Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. It immediately sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too! Or did you hear about the fellow who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time. And then, then there was a woman who had identical twins and but was forced to give them up for adoption. One of them went to a family in Egypt and they named their son ‘Ahmal.’ The other went to a family in Spain; they named him ‘Juan.’ Years later, Juan sent a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, the mother tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responded, ‘They’re identical twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.
What makes puns fun and funny is that play on words, that unexpected twist or usage. That unexpected twist in puns cause us to suddenly see something from a different perspective. And it is that seeing something from a different perspective that is an apt description of our gospel lesson today.
This is the sixth Sunday of Epiphany and as in the previous lessons Jesus is shown to be more than simply a human man. In this lesson the primary focus is on his teaching. But before he begins teaching he shows his power and authority. By healing all those where were sick and troubled with unclean spirits he shows himself as one who has divine power and authority. It would be like someone walking through Oak Hill hospital and suddenly everyone getting well. It was amazing; it was astonishing. Then having presented his credentials, so to speak, he begins to teach. And he is teaching therefore from the position of one who has just displayed God’s power and authority. These are not the words of some guy standing on the corner on top of a box. And as he teaches, he presents a new reality.
He looks at his disciples, and it is important to remember to whom he is speaking. Simply because a person is poor or hungry or sad or hated does not mean they are blessed. But to his disciples he says, “Blessed or happy are you who are now poor.” Poor can be understood as economically poor and it can be understood as socially insignificant. And why does Jesus say these people are to be happy? He tells them that this world, this society, this ‘what we see all around us’ is not all there is. This world is not the final chapter. No, there is more. There is much more and it is far better. It is better because what we will be part of is God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is not susceptible to corruption, decay, or evil. There will be no cruelty, no more poverty, and no more injustice. This is the kingdom that they will inherit as his followers and because of that they should be happy. He tells his disciples that those of them who are now hungry are blessed, are happy. Why? They are happy because the time is coming when they will be filled and satisfied and they will never be hungry again. There is a time coming when there will never be any discontent every possible need will be met. He says that people who are weeping now are also blessed. How in the world are those who are sad blessed? They are blessed because one day they will be laughing. They will be so filled with joy they will laugh out loud. And there will be no end to their joy. There will be no dark cloud to come and ever make a shadow again in their lives. They will have joy forever more. And he tells his disciples that they are blessed and should be very happy if other people hate or exclude or revile or defame them because they follow Jesus. If that happens start shouting “Whoopee!” and celebrate because they will be given a great reward in heaven.
And then Jesus flips the coin. He tells the people that if you are rich now, if you are content with what this world can give you and you have sunk your heart here, then one day you are really going to be sad; in fact one day they will be miserable. If what is most important to you is your money and your possessions then you had better really enjoy them now because later on all you will have is your memories of your money and possession and you will have a lot of regrets. He tells the people who are full, that is, they are satisfied now in this world that one day they will be longing and hungering for something more but it will be too late. If life to you in this world is good and you look around and can think that you are completely satisfied with how things are in this world then one day you will be starving and craving for something that you won’t be able to get. He tells them that those who are happy and laughing right now to look out! People who are simply living for the moment, people who are going from one diversion after another, always looking for a new high or new thrill, a new pleasure, these people need to look out, because one day, and it is coming, one day it will all crash. It will all end. And then they will weep and mourn because there will be no possibility for comfort.
The disciples of Jesus were looking for a new kingdom on earth, but Jesus is telling his disciples that the kingdom they are looking for is a new world that is coming. Jesus is telling his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is coming, but not in this lifetime. This is what Paul is telling us in the epistle reading as well. Apparently there were some people in the church at Corinth who were teaching that once you die, that’s it. You are dead and everything is over. But Paul says, if Christ was raised from the dead, how can someone say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then what we preached to you has been of no value and your faith has been in vain. Further if that is the case then Paul says we apostles are liars because we said that God raised Christ from the dead. If Christ has not been raised, your faith in Christ is worthless and you are still in your sins because God didn’t forgive you after all. If, if, if, but, the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead. The fact is that we have been forgiven our sins and been reconciled to God because, because Christ was raised from the dead. The fact is that there is life after this life is done. Therefore as Jesus taught, there is another world just beyond this one. There is another reality that in time will supersede this one.
So what is the application for us today? The fact is, even though we know about heaven most people do not want to wait or plan for heaven. But we need to develop an eternal perspective. We need to remember we cannot stay on this world. This world is doomed for destruction. We may live here now, but this world is not our ultimate destination. Jesus is teaching us that we need to plan for the next world. This is why we can hope for joy when we grieve because this life is not the final chapter. This is why we do not need to be discouraged if we are poor or seemingly unimportant. This world is going away and in view of eternity, this life we live right now is over in the blink of an eye. This is why we choose to do what is right and say what is right. This is that twist I talked about at the beginning. You see we look around in our world and it seems as though this is all there is. It seems as though if those who are hungry or sad or poor or hated are the ones who are really losing out in this life. But Jesus says, “No, if you follow me this world is not the final chapter and what happens here is not the most important. If you follow me there is a glorious life in store for you.” So let us take Jesus at his word and follow him as our Savior and our Lord. Amen.