The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
24 February 2019
Epiphany +7, C
Last week while on a flat place,
Jesus healed everyone who touched him
and gave a teaching on blessings and curses.
This week Jesus moves from the cosmic
to the local, communal, and personal.
Rather than speaking active blessings
on all who are hungry or
active curses against the rich,
Jesus tells his followers how to live.
His summation of
“Do to others
as you would have them to do you”
is a good summation,
but Jesus’ words just beforehand are much stronger.
As we’ve moved through Luke,
we've heard more than once
that God’s reign is one of justice,
and that in the person of Jesus
God is restoring all of creation to unity with God.
Today Jesus gives us a vision,
a blue print of how we live our lives,
empowered by the Spirit,
to bring this unity to the world.
love recklessly and abundantly,
the way God loves creation and humanity.
It’s easy to jump to the end
“Do to others as
you would have them do to you”
without actually thinking about what that means.
Jesus gives us some pretty concrete direction
on what we’re supposed to do:
Love our enemies
Do good to those who hate us
Bless those who curse us
Pray for those who abuse us
Don’t meet violence with violence
Give to everyone who asks of us.
Jesus ups the ante next when he says
“Oh, you love those who love you?
So what? Everyone does that.
You’re nice to the people who are nice to you?
Big deal. That’s easy.
I expect more from my followers.”
In today’s passage from Luke,
Jesus is laying out how he expects his followers
to behave toward everyone,
not just one another.
Treating members of the Body
with this kind of love and respect
is a good starting point, though.
Jesus finishes up
by commanding that we be merciful
just as God in heaven is merciful.
He breaks that down
by telling us not to judge others,
not to condemn others,
and to forgive without reservation.
In challenging us to be like God,
Jesus is challenging us to not be like ourselves,
but to strive for something better.
In this continuation of the Sermon on the Plain,
Jesus calls us to be world changers
by first changing ourselves.
If we’re honest with ourselves,
how good are we at loving our enemies,
blessing those who curse us,
or praying for those who abuse us?
How often do we really think about who those people are,
so that we can consciously shower good on them?
Who do you consider your enemies?
Who do you feel like curses you?
How are you being abused,
and praying for those who abuse you?
When I was in seminary
I went to Morning Prayer in the Chapel
almost every morning.
Evening Prayer was sung Evensong
four nights a week and I did not like the set up,
so I said Evening Prayer in my room.
Growing up I had heard people talk about
keeping prayer journals --
writing a bidding down,
crossing it off when the prayer was answered.
I just needed a list of people
I’d said I’d pray for
so that I didn’t forget anyone.
Rather than seeking results to specifics,
ways to cross things out,
I journaled the concerns of my heart
so that I could take them to God.
In 2009 The Episcopal Church
forged ahead with allowing the calling
of LGBT bishops.
We were getting backlash
from around the Anglican Communion
and primates of other provinces
were saying some pretty nasty things.
Nasty things about me.
It took hearing this passage or one like it
for me to put the archbishops
of Nigeria and Uganda in my prayer journal.
“Bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.”
Because of their words and actions,
I had built up my own resentment
toward men I’d never met,
men I’d made an image of in my head.
It wasn’t a very kind image of them,
nor where my thoughts and feelings toward them
Praying for them changed that.
I didn’t pray for their hearts to be changed.
I didn’t pray for them to be fixed.
I just prayed for them
as people created in God’s image,
and started to feel that way about them.
When we do what Jesus tells us to do,
living as his followers who
pray for those who abuse us
bless those who hurt us
and do good to those who hate us
we are changed by God in our prayer.
In our being changed by God,
we can change the world.
Your homework for this week
is to spend some time thinking about
the people you think impact you negatively.
Make a list.