were totally invested and driven to make their communities better places for everyone.

So instead of continuing to focus on the fact the book had been taken, I found myself saying to my boss “Well, maybe someone walked off with it by mistake and will return it. If not, I guess that person must have needed that book more than anyone else at this conference.”

My boss agreed and we didn’t worry about it for another second. I did however notice that letting it go like that was actually a physical relief. I knew it was the right way to approach it and it freed me up to concentrate on what really mattered in that moment -- running a great conference. That was far better use of my time and energy than wondering who had the book, how they could even make the choice to take it, and most certainly, taking the whole incident personally.

For me, this was a little, day-to-day way of understanding what Jesus was trying to get across to us that day he came down from the mountain and delivered his sermon on the plain.

The chapters preceding today’s Gospel reading tell us that Jesus had, once again, spent a night in solitude praying in the mountains. When he came down from the mountains, he called his disciples and named his Twelve Apostles. But it wasn’t just the disciples who gathered.

“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre (TIre) and Sidon (SI-duhn).  They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for the power came out from him and healed all of them.”

This was the setting, this sea of people drawn to the truth and hope that Jesus was unfolding for them through his words and his very presence.  And while the text tells us he looked up at his disciples when he began to speak, it also says “But I say to YOU that listen.” As he did throughout his ministry, Jesus was broadening the audience, pulling in all those who were drawn to the life-giving message he had come to proclaim. He was there to share it with all of them, regardless of who they were or their status in that life. Regardless of whether they prayed at all the appointed times or gave a tenth of all their earnings at temple. Regardless of whether they were thieves, rouges or tax collectors, Jesus was there to speak with all of them – all of us.

They were the poor and disenfranchised of society and Jesus declared they were the blessed and they were the people of God’s Kingdom.  Despite the fact that there were – and still are -- those who would fight with all their might to protect the status quo and reject the new order Christ was presenting, we can be assured and find joy in the fact that it is all of us who are welcome in the Kingdom Christ speaks of and that promise cannot be changed or erased by any human-made power structure.

Even in times when it feels like everything is stacked up against us, we remain the irrefutable children of God and heirs to the promise of life everlasting in God’s glory. And when Jesus tells us to “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven,” it is a reminder of the blessings, the joy and the riches that fill us when we make God the center of our lives.

The disciples and sinners and broken hearted who gathered around Jesus that day were very hungry, and they were getting their fill. Like us they were drawn to this message of God’s steadfast love and compassion—the only things that really sustain and comfort us.

I for one believe in the power and sustenance Jesus offers us in the Beatitudes. I believe that striving to attain the standards Christ sets for us in our reading today is worth it – despite the fact that there may be days when it feels like I am rejected or “defamed on account of the Son of Man.”  I believe this so strongly that, with the encouragement and support of my family and many others, I have decided to begin seminary next fall with the intention of becoming an ordained minister in the ELCA. I’m excited to learn more about how I can continue to take Christ’s message of hope and salvation out into the world and how that world will continue to show me the richness of living in that hope and salvation.

It has occurred to me how blessed I am to be starting this new journey from this place. I have witnessed Christ’s Beatitudes in action here at Bethany many times. It would not surprise me in the least to see one of us offer our coat when some shivering soul needed a shirt or give anything we could to someone who was in need. We do amazing things as a congregation – from the work of the Board of Social Ministry to individual contributions for world hunger relief. Wrap yourself in a prayer shawl made here or imagine a child opening one of those school backpacks we sent off recently and tell me you don’t feel Christ’s Beatitudes in action. I came here hungry – hungry to know Christ better in my personal journey of faith and hungry to be among people of Christ. And I have been fed well. As Larry and Max and I embark on this new leg of the journey, we take all of you with us and I ask you to keep us in your prayers, as we keep you in ours.

“Blessed are you who are hungry NOW, for you will be filled.” The blessings and woes recorded for us by Luke are not so much a set of directives as they are an invitation. They open up the Kingdom of God we learn of through the ministry of Jesus. On All Saints Day, as we take time as a community to honor and remember those who have gone before us– the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us and are now living in the glory of God’s kingdom – we also recall Christ’s invitation to be part of this kingdom now. When we live the Beatitudes and address the needs of the poor, the hungry, those who weep and cannot find joy in their lives, we become an extension of this cloud of witnesses right here and now with all who we encounter.

Being witnesses right now is a pretty powerful prospect because it is not just us who are hungry. There are many people out there who hunger for the blessings, the joy Jesus tells us about in today’s reading. And when people see us, out there in our day-to-day lives showing compassion and mercy for our enemies, responding with the love of Christ to conflict or those who would oppress us, or just letting go of a stolen nonprofit management manual and trusting that it would end up where it was needed the most, it is noticed. Don’t doubt the power of stepping up to the invitation Jesus extends to us and bearing witness to the wonders of living as God’s people.

Ann Gonyea-Alexander


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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