It may not be as hip as Gwen Stefani this week, but I'm still fixating on words and phrases.
This week, it's about Jesus "leveling" with us.
See, in Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives this famous set of teachings that we often call his "Sermon on the Mount."
In Luke's gospel, we get a set of teachings that start in remarkably similar ways, but this time, we're told, he "came down with them and stood on a level place." A level place. (Not a mountain.)
Perhaps he used riffs of the same sermon twice. (Some of the greatest preachers today also have a set of stories they use over and over...) Or, perhaps the gospel writers used artistic license in telling the stories. Or maybe one gospel-writers "level place" is another gospel writers "mount." Who am I to say.
I'm just enjoying the idea of Jesus going to a "level" place, and leveling with the folks there: telling them some true things about God's reality. Like that the poor are blessed. And so are the broken-hearted, the down-trodden, the outcast and those who suffer hate.
And then, unlike Matthew, he goes straight into more, flip-side, true things about God's reality: "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." Woe to the full-up, the comfortable, the popular.
Here again the wisdom of the scripture tells us things are flipping over, getting up-turned, and all changed around.
(Didn't we just get this in Advent, when Mary was singing her Magnificant, and when the tenor in the choir sang Isaiah's words from Handel's Messiah about those valleys being exalted and rough places plain?)
Jesus is preaching to us about how he's flattening out the distinctions we've been using to compare ourselves to others, to remind us how we might be different/better?
On a plain, Jesus plainly speaks the good news that God is making our heaped-up differences and divisions, well, flat like a plain.
Makes me think of how much fun it is to play broomball. You take a group of people, preferably ones who have already decided which of their group is talented at athletics, and which folks are cool, and you throw them into an ice rink. With shoes on. Suddenly, the playing field is leveled. (!) Everyone's lousy at hockey when they slide around on the ice in their silly shoes. Everyone looks silly. And, usually, everyone has a good time. (It helps that youth groups can usually only afford ice time in the middle of the night.)
In the Nebraska plains, we play in our socks on the basketball court. That works, too.
My question is: how can we, as the church, model this making-level that Jesus preaches? In a world filled with divisions, what will bring us to a level spot?
And, this week in worship, we'll keep thinking a bit more about resurrection. Not that we'll figure it all out. Paul will have some more words.