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June 14, 2020 Sermon

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  • There’s been so much made of the importance of essential workers, and deservedly so.
    • Essential workers the people who are absoutely necessary to keep our lives functioning.
    • There’s some types of jobs that come to mind immediately, like nurses and physicians, but beyond them, there are some occupations that begin to become more visible. Cashiers, stockers, home health aides started to be labels as essential. They keep us healthy, cared for, and fed.
    • It would make sense that we would honor these individuals, especially during a complicated time. We raise them up as heroes.
    • But have we until now?
  • The broad majority of our silent essential heroes are rarely given the message in our culture that they are, in fact heroes.
    • Controlling for things like physicians salaries, we as Ohioians pay essential workers 21.5% less than other occupations.
    • Many of these occupations are staffed by people of color, as well as immigrants. As with immigrants in particular, it’s hard in our current time not to hear the word “illegal” attached as well, as if somehow just simply by coming to this country from another means we much be suspicious of how they arrived.
    • Also, most of these jobs are held by individuals over the age of 50, and if you remember in the early part of the COVID crisis, some pundits and even some executive state leadership (including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas) said that, in order to ensure the economy keeps moving, some folks who are older may have to sacrifice their lives to the virus.
    • But you don’t have to take it from me - The Brookings Institution interviewed Matt Milzman, a Safeway cashier in the DC area
    • When you add other issues like limited PPE for these folks, what we seem to have are lots of essential jobs, held by people who we treat as disposable.
  • Jesus’ and the rebuke of our narrative
    • When we begin our story here in Luke, we see how the first thing is that Jesus comes to a level place. It’s why this part of Luke is entitled “The Sermon on the Plain"
      • Many commentaries and theologians will talk about God’s “condescension to humanity,” which is suppose is in part true. But, perhaps a better way to think about it is like here, Jesus meets us on an even plain, and we meet Jesus there. There is no above or below, no special place for certain people, no one is disposable. It’s just a crowd with Jesus.
    • It’s interesting how Jesus’ narrative on the plain is a little different than what we’re used to in Matthew, because it does not just tell a story of blessing, but it's also is a warning.
      • I’ve wondered why, first, Jesus looks up to his disciples. Of course, it’s surprising that the closest followers of Jesus were not right with him. But I think he wanted them to hear his words well to remember them.
      • And in this sermon, he tells those who are listening that what this world declares as disposable, reviled, and unimportant is everything but that in the Kingdom of God.
      • Moreover, in Luke’s telling of this sermon, it also is a stark reminder for those who the world today raises up - that while things might be good now, in the world that God plans for God’s people, it will not be the same.
    • Jesus reminds us in this sermon that the best news for the poor is that the story told is not the truth. That what can be true are the streams of justice and righteousness that are flowing like streams. Those words mean that there’s no favoritism or self-righteousness. No one is disposable, only to be called “essential” when the world demands it. The justice of this world is not related to the ends we promote as given.
  • What can we do?
    • For frontline workers, there are practical things:
      • Contribute to relief efforts
      • Feed frontline workers
      • Show kindness!
    • We call ourselves disciples of Christ. What if Jesus was looking right at you when he spoke these words? In this time, it may be a comfort for you. Or, it may prick your conscience. Probably a little of both.
    • More than anything else, however, it should move us to tell new stories of who matters in this world, and should move us to bring those who are told too often that their lives have not mattered and who have to shout it now that to Jesus, they always have.

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