|Easter 5, Year C||May 19, 2019||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 12, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Psalm 23; John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 5, 2019||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 28, 2019||Easter 2, Year 2||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, 2019||April 21, 2019||Easter Sunday||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, 2019||April 19, 2019||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019||April 18, 2019||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year C||April 14, 2019||Palm Sunday, Year C||Luke 23:26|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||April 7, 2019||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
Sermon Date:February 24, 2019
Scripture: Genesis 45:3-11, 15; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38
Liturgy Calendar: Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that “to fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek God the greatest adventure, to find God, the greatest human achievement.”
God wants to be found!
When we come close to God, God becomes known to us in astounding ways—and the most astounding way is in Jesus, here with us.
The Gospel according to John tells us that Jesus was born, pitched his tent among us, and lived and died as one of us. We Christians see Jesus’ life among us as the ultimate proof of God’s desire to be with us.
God doesn’t just understand our joys and our sorrows.
God has EXPERIENCED our joys and sorrows.
And God has redeemed our joys and sorrows through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Paul says that Jesus is not only a “man of dust,” but also a “man of heaven,” and that because God raised Jesus from the dead, we, who are made out of the dust of the earth, all have the opportunity to be people of heaven—because God loves us so much that God wants us to be close to God, not just in this lifetime, but throughout eternity!
No wonder people followed Jesus around. When they were with Jesus, they could feel God’s power present with them. They could feel God’s love surrounding them.
Many of them started to see that God was close to them in the presence of this man, Jesus.
So of course they wanted to know more from Jesus about drawing near to God.
Jesus was big on the fact that one important way that we find God is in our neighbors. God shows up for us through other people all the time.
But Jesus knew that our relationships with other people are not always good ones, and that forgiving someone who hurts us can be an extremely difficult task. And so Jesus frequently addressed these problems we run into when we are dealing with other people. The teaching of Jesus in today’s gospel is an example, when he talks about the importance of forgiving one another and also gives advice on how to deal with those who create anger and hatred in our hearts and sometimes in our actions.
My first reaction, when someone is horrible to me, puts me down, or makes me feel awful, is to run the other way. The last thing I want to do is to be anywhere near that person.
But Jesus reminds me that getting distance from the person is not really going to solve my problems at all, because that person who is my enemy can still be holding my mind and spirit captive, just as surely as if that person had thrown me in a prison cell, even if they are somewhere far away.
So that’s why Jesus talks about forgiveness—because forgiveness is the key that unlocks all the prison cells that we find ourselves in when we get stuck in anger, when we hold grudges, or when we persist in disliking or even hating others for some wrong that has been done to us.
Forgiveness helps us hold the space open for a bad relationship to be redeemed and to change and maybe to grow, with God’s help.
Jesus also talked about how to deal with anger when he told those listening to “love your enemies.”
Anger is everywhere, and people seem to expect an angry reaction over just about anything. I was in the post office the other day in line, and I might have waited for maybe four or five minutes. When my turn came, the first thing the clerk said was, “Sorry you had to wait,” almost as if she expected me to be angry because I had to wait my turn.
People are angry all the time about a lot of things. If you have a Facebook page, you can see people ranting and raving about all sorts of things.
Now anger definitely has a place in this broken world. But staying bound up in anger only hurts ourselves. And Jesus addresses this problem when he tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate you.
So here’s how a modern day prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr., handled his justified anger over the injustices that he, his family, and black people all over this nation endured because of segregation in this country and the racist views that perpetuated that unjust system.
Because he was a Christian, King would not let himself stay bound up in his anger. He said of anger that “if you internalize anger and you don’t find a channel, it can destroy you… Hate is too great a burden to bear.” He put the words of Jesus into action. “Love your enemies.”
In the NPR article “The Power of Martin Luther King’s Anger,” Nell Greenfieldboyce writes about the time that someone threw dynamite at King’s house. He went rushing home and found that an angry crowd had gathered, some with weapons, ready to take revenge on King’s behalf. King stood on his front porch, talked about the redemptive power of love, and sent everyone home.
But that night as he lay in bed and thought about how his wife and child could have been killed, he felt his anger rising. But he told himself that he must not become bitter.
King believed in the power of redemptive love and understood that “Anger is part of a process that includes anger, forgiveness, redemption and love, because if you only have anger, you can’t get anything constructive done.”
So King helped people channel their anger by engaging in nonviolent protest based on the teachings of Jesus to work for change against the injustices done them.
Instead of running the other way in the face of danger, or engaging in violence against their abusers, protesters did what Jesus talked about in today’s gospel.
“If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” By staying put in the face of danger, the protesters held a space open in which redemptive love between them and those who fought against them could potentially take root and grow.
This constructive use of anger, nonviolent protest, ultimately led to The Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which ended segregation and banned employment discrimination.
A great example of how to deal with injustice comes from today’s Old Testament reading.
If anyone in the Bible had a right to be angry, it would be Joseph. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt because they were jealous over their father’s love for Joseph. After they got rid of him, they went home and told their father that Joseph was dead.
Today’s lesson picks up the story years later. A great famine takes place and the brothers and their families are starving to death. They’ve heard that there’s food in Egypt, so they go to ask for help.
And Joseph, who they sold into slavery so long ago, is the person who has power now in Egypt, and has control of who gets food.
So here come the brothers who treated him so badly, and they are completely at Joseph’s mercy. No one reading this story would blame Joseph for being angry after all these years and taking revenge on the brothers by letting them starve to death, or having them killed on the spot.
Instead, he loves them in that redemptive way that Jesus talks about, and he says to them, “Come closer to me.”
This is the same redemptive love that God has for us. When we seek God, no matter what mistakes we’ve made, or wrongs we’ve committed against God, God loves us with redeeming love.
And God says to us what Joseph said to those brothers of his who had sinned against him–
“Come closer to me.”
God says to us, just as Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not be dismayed”—that is, “Do not fear.”
God puts to good use even the mistakes we make in our lives.
Just as Joseph embraced his brothers and wept over them, God embraces us, and weeps over us too.
God loves us with redemptive love.
And God wants us to have that loving relationship with our neighbors too.
Remember, we meet God in our neighbors, even in those who seem to be our enemies.
I love the ending of the Genesis reading.
After Joseph reveals his identity, and pulls his brothers close with his forgiving redemptive love, the writer says this.
“After that, his brothers talked with him.”
When we seek God, and God says to us, “Come closer to me,” God will talk with us too.
And the conversation will be about love–God’s love, the kind of forgiving, redeeming love that binds God to us, and gives us the power and the courage to love one another, as God has loved us, and to say even to our enemies and to those who hate us,
“Come closer to me, because God loves us both.”