Weekly worship: Sunday 17 February

The best a human can get.

Pastoralists in Ethiopia

Jeremiah 17:5-10        1 Corinthians 15: 12-20          Luke 6:17-26

The recently released Gillette advert encouraging men to fight toxic masculinity has unfortunately received backlash from several men across the world. In the advert, it asks: ‘bullying, harassment, is this the best a man can get?’

Because of the strong influence of patriarchy in all walks of life, the message of stamping bullying and harassment has sparked anger and hurt to several men who consider themselves as alpha macho male. This advert is a simple illustration to explain the nature of our society in which we live today, for telling men to fix up things that are going wrong is received as a hard message for some.

Gender stereotypes have long been the norm of our society. Women from ages have been projected with self-improvement in most adverts, especially with their appearances. It is very strange to see the outrage of some men on this seemingly positive message-filled advert. ‘The best a man can get.’

Blessed are the poor

In the gospel text from Luke, Jesus speaks to the crowds explaining what the best people can get in their society. The phrase for ‘the best’ in Jesus’ times was used as ‘blessed.’

This phrase ‘blessed’ in Greek is ‘makarios’ was generally used for gods, elite people, kings and the upper class of the society. When Jesus used ‘makarios,’ he subverted it and ascribed blessedness to those who are poor, who are meek, who are excluded, who are mourning.

To those hearers, when Jesus spoke ‘blessed are the poor’, it sounded very strange, but for Jesus, it conveyed the mission for which he came into this world. Jesus was bold in breaking the stereotypes of all kinds and upheld the values of justice and equality all along.

Jesus not only pronounced blessedness to the least, the last and the lost of the society, he also boldly pronounced woes to those rich, content, saturated communities. Good news to the poor means bad news to the rich. According to Jesus, the best the powerless gets is ‘blessedness’ and the best a powerful get is a ‘woe’.

A time for justice 

It is time for the church today to preach this gospel uncompromisingly and affirm justice, equity and equality in our localities. Jesus’ resurrection is real, for Paul mentions to Corinthians from our text that if Christ isn’t risen then all our preaching and faith are futile.

Jesus’ resurrection to life is a strong sign of breaking down the sting of death, and all those who believe in that message should be bold in participating with Jesus in breaking down the stings of oppression, discrimination and exclusion and make resurrection a reality for our times today.

Jeremiah writes: ‘Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord,’ and it is high time that we as faithful communities are called to put our trust in God. By affirming our trust in God, we are strongly denouncing that our trust is not in any false-gods of modernity like that of globalisation, consumerism and market.

Prayer

God, who in Jesus has come
to break down all stereotypes and oppressive status quos,
empower us with your courage and boldness
to participate along with you
in breaking down the walls and barriers
which are causing discrimination,
oppression and exclusion in our society.
Fill us with your Spirit
to lead a life worthy of our calling.
Amen.

Points to pray for this week

Give thanks and pray for the work of Side by Side, the faith movement for gender justice. 

Sunday 17 February –  pray for racial justice across the world. Find out more about Racial Justice Sunday 

Wednesday 20 February – pray for the World Day of Social Justice and for all who work towards the day when all are included in the feast of life. 

Cry out for lasting peace in Syria. Find out more in your Christian Aid prayer diary 

This week’s sermon pointers have been provided by the Rev Dr Raj Bharath Patta, an ordained Minister of the Andra Evangelical Lutheran Church in India and is currently serving as an authorised Presbyter at the Stockport Methodist Circuit.