Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Good Friday, Year A April 14, 2017 Good Friday, Year A John 18:11, 9:28-30
Maundy Thursday, Year A April 13, 2017 Maundy Thursday, Year A John 13:1-7, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, Year A April 9, 2017 Palm Sunday, Year A Matthew 26:36-46
Lent 5 April 2, 2017 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A, Baptism John 11:1-45
Lent 4 March 26, 2017 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
Lent 3 March 19, 2017 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42
Lent 2 March 12, 2017 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, John 3:1-17
Lent 1 March 5, 2017 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017 Ash Wednesday, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 26, 2017 Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 19, 2017 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 12, 2017 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 5, 2017 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt January 29, 2017 4th Sunday after the Epiphany Matthew 5:1-12
Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 22, 2017 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23


Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Sermon Date:February 12, 2017

Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

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We certainly are living in passionate times. 

Open the newspaper, and chances are you’ll easily find one or more articles about some person’s or group’s passionate response to some event that has occurred.  People’s passions are running high these days. 

We are passionate people.  

Our passions can be exciting, challenging, edgy, and the energy that our passions produce can be life giving.

But that same passionate energy can also be death dealing.

We need help negotiating our passions. 

That’s where God comes in.

God is no stranger to passion. 

In fact, God is full of passion!

First of all, God is passionate about creation.

The Bible opens with the story of God’s imaginative passion for all of creation.  God takes a formless void and from it creates the magical universe in which we live. 

Only a God full of passion could have laid the Milky Way out across the night sky, set the earth spinning around the sun at just the right distance for life, blessed this planet with water and soil and the marvels of soil, and plants and animals, all held together in a vast interconnected web of life—our breathtakingly gorgeous and life giving earth, our Promised Land, containing all that we need for abundant life. 

Second, God is passionate about us!

Only a passionate God could have shaped human beings from the dust of the earth and “blessed us with memory, reason and skill.”   Only a passionate God would make us in God’s own image, and infuse us with the passionate potential to love.

God’s love for us is passionate.  

Throughout the Bible, we find that God gets passionate when God’s people worship other gods and wander away.  God is capable of passionate wrath and indignation against us. 

And yet, the passionate wrath that God feels when we go astray is always balanced by God’s passionate mercy.

Along with blessing us with passion, God gave us the freedom to decide how we are to use our passions. 

And the long story that unfolds in Holy Scripture is how God keeps trying to help us make right choices even when we’re hellbent on messing up.

In today’s Old Testament lesson, Moses is giving his farewell address to the Israelites, a bumbling, fractious group of people who have weathered forty years in the wilderness and have been noted for their passionate complaining and murmuring against God when the going has been rough. Because they needed some help in dealing with their passions, God gave the Israelites the law in the form of the Ten Commandments.   And now, they are getting ready to enter the Promised Land. 

God wants then to choose life rather than death.

Moses, with passion in his voice, reminds the Israelites that they are the chosen people of God and that they have a choice to make.

“See,” Moses says, “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity…..” 

“Come on, now!”

“Choose life!”

Moses tells the people that choosing life means that their descendants may live, loving God, obeying God, and holding fast to God!

We are the spiritual descendants of those Israelites who impatiently waited to cross over into the Promised Land that day.

Loving God and obeying God and holding fast to God means life to us too.

And that sounds so simple, doesn’t it? 

And yet all of us know that the decisions we make about how we deal with our passions are the hardest decisions we will ever have to make as we live out our lives.

Our readings today bless us with insights from both Paul and Jesus about how we are to deal with our human passions so that ultimately we can choose life and blessings rather than death and curses. 

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians,  says  that as long as our passions lead us into anger with one another, we can’t open ourselves to God’s passionate love for us. 

We get too caught up in quarrelling and jealousy, arguing about who does what!

Paul reminds us though, that “we are God’s servants, working together;  we are God’s field, God’s building.” 

In other words, when we live passionate lives of love for one another, holding fast to one another because we hold fast to God, obeying God by living united to one another, even in our diversity,

Then we become that field in which God can plant the seeds of love, love that will grow so abundantly in us that others can see the kingdom of God being realized on earth here and now through us! 

Imagine that!

And now we come to what Jesus has to say to us today about how we are to use our passions in life giving ways. 

In this part of the Sermon on the Mount that we’ve just heard today, Jesus takes six examples of teaching from the Torah, and elaborates on them—he’s taking the written laws of the people and now giving the words a new context, his own authority. 

We will hear the last two examples that Jesus talks about next week, but in each of these six teachings, Jesus talks about various things in our lives around which we have a lot of passion. 

First, Jesus talks how the law says we should deal with our passions, because we need help controlling our passions.  Jesus knew that If we don’t control our passions, they can and will destroy us. 

Jesus goes on to explain how our understanding of how we manage our passions gets transformed beyond the mere words of the law when we choose life and live with the passion of God’s own reconciling passion present and active in our lives.  The words of the law are no longer just in our heads, but also dwell in our hearts. 

In his discussion of these six specific teachings about murder, lust, adultery, swearing, and what to do about evil doers and enemies, Jesus is very specific. 

When we feel passionately angry, instead of quarreling and giving into jealousy, and hating on the other person, Jesus tells us that we are to be reconciled to the person who has made us so mad, and don’t put that reconciliation off!  Jesus tells us  to go be reconciled to that person before we come to the altar with our gifts for God.

Next, Jesus talks about lust.  When our passionate love turns into lust, and the person that we desire becomes an object we want to possess for our own selfish pleasure, we diminish ourselves. 

When we give into passionate lust, we are no longer able to see clearly.  We lose our sight.   Instead of reaching out and selfishly clutching another person as a possession, Jesus teaches us to open our hands in love to others, using our hands for healing rather than grasping. 

When our passions turn into hatred, we want to seek revenge and to conquer the people who are our enemies.  But Jesus tells us, the disciples, that we are to love our enemies. 

Jesus, the Son of God, chose life by living the life that he teaches us to live. 

Jesus was the most passionate human being ever to walk on this earth.  Jesus is the walking, talking, living, breathing embodiment of God’s passionate and compassionate love. 

Jesus  used his own passions, not for anger, lust, or hatred, but to plant seeds of love in the people—by teaching, by healing, by loving his enemies, even when his enemies put him to death.

Even as he was dying, Jesus lived out what he taught us to do.  The gospel according  to Luke reports that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” as the soldiers hammered his hands to the cross.

As he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed to God, who seemed to be nowhere.  Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –a passionate cry if there ever was one.

God responds to Jesus in passionate mercy through the most passionate act of all, bringing Jesus into a new life of resurrection!

Even in death, Jesus chose life.  And God’s choice for life in spite of death makes our choice of choosing life, even in the face of death, not only believable, but a real live reality.  

I’m not talking about resurrection life in some far off heaven.  I’m talking about resurrection life right here and right now.

Every time our passions bring us to the brink, and we have to choose life or death, the choices that Jesus made encourage us to choose resurrection life—

And resurrection life is a life of reconciliation with one another, made possible by our desire to love God, to obey God and to hold fast to God, so that we can nurture and protect our relationships with one another, knowing and loving one another as fellow beloved human beings instead of objects to be possessed or vanquished,

A resurrection life is one in which we choose to love even our enemies.

These times are passionate times, and these times, more than ever, are times for passionate and lively love!

We are God’s field, and God has sown the seeds of love.

So choose life, and let those seeds that God has planted in you grow into God’s powerful, transforming, resurrection love—the love that the world needs now. 

Love, sweet passionate love—no, not just for some, but for everyone.


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