|The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 25, 2015||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 18, 2015||Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 6:12-10|
|The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 11, 2015||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism|
|Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B||January 4, 2015||Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B||Luke 2:41-52|
|Two Christmas Eve Meditations||December 24, 2014||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-5, 14, 16|
|Advent 3, Year B||December 14, 2014||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24|
|Advent 2, Year B||December 7, 2014||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 1:1-8|
|Advent 1, Year B||November 30, 2014||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 23, 2014||Christ the King, Year A||Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46|
|Pentecost 23, year A||November 16, 2014||Proper 28, Year A||Matthew 25:14-20|
|Pentecost 22, year A||November 9, 2014||Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, 2014||November 2, 2014||All Saints’ Day, Year A||Psalm 34: 1-10,22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 20, year A||October 26, 2014||Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 1, Matthew 22:34-36|
|Pentecost 19, year A||October 19, 2014||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Pentecost 17, year A||October 5, 2014||Proper 22, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A
Sermon Date:February 23, 2014
Scripture: Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Liturgy Calendar: Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
"Love Neighbor" – Hermano Leon
If you’re on the internet much, then you know about blogs. Blogs are entries on a web site—many blogs are like diaries written on line and shared with others.
One blog that I follow is called Ministry in the Trenches, written by an Army chaplain.
In his latest blog on prayer, the chaplain is on his way home from a deployment. During lots of down time at the USO, surrounded by soldiers watching movies and playing videos on their laptops, this chaplain writes about prayer.
Finding any sort of quiet time while constantly being part of a group is next to impossible. And if prayer is all about finding quiet time during the day for a private conversation with God, then for this chaplain, prayer of that sort isn’t really going to happen consistently.
And so the chaplain is thinking about other ways to pray.
The chaplain writes about a monk named Brother Lawrence who lived in the 1600’s. He was a Carmelite lay brother who worked in the monastery kitchen, carrying out the monotonous tasks of cooking and cleaning day in and day out.
Brother Lawrence believed that even the most mundane tasks can be done out of love for God, and as he said, “I began to live as if there were no one but God and me in the world.” Today, Brother Lawrence is known as one of the great masters of prayer. You can read all about his way of praying in his book, The Practice of the Presence of God.
The Army chaplain goes on to point out “that prayer is organic. It lives and breathes and moves with us because it is a sharing of our very selves, it is how we communicate with God wherever we are in our lives and with whatever tools we have available…..God constantly yearns for us to respond to divine grace in whatever way possible. Thanks be to God for being unboxable, uncontainable, and ever-seeking communion with us and with all of creation.” http://ministryinthetrenches.blogspot.com/
Which brings us to the scriptures appointed for today.
The Old Testament reading comes from the book of Leviticus. In this book we see God yearning for the people of Israel to respond to God’s divine grace. And so God lays out for them the things that they can do to become holy as God is holy—to become, not just the people of Israel, but the people of God.
And we see, right up front, that responding to God’s divine grace has everything to do with how we respond to one another.
In fact, how we respond to one another sets us apart and becomes the evidence to the world that we are the people of God.
In Leviticus, the people of Israel are learning how to be the people of God. God provides a foundation—a list of rules that, when followed, set the people apart and make them holy.
And then we fast forward to the time of Jesus and find that people have gotten caught up in the rules as ends in themselves.
And the rules have started getting in the way of the people’s relationships with God and with one another.
Remember how the chaplain said “Thanks be to God for being unboxable and uncontainable”?
Jesus wants his followers to know God’s infinite and uncontainable love, and in order to do that, Jesus reminds us that to be his followers, we are to love one another with God’s infinite love—which of course, we cannot do, because we are not God.
But the point Jesus makes is that as we strive to fulfill the law of love, we move closer to being like God.
Jesus wants us to be like God by loving one another.
In today’s gospel, Jesus gives us some difficult sayings that we intuitively feel will not work if we are going to get along in this world full of craziness and evil.
“Do not resist evil.” “Turn the other cheek.” “If your coat gets taken from you in a court of law, give your cloak also, and end up naked.” “Go not just the mile demanded of you, but the second mile as well.” “Do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
Jesus gave these shocking examples to get us to think about how to respond to life based on our love for God.
Charles H. Talbert, in his book, Reading the Sermon on the Mount, points out that Jesus, with these radical statements, helps us to consider our natural human tendencies and then points us toward how to live as holy people, a way of life that we can only imagine.
The idea is to take the time to see the situations we get into in a new way and to imagine new and more loving ways of dealing with those situations, responding out of our love for God and our desire to be like God rather than just to follow our natural instincts.
Here’s an example of what I mean about natural instincts from yesterday’s comics page in The Free Lance-Star—the comic strip “The Other Coast.”
Two dogs are barking at one another from the back seats of two cars. The owner of one dog says, “You couldn’t have just wagged your tail at him?"
And the dog’s response—“I did, but he barked at me, so I barked back, and well, you know how it goes….”
That’s an example of what happens when we respond with our natural instincts.
A beautiful story about what happens when a person responds out of love rather than out of the natural instinct of retaliation occurs in Genesis. Esau was full of wrath over his brother Jacob’s trickery (you remember the story—Jacob took Esau’s birthright and stole Esau’s blessing) and Jacob left home for many years in order to avoid being killed by Esau. At last Jacob decides to go back home. Full of fear over what Esau might do to him once he gets there, Jacob makes elaborate preparations and sends herds of animals ahead as gifts for Esau. When the two brothers finally meet face to face, Esau greets Jacob with love.
And Jacob is so moved by Esau’s kindness that he says to Esau, “Truly, to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor.”
That’s what happens when we meet our enemies in love rather than with retaliation. God’s face becomes visible, and God’s love becomes tangible and transformation can take place.
This story of Esau and Jacob would have taken an entirely different turn if Esau had continued to treat Jacob as his enemy instead of as his brother.
Now here’s a real life example of what happens when we respond to events in our lives from the place of God’s infinite love and our imagining life in God’s kingdom here and now instead of basing our decisions solely on our instincts.
Those of us who live in this area, so steeped in Civil War history, have probably seen the statue of Richard Rowland Kirkland in front of the Stone Wall along Sunken Road in Fredericksburg, part of the Battle of Fredericksburg Military Park.
On December 13th, 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, 8.000 Union soldiers were shot in front of the Stone Wall. The wounded, left where they had fallen, were in an agony of suffering.
Kirkland, listening to their cries and moans hour after hour, finally went to his General and asked for permission to help the wounded enemy soldiers. His compassion had won out over his instinctual fear. At first, General Kershaw refused out of the fear that Kirkland could be killed, but finally he agreed, and so Kirkland filled every canteen he could find and spent the next hour providing water and warm clothing to the enemy soldiers at great risk to his own life.
His mission was described as an errand of Christ like mercy.
Kirkland took action based on his compassion for these fellow human beings in pain, even though they were his enemies.
The imaginative sharing of ourselves with one another, whether friends or enemies—the positive actions we take in the various situations in our lives—this God-like sharing of ourselves for one another is true prayer and communion with God.
And these actions open us to God’s uncontainable and infinite love.
And God’s love, flowing through us, can transform this world.
Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7. Baker Academics, Grand Rapids, MI. 2004.