Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
First Sunday in Advent, Year B December 3, 2017 First Sunday of Advent, Year B Mark 13:24-37
Christ the King, Year A November 26, 2017 Christ the King Year A Matthew 25:31-46
Thanksgiving, Year A November 22, 2017 Thanksgiving, Year A Psalm 65
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A November 19, 2017 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 25:36-37
Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A November 12, 2017 Proper 27, Year A Matthew 25:1-13
All Saints, Year A November 5, 2017 All Saints’ Day, Year A Matthew 5:1-12
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 29, 2017 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 22, 2017 Proper 24, Year A Isaiah 45:1-7, Psalm 96, I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 15, 2017 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 8, 2017 Proper 22, Year A Isaiah 5:1-7, Matthew 21:33-46
The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A October 1, 2017 The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A Matthew 6:25-33
The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A September 24, 2017 The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A Leviticus 25:1-7, Hebrews 4:1-11, John 6:1-15
The Season of Creation, Week 3, Year A September 17, 2017 The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 3 Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Psalm 65, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Matthew 6:19-24
The Season of Creation, Week 2, Year A September 10, 2017 The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 2 Job 38:1-18, Psalm 139, Romans 1:18-25, Matthew 5:13-16
The Season of Creation, Week 1, Year A September 3, 2017 Season of Creation 1, Year A Job 37:14-24,Psalm 130,Revelation 4,Matthew 8:23-27

 

Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Sermon Date:October 29, 2017

Scripture: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46

Liturgy Calendar: Proper 25, Year A


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“Is it possible to love someone whom you hate?”

Gary Chapman, a well known marriage counselor, and his wife Karolyn  were walking in the lush fall beauty of Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC, when they met Ann, a woman who had started counseling with Dr. Chapman two weeks earlier.  

In the warmth of the late afternoon sunlight, Anne asked the question that she had been pondering as she walked through the garden– “Is it possible to love someone whom you hate?”

Because Anne had come to the conclusion that she hated her husband, after many miserable years of marriage, and she had started to believe that her only path to happiness would be to seek a divorce.

How we relate to one another is probably one of the most challenging parts of being alive on this earth.  The writer of the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, in Chapter 3, tells the story of Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden by eating fruit from the forbidden tree.

When God confronted the two, Adam blamed Eve.  “She made me do it.”     I’m willing to bet that Eve had a few choice things to say to Adam after that comment, maybe not in front of God, but certainly later. 

So early on in scripture, the necessity for help in our relationships becomes obvious.

Today’s reading from Leviticus is from what is known as the Holiness Code, and the Holiness Code chapters (17-26) concerns holy living on the part of God’s people. 

Today’s passage makes clear that our relationships with one another should be fair and just, that our relationships should be grounded in respect for the other, and that others are not to be used for our own benefit.  Hate has no place in relationships.  Holding grudges, and taking revenge have no place, but instead—

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the Lord.”

Jesus, who was deeply familiar with the Torah, quoted this passage when the Sadducees asked him which commandment in the law is the greatest. 

Please note that Jesus gives these two laws equal weight.  He answers the Sadducees by saying

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And a second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Think of a doorway.  A door is useless unless it hangs in place, and to hang in place, at least two hinges are necessary.  Hinges are also  necessary for the door to swing open. 

If we love God with our whole hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves, then we are able to open the door of love for God and neighbor and  to move out of a world in which disrespect for one another, holding grudges, taking revenge, or using the other for our own pleasure and benefit are norms. 

Instead, we can choose, with the help of the two great commandments,  to move into a way of life that allows us to keep God’s laws and to live into the message of the prophets—and that message is to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.   

We are made in the divine image, and so we human beings do have the capacity to become holy people. God believes that we can, and will be, holy people, even in our most challenging relationships, including marriage. 

In The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in The Book of Common Prayer, in the opening words of the ceremony, the priest reminds the congregation and the couple about to be married that “marriage signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.”

When two people live in their marriage understanding that they are offering a profound witness to the world regarding love; sacrificial love in action, love for one another that reflects the love that Jesus has for the Church, then each one of them will be  intentional about loving God, and then loving one another as God has loved them.

People who see the love couples share in this sort of marriage get a glimpse into the sort of love with which God loves us and wants us to share with one another. 

This sacrificial love for the other is not limited to married couples. 

God expects sacrificial love to be the sort of love that we offer to our neighbors as well—fair, just, and respectful love, the sort of love that leads to peace rather than to discord with those around us.  

Now back to Dr Chapman and his client Ann.

Ann has been treated by her husband Glen as an enemy rather than as a friend.  He has told her that he hates her.  And she, in turn, has been demanding, condemning and nagging toward him. 

Ann has begged her husband to go to counseling, but he says that their unhappy relationship is all her fault and her problem.  At this point, her friends are advising her to get out of the marriage.

But Ann wants to give this relationship another try.  She wants to have warm positive feelings for her husband, she wants to gain respect for him again, and she wants him to love her again.

Dr Chapman suggests a six- month experiment, after pointing out that whether or not she stays in the marriage, she is going to experience some pain. 

He wants her to choose love.  “If you channel your energies in the right direction, there is a good chance that your husband will, over time, reciprocate.” 

He goes on to say to Ann that when Jesus asks us to love our neighbors and our enemies, Jesus is stating a principle—that “generally speaking, if we are kind and loving toward people, they will tend to be kind and loving toward us.  This doesn’t mean that we can make a person kind by being kind to him. We are independent agents.  Thus, we can spurn love or even spit into the face of love.  There is no guarantee that your husband will respond to your acts of love.  We can only say that there is a good possibility that he will do so.”

And then Dr Chapman says, “Certainly, we do not have warm feelings for people who hate us.  That would be abnormal, but we can choose to do loving acts for them.  That is simply a choice.  We hope that such loving acts will have a positive effect on their attitudes and behavior and treatment of us.   If not, at least we have chosen to do something positive for them.”   

This is the sort of love that God has for us.

God loves us even when we are indifferent to God, even when we lash out at God in anger, or openly disobey God by disrespecting and breaking God’s laws for us.    

But God never gives up on us or loses hope in us—and proof of that is Jesus.   

The words of Eucharistic Prayer A in The Book of Common Prayer succinctly explain God’s love for us, and God’s endless hope in us. 

“Holy and gracious Father:  In your infinite love, you made us for yourself; and when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.”

Since Ann was not willing to give up hoping in her marriage with Glenn, Dr. Chapman gave Ann some ideas about things to try in their marriage.  Ann said that if only she’d known these ideas sooner, maybe her marriage would not be in the mess it was in.

Dr. Chapman pointed out that “we can’t go back.  But what we can do is to try to make the future different.”

So I challenge you today to remember that love changes things. 

Choose love—actively choose love in your marriage, in your relationships with your children, with your families, with your friends, with your co-workers, with the people you meet in public.  Choose love in the ways you think about people, and talk with and about others.  Choose love by respecting the dignity of the natural world  that God created, in all its complexity and beauty. 

Take the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to heart.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Maybe you’re wondering what happened with Ann and Glenn. 

Over the nine months that Ann chose love as an experiment, their marriage took on new life and joy.  In fact, Glen swore to his friends that Dr. Chapman was a miracle worker.

But we’ll let Dr Chapman have the last word on that idea! 

He says, “I know, in fact, that love is a miracle worker.”

Amen.   

Resources: 

The Book of Common Prayer

Chapman, Gary.  The Five Love Languages:  How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to your Mate.  Chicago:  Northfield Publishing, 2004.

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