Sermon for February 20, 2022 Seventh of Epiphany “A New Way of Being”
In Luke we have the ‘sermon on the plain’, similar to and differing from Matthew’s ‘sermon on the mount’ offering the reader a broader view of the nature and wonder of Jesus. Luke reminds us that the coming of the Christ into the world makes a difference. In fact, the in-breaking of God into human history makes all the difference in the way we respond to other people.
Luke begins his account of Jesus’ life with the most complete telling of the birth of Jesus and the events leading up to that birth. Elizabeth and Zacharias, Mary and Joseph are excited to share the story of the pending births of their children. One the herald and one the Christ. Even with the backdrop of Roman Imperial rule that was oppressive and harsh, a baby is born and with that birth God is with us. Luke wants us to know that birth is a world and life changing event.
Memory and story are vital to our lived experience as individuals, family and groups. That is why we share stories and share pictures. I remember that…is a powerful beginning to where we are today. Luke wants us to remember and take seriously that God really came to us, that God uses people, events, history and vision to fulfill the purposes of God for humanity and creation. That memory was never intended to fade to the recesses of nostalgia. That Jesus that was born in a manger, the memory that is embedded into our memory from countless pageants, was never intended to remain there.
The question is; what about our lives now? Does the Jesus born is us make a difference in how we live with justice and compassion? To focus our attention and intention Jesus takes what we know as ‘the golden rule’ do unto others as you would have them do to you, and adds a twist. Jesus says yes to that…and ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and to respond always with compassion and kindness’. And our response might just be…how?
And Jesus says: be merciful, be kind, do not pass judgement and forgive. And again we may ask…how? How do we move from the natural instinct to match blow for blow and word for word? How do live our lives responding with grace and kindness, instead of reacting with words or actions that seek to answer hurt with more hurt?
For thousands of years the mantra was eye for an eye, hurt for hurt, mean word for mean word. In Jesus we hear ‘you have heard it said and eye for an eye, but I tell you and offer you a new way of being, love your neighbour and love your enemy, do not retaliate force with force, meanness with meanness, harsh word with harsh word.
Remember the birth of Jesus and the hope that surrounded that event? Thirty years later the full manifestation of that birth began to take shape, about three year later hate and entrenched belief were met with resurrection and from that moment on we have been trying our best to live into the single value of loving our neighbour and enemy. It is not a call to grit our teeth and make a resolution to be nicer even to those who are not nice to us. The call of Jesus as expressed in Luke is to live in a way contrary to our human nature, a way that is possible only as we live with a new power born from above.
For Luke, faith in Jesus is far more than giving cognitive assent to doctrines. Faith is a way of life, a way that is contrary to our own inclinations to answer hurt for hurt. Will we always get it right? Absolutely not but that does not mean we abandon faith. If this COVID time has taught us anything it is that fact and truth may look the same but vary greatly in interpretation. That we need to cling fiercely to Jesus teaching to love others, even our enemy. And when I see God’s or Jesus’ name used to justify or defend protests that are rooted in extremism, it is up to me to speak truth with compassion. Jesus calls us to a new and radical way of being and in Canada these last three weeks, some have missed the mark. What is encouraging is that many, actually most have been patient, impatiently patient but the most have been faithful. What is interesting is that if kind faithfulness sold papers or garnered media hits, the story would look much different.
In the midst of all that is good and kind and generous in the world may I and we abandon focusing on the fringe and cast our gaze to the people and places that are love. Cast our attention to the people and places that enhance our lives. And be and become a people blessed by Jesus to be a blessing to one other.