Finding Level Ground

February 17, 2019

In Luke’s Gospel account of this important sermon we realize it has noticeable changes than the one found in the Gospel of Matthew, which we are probably more familiar with.  In Matthew the sermon is on a mount.  Jesus goes through a litany of blessing which we all know as the Beatitudes.  In the translation of Luke, Jesus moves to level ground.  He not only announces blessing, but also the second part of the litany invites us to listen to some challenges.  Jesus will say “woe to you who are filled now.”  The introduction of the word “woe” is not found in Matthew’s account.  These are interesting invitations for us to learn more about the scriptures and its early portraits of Jesus and His sayings.  Today I would like to focus on location.  For Luke this sermon is delivered on level ground.  That to me is insightful.  Setting the place or scene allows us to look at the meaning behind the actual place.  Some scripture scholars will say that there were no mountains near the community to which Luke was proclaiming his account so he changes the place.  Others say it was a message delivered on level ground because God sees everyone as equal.  Some will reflect on Jesus being on the same level as others when He gives His announcement to let them know He is fully human, one of the crowd, yet also fully divine as the Son of God.  So while His words portray the divine message, His physical placement of where He delivers the message is in the midst of and surrounded by humanity.

We use the term “level ground” a lot or we say, “Let’s level the playing field.”  We say this to make both sides equal or to give everyone a fair chance.  “Let us bring it down to this level” is another phrase we often use, so that everyone may have understanding.  We move forth with a certain grade level of competence.  This is a measuring tool.  Carpenters and workers use levels to make sure things are hung straight.  When testing is done there is a sense of keeping everything level.  It was important for Luke to bring Jesus to level ground in this proclamation of the Gospel.  It was also important to challenge all of us to pay attention to the words being said.  Blessing and challenges surround us no matter who we are.   Sacred divinity entered the world in Jesus the Son of God and His walking among us on earth brought our mortality new reverence.

What we know is Luke’s Gospel brings Jesus to a stretch of level ground.  While we can interpret this in many ways, for me, deep reflection brings me to the joy of our Savior walking among us not preaching from on high.  Before the words were spoken He found an environment to proclaim His message.  He brought them to a place free of distractions so that a message of blessings and challenges could be proclaimed.  God sees us as we are.  He also sees us as redeemed by the blood of our Savior.  While many have been given different talents and not everyone can be a star quarterback or the captain of the volleyball team, while not all can run a mile fast or balance on a beam, while not all can be the greatest of test takers, or the best in the class, we are all on level ground with God.  He loves us purely and with intention.  The level ground of God’s love preempts our talents.  The level ground is spiritual.  Our soul was meant for union with God.

May we find the level ground God has provided,

Reverend  John J. Ouper