6 Epiphany Yr A Feb 12 2017 Audio
Our relationships matter to God. At this point of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew really is providing commentary on what Jesus said as he began with the blesseds, the beatitudes. Our relationships matter to God. Our healthy relationships, our broken relationships, all matter to God. God delights in you, and loves you unconditionally and desires the best for you in and through your relationships. So this passage is about how we treat each other in relationship. This is an extension of the ten commandants. The ten commandments are about how God loves us and is in relationship with us, how we love God and how we treat each other. These words can help us create health and healing in our relationships. There is no hierarchy of sin here, breaking relationship is always painful and often tragic. These words remind us that all of our relationships are possible only with God's help.
To claim that our relationships matter to God is to claim two things. First, that this God who creates all that is seen and unseen, is truly the God who not only is God in our midst, but is also God who lived and loved and suffered and died, and who rose from the dead. This God is the God that is not only transcendent, the God who creates the heavens and the earth and all the universe, but also who is deeply and completely immanent, the God whose heart's desire is to be in relationship with us. Secondly, because it is God's heart's desire to be in relationship with God's people, you and me, God is doing something new in this incarnation. God is doing something new with the law and commandments. We hear that in this passage. No longer is it enough just to refrain from murder, or adultery, or lying, or idolatry, or any of the other sins that make up the Ten Commandments. No longer is it enough to not do it, God is calling us to go beyond the law, and to be deeply and completely in relationship with God whose love wins.
The effects of turning away from God, the effects of our sin, the effects of missing the mark, are broken relationships, and broken relationships will kill us. Broken relationships and broken hearts kill us from the inside out. The effect of broken relationships are hearts that are hardened and no longer capable of love, compassion, mercy, justice. They are hearts no longer capable of beating. Well, you might as well cut out your eye, or lop off your hand for as much as your body is good for anything anymore. Do you see what's happening here? God's relationship with us, and our relationship with others is so important in this life that without them we may as well be dead, in effect, we have lost life.
That’s what this passage is about. Murder, broken relationship, adultery, divorce, broken promises. It’s all here. This passage is about relationship, this passage calls us to integrity, do your insides match your outsides?
And this has everything to do with how we respect the dignity of every human being with whom we come in contact. Surely first and foremost the human beings we live with, our partners in life, our children, our brothers and sisters, and all the people we encounter day by day. It also has everything to do with how we respect the dignity of those we know only by our common humanity. Those we read about in the newspaper, those we see on our screens in far away places, those who are in our own communities but must hide because of who they are.
So I'd like you to call to mind one of the relationships in your life that is most important to you. One that is healthy and whole and good and sustains you regularly. Picture that person, that relationship. Think about what makes that a good relationship, why is it so important. Give God thanks for that person and the relationship you share. Now, call to mind another relationship that is important but has suffered some damage. Don’t try to figure out who was to blame for the hurt, but rather hold that person and relationship in prayer. Offer that broken relationship to God as an offering and as an arena of God’s help and healing. Think about what action you can take to move that relationship to greater health. Do you need to ask forgiveness? And now pray with me, Lord God of healing and wholeness, we offer this broken relationship to your care. Show us how to heal and be healed in this broken relationship, give us the words, show us the way, so that your love shows forth, our hearts may be healed, and the world may be a better place. Amen.
In these days when our legislature is considering laws that discriminate, I am reminded of those who have gone before us, those who have spent their lives being loved by God, and loving others, those who have spent their lives not in fear of showing God's love to the world but proclaiming God's love for all to the world. Those whose hearts could have been hardened because to continue to love was not only difficult but dangerous. I am reminded today of the first black Episcopal priest, Absalom Jones, whose life we celebrate each year on February 13th. Absalom Jones bought his wife's freedom, and went on to buy his own freedom, and became a priest at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Absalom Jones was known for his abolitionist preaching, in God's kingdom, there is no owning another human, there is no prejudice, there is no bigotry.
But of course, I'm preaching to the choir. You know these things, you do your best. You ask for forgiveness. Today I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you to take this love that wins even farther. Take it to people whose hearts have been hardened, and show them that it is love that wins, not hate, not prejudice or bigotry. Show them that Jesus took all that fear into his own body and replaced it with his love. Show them what eternal life looks like, it's not some reward after we're dead, it's the life God gives us, life fully lived before we're dead, it's a heart that is living and breathing and loving, not cold and hard. Show them that you will not live your life in fear of those who are different from you, but you live your life loud and proud for God's love. Show them that you are a person of integrity, your insides match your outsides. Show them what it looks like to follow Jesus.
You see, Jesus walked this journey not to uphold the status quo, but to show us that in God's kingdom, everything is different. Jesus goes to the margins to show us that the first will be last, and the last will be first. Jesus protects those who are vulnerable to show us that all relationships matter, women and men matter, respect and dignity matter. Forgiveness matters. Words matter, and the Word matters. Amen.