February 11, 2019
By Jonathan Chapman.
Rev. Jonathan Chapman is the pastor of Westfield Congregational Church in Killingly, CT.
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 on 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.’
We often read scripture like a guide book—at least for us ministers. And usually, we focus on the big picture advice: feed the hungry, tend to the sick, comfort the dying. You know the stuff. But rarely do we find practical advice—the how-to's of taking care of each other. Every once in a while, though, we find a little tidbit of that on-the-ground, here’s-how-to-do it direction. And here in Luke, we get just that.
We’ve made it to Luke’s version of the beatitudes—a litany of those big picture goals for ministry and caring for each other. But the practical advice isn’t found in those—it’s found before them, in the set up for some of the most recognizable verses in all the gospels. “He came down with them and stood on a level place,” Luke tells us.
That’s it. That’s the advice: come down and stand on a level place with the people you’ve been called to love, care for, hold, and work alongside.
Early in my time in Connecticut, my congregation decided to paint their fellowship hall. It was time for the lemonade yellow walls and sky blue trim of the basement hall (colors chosen in the hopes of cheering up a dark space) to be replaced with something more…historic/reserved/pretty/nice. You choose—all those apply.
A colleague at another church asked me what I was doing that particular weekend, and I told him the truth: I’m going to paint the fellowship hall. “Your church people can’t do that without you?” he asked. I was working 3/4 time, and he was trying to protect my time. “Probably,” I replied. “But I want to be there with them.”
It turns out that those weekends early in my ministry at Westfield were some of the most pivotal. Not because we took on any monumental theological question or solved any world issues. But because we worked together to accomplish something—side-by-side.
Sometimes, it’s that simple, isn’t it? Get to a level place, work alongside, and love.
Prayer: Dear God, help me find the level place. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Broadview Community UCC
Faith Congregational Church UCC
First Church of Christ in Hartford, UCC
Immanuel Congregational Church UCC
La Nueva Cosecha de Dios
This Week in History:
Feb. 14, 2018, (1 year ago) Nikolas Cruz enters Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire, killing 17 people and wounding 17 more. Cruz, charged with 17 counts of murder and 1y counts of attempted murder is still awaiting trial.
Starting With Scripture: February 11, 2019 , by Jonathan Chapman.