February 20, 2022
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany 2/20/22 by Rev. Dr Liz Klein
Based on the Gospel Luke 6:27-38
Good morning and a warm welcome to each one of you online and here in in the nave this morning. We are so blessed to have this sacred time to dwell in God’s word, the Good News.
In the Gospel that I just read from Luke, Jesus said, ” Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Another Bible Translation called The Messenger reads- “Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer for that person.”
What do you think when you hear these words from Luke? How do they make you feel?
Try to imagine yourself in the crowd where Jesus is speaking and imagine hearing these words from Jesus. I wonder how the people in the crowd heard these words 2000 years ago. It must have been quite revolutionary, just like today.
To be honest with you, these words are quite challenging to me because as a family physician, I discovered that so many of my patients had suffered abuse. Abuse is so common and often not recognized. I was not taught about domestic violence in medical school and learned about it by listening to my patients. I then taught physicians and nurses to ask about abuse, recognize signs of abuse and to take extra care with patients who had been abused. I want everyone to be safe. Please do not put yourself in harm’s way after hearing this Gospel. There may be some, who at this moment, feel that they do not have the ability to forgive their abuser. I have had to pray, “Lord, I am having trouble forgiving this person for what they did. Jesus, I give this burden to you.”
After reading this Gospel multiple times from different Bible translations, I wonder if Jesus is trying to help us imagine a world as it should be, which is in such contrast to the way that our world feels today. Perhaps Jesus is challenging us to develop relationships, understanding and action that enable us to gain new understandings of each other. No one said that this is easy. This is where God’s grace comes in. I pray that we can be curious and wonder and imagine a world as it should be. Where do we begin? I am reminded of a song by Jill Jackson- Miller and Sy Miller, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Perhaps we have to start with ourselves. Can we be curious and wonder about little changes that we can make in ourselves to help create this world that Jesus is talking about? He gives us some instruction.
Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” We heard these words in our reading from Corinthians 13 a few weeks ago. We hear these words read at weddings often.
The word Love is thrown around in our speech and in writings. If you remember nothing else from this homily, I want you to remember that the love in the Bible is a word of action. It is not a feeling. The examples which Jesus provides to illustrate the word “love” are not directed at feelings but at actions. Jesus calls us to love (Greek: agape), but that does not mean that we must have warm and fuzzy feelings for those who mistreat us. Instead, we are to act in ways to benefit the other person—to make that person’s welfare our concern, perhaps pray for them.
Jesus clearly establishes that we, as his disciples, are not to allow people of lesser principles to set the agenda. We are to seize the initiative by loving, doing good, and praying. These behaviors might seem weak in the face of hatred and violence, but Jesus transforms them. He demonstrates at the cross how powerful they can be. On the cross, Jesus did not curse his enemies, but prayed for their forgiveness. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator John Lewis, and many other disciples have proven the power of love through the centuries. Love wins! It overcomes the world!
Our very own Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry says, “The way of love- the love and power of God is the key to our hope and to our future.” Love one another. Take care of one another. Take care of creation. Love yourself and love God.
As a child we often listened to my father’s favorite records during dinner. You know Johny Cash, Pete Seiger etc… I noticed that so many songs were about love. One evening, I asked my father, “Why are there so many songs about love?” He quickly replied, “Because Love is the most important thing.” It took me many years to realize the truth and brilliance of these words.
How do we love one another? Perhaps we must start with ourselves.
600 years before Jesus Lao-Tse wrote-
“If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace in between neighbors, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.”
But how do we develop this peace of the heart? First, we must see ourselves as beloved. We are each made and loved by God. If we’re able to see other people, even strangers, as fully human, we will not treat them as disposable or without worth.
There are other cultures that can teach us much about living well together. Ubuntu is a way of life from which we can all learn. . . . Originating from a Southern African philosophy, it means love, truth, peace, happiness and inner goodness. Ubuntu is the essence of a human being, the divine spark of goodness inherent within each being. I am because we are.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said the essence of ubuntu is, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” Ubuntu is about reaching out to our fellow men and women. Ubuntu tells us that individuals are nothing without other human beings. It encompasses everyone, regardless of race, creed or color. It embraces our differences and celebrates them. Desmond Tutu taught that ubuntu celebrates our diverse interdependence and is related to the wholeness and peace that Jesus brings.
The peace and love that we want is something positive and dynamic. In Hebrew it is called shalom which refers to wholeness, harmony; it means well-being, physical and spiritual. It has to do with a harmonious coexistence with one’s neighbors in a wholesome environment, allowing persons to become more fully human. Love wins! It overcomes the world.
I have an idea, a challenge for each one of us. Ash Wednesday and Lent are 10 days away. Lent is a time of atonement and being at one with one another, being reconciled. Lent is this special time in which we can grow in our relationship with God and Jesus and in our relationship with others.
Imagine being given 40 days to improve your relationship with a close friend or family member, a brother or sister? It is precious time.
As a Deacon, I am supposed to challenge us to see God in everyone, to reach out to others and share the good news that God loves us, each one of us.
Here is the challenge. What if each week during Lent, we each make a point of reaching out to one person in our neighborhood, at work or in our church and spens time with them learning about them, their hopes, and fears. What do they appreciate about Grace Memorial or your neighborhood? What brings them joy? What keeps them up at night? I have found that I often have much more in common with others
than I realized. Perhaps we can start to build a world more like what Jesus envisioned with hope and peace and love.
I will conclude with a true story to illustrate the point of starting with ourselves. Our youngest son, Sean was four and in preschool. Sean’s teacher told me this story when I went to pick him up at the end of a long day.
A little boy in Sean’s class said, “I hate myself.” Sean said, “Why do you hate yourself?” The little boy said, “I hate myself.” Sean again asked, “Why do you hate yourself?” The little boy said, “I don’t know, but I hate myself.” Sean said, “Well, I like you. Anyway, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”