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 and Sidon. 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 power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice 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. “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. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
Unless you’re camped out under a rock right now (And good for you, if you are!), it’s hard to miss that we’re in the middle of a presidential election. Candidates are zipping across the country, traveling to primary states, and giving speech after speech after speech. And, of course, these candidates don’t give a different speech every place they speak. They have, what’s generally referred to as a “stump speech.” Depending on where they are they may tweak it a little bit, because what people want to hear in Charleston might not be what they want to hear in Des Moines. And so they mix it up a little bit, while keeping the bones of the speech in tact.
This may sound a little weird… but Jesus apparently had a stump speech too. He gave lots and lots and lots of talks, all over the place. Sometimes he was teaching on a mountaintop, and other times he was teaching on the beach. Sometimes he was talking to simple countryfolk, and other times he was in the big cities. And, like a modern political candidate, he didn’t give a totally different talk every time he took the podium. He had a stump speech. And, sometimes Jesus mixed it up.
Jesus’ most famous sermon was the Sermon on the Mount, which takes up a good portion of the early chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. It begins with the beatitudes, and then he moves on to talk about prayer, honest faith, and how to avoid spiritual hypocrisy. Today’s lesson from Luke is SO close to this sermon, except that it’s also different in some important ways.
First of all, here, Jesus isn’t talking on a mountaintop, but on a “level place.” That’s why this sermon is sometimes called “The Sermon on the Plain.” Here, he begins with a series of beatitudes—though they are changed up a little bit from the Sermon on the Mount. He’s not just declaring the “poor in spirit” blessed, but just the “poor.” He’s no longer just talking about those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” but simply those who are “hungry.” But, perhaps one of the most important differences is that the Sermon on the Mount was issued as a direct rebuke of the Pharisees, and the Sermon on the Plain seems to be directed towards us all.
Reading this passage, and trying to live up to its ideals might be the greatest spiritual practice:
Do not judge.
Love your enemies.
Turn the other cheek.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Build your house on a firm foundation.
No matter who you are, or where you are at in your spiritual journey, there’s a challenge here for you.