Sunday 13th February 2022
6th Sunday after Epiphany

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

One clear theme in today's Old Testament readings is the symbolic connection between the wellbeing of growing plants and the spiritual health of God's people. Those who follow God's ways are compared to fruitful and flourishing specimens, while those who place their trust elsewhere are associated with those that are parched and wither. There is an obvious connection with work and everyday life here, as consideration is given to the skills require to grow healthy plants, irrigate them etc. etc. In appropriate contexts some interaction with those who are experienced at horticulture could lead to a reflection on spiritual health as outlined here.

This though does not fully plumb the depths of their meaning, and it might also be argued that these Scriptures point away from the world of work, encouraging us not to place our trust in "mere mortals" but rather "trust in the Lord" (Jeremiah 17) or not to "walk in the counsel of the wicked" instead choosing to "meditate on God's law". (Psalm 1). But this line of reasoning creates a false dichotomy - the overarching message of prophets like Jeremiah and the focus of the ancient Law Books is that every aspect of life belongs under God's authority and rule. This is not a call to focus on the things of God instead of the everyday things of the world around us, but to maintain our focus on God as we engage in them, allowing our faith to define our approach to every aspect of life.

In many respects this offers a platform for the significant statements of Jesus in the Gospel reading, often labelled "the Beatitudes". Here Jesus outlines a value system that flies in the face of some of the prevalent attitudes of our world today. It is the meek, rather than the self-seeking who will inherit the earth; the hungry rather than the rich who can look forward to God's blessing. Depending on the context, much could be made of this. Again, there may be an instinctive reaction to portray the world of work, commerce and economics as representing those values that Jesus challenges, and in many respects this is justified. But it is not work, in and of itself, that is at fault, but often that work has become overtaken by the wrong values and has been reduced to simply serving those ends. These words do not so much encourage God's people to turn their backs on the world of work, but to renew their vision of its true nature and how it might serve humanity's wellbeing when properly defined and regulated by God's purposes and laws.