Audio 7 Epiphany Yr C Feb 24 2019
Genesis 45:3-11, 15, 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50, Luke 6:27-38, Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
The kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd, generosity. Think about the best thing you can do for the worst person and go ahead and do it. That’s what this continuation of the Sermon on the Plain is all about. We remember what comes immediately before the passage we just heard, we call that the Beatitudes, and we heard all about that last week. This continues Jesus painting the picture of what God’s absurdly abundant love looks like.
The trouble in the text is that it can’t be true. Love your enemies? Do good to people who hate you? Bless people who curse you? Pray for people who treat you badly? If someone hits you on the cheek offer him the other cheek? If someone takes away your coat don’t stop them from taking your shirt?
That is not the way the world works. That is not the way business works, or government. And why would we want it to be that way anyway. Who cares about enemies, who cares about people who hate you, or give you a raw deal, or curse you. Who cares about the people who treat you badly, you want them out of your life! Who cares? This is the cause and effect world we live in. Love deserves love, hate deserves hate, deeds both good and bad should be repaid in kind, force must be returned with force, violence begets violence, and so on and so on. It seems that many people are involved in the unholy work of ripping and shredding our social fabric, through dehumanizing language, racial prejudice, misogyny, and exclusion. Sound bites lead news stories that heap judgment upon judgment, and unless we question, research, and educate ourselves, we are lead to believe that what we read is all fake news anyway.
But the kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd, generosity. That is the good news that we hear in Luke, even though it makes no sense. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Is this a command or a promise? If it’s a command then it is just one more thing someone has told us and that we’ll be held accountable for and then we’ll likely continue to live in fear and, while we may behave a little better, at least when someone’s watching, ultimately be no different.
But if it’s a promise, then we might just imagine that there is another way, a way of love, available to us at this very moment, and see each other as gifts of God and experience the transformation Jesus offers. I believe this is the case, and that other world, that kingdom, that way of love, is right here in front of us, right here for us to participate in.
Because Love itself, when you think about it, makes no sense in a kind of mechanistic view of the universe, or a transactional way to interact. For love, defined most simply, is seeking the good of another above your own. Love is not a means to an end, it is an end unto itself which, in turn, creates morality and justice and all the rest of the things we strive for yet fail to find or manifest without love. Love is not about how you feel, it is about what you do.
So we are about the holy work of love. And this kind of work is about building relationships. If people in our community and in our neighborhood are about the unholy work of ripping and shredding our social fabric through dehumanizing language, racial prejudice, misogyny, and exclusion, then we must be about the holy work of building relationships.
And the good news is that is possible because of God’s absurdly abundant love. It is possible because each and every one of us is created in God’s image, each and every one of us has the mark of God’s love upon us. Even those who don’t know it; even those who would not do to others as you would have them do to you. The holy work of love is possible because Jesus is showing us how. Do not judge. Forgive.
And ultimately the place where Jesus shows us about judging and forgiving is on the cross. Jesus says from the cross, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. It is in that horrifying moment, it is in that place of death, that love wins.
I am reminded of the story of Ruby Bridges. In 1960, young Ruby was six years old, and one of the first children to be bused to an all white school to begin the process of integrating people whose skin colors where different. Ruby was called names, and some wanted to hurt her. Ruby was accompanied by federal marshals to protect her. She would stop on her way to school and on her way home each day to pray, “Please, God, try to forgive those people. Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing. So you could forgive them. Just like you did those folds a long time ago when they said terrible things about you.”
The kingdom that Jesus preached and lived and died for is all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd, generosity. A generosity that includes all who are created in God’s image, all of God’s beloveds. An absurdly abundant love that includes all and forgives all, loves all. Let us pray it is so. Amen.