|Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral||March 15, 2020||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||March 8, 2020||Lent 2, Year A||John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1, Year A||March 1, 2020||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020||February 25, 2020||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2020||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|➤Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
Christmas 2, Year A
Sermon Date:January 5, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84
Liturgy Calendar: Christmas II, Year A
“The Flight into Egypt” -Guido of Siena 1270-1280
In today’s gospel, an angel of the Lord warns Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt to keep the baby Jesus from being killed by Herod’s violence.
Joseph and Mary protect their son from Herod by withdrawing to Egypt, and then even after the death of Herod, they still don’t feel that Jesus will be safe in Bethlehem because Archelaus, the son of Herod, is on the throne in Judea, so Matthew says in his gospel that they go to the safety of Galilee, and make their home in Nazareth.
As an adult, Jesus taught what he and his family had experienced as God’s divine initiative at the very beginning of his life when the angel warns them to flee to Egypt—that the response to rejection and violence was not to retaliate.
In his commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, Eugene M. Boring points out that Jesus, in his teachings during the Sermon on the Mount, says these things about how to deal with violence—“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” In Chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” And when Jesus is arrested and Peter draws his sword, Jesus says, “’Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send twelve legions of angels?’”
This radical nonviolence on the part of Jesus, which led to his death, is a radical departure from our tendency, as human beings, to depend on violence and on violent solutions in dealing with the conflicts in our lives. In his book on just war, Daniel McGuire, Professor of Ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, points out that scholars note that “human beings have been at peace for only 8 percent of the past 3,400 years of recorded history.”
However, he goes on to say that “early Christians, during the first three hundred years of Christianity, were fairly unanimous in opposing the dismal view that war is bound to happen. They didn’t see war as normal, but as an outrage and even a sacrilege.”
McGuire does suggest that “sometimes police have to act violently, but they do so in a community context with legal and enforceable restrictions. And he makes this same sort of allowance for the ways wars are fought, as well.
So as this New Year begins, with its wars and rumors of wars, what are we, as Christians, called to do?
To flee from danger? To arm ourselves? To speak out against violence? To embrace violence? To oppose war? To believe that war is a necessary solution to the world’s problems?
When I think of Jesus choosing to die on a cross, in order to absorb evil and to transform that evil into love then I am compelled to raise this question with you about the place of violence in our lives.
Our dependence on violence must be named if we ever hope to free ourselves of violence and to enter into God’s peace, the peace that the Apostle Paul says passes all understanding, and that keeps our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God.
When we name something for what it is, then we can start dealing with the reality of it. Our violence against one another and against the earth itself will eventually destroy us, so we can’t keep looking the other way and pretending that violence is someone else’s problem, somewhere else in the world.
So I am going to make a suggestion, based on today’s gospel.
In the face of imminent destruction because of violence, and I’m speaking broadly about violence here– the violence we can feel against ourselves, against our spouses, family and friends, against those we perceive to be unlike us and therefore our enemies, our tendency to react with violence when threatened—in the face of all of this violence,
I suggest that we do what God asked Joseph to do—to flee to Egypt, Egypt being a metaphorical place of refuge and safety in which we can prayerfully and objectively examine our attitudes as Christians toward violence.
We can make the time and the space to pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Jesus, so that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which Jesus has called us—the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.
The immeasurable greatness of GOD’S power, not ours.
To pray for this sort of wisdom requires that we intentionally make a place in our hearts and take the time to come to know Jesus.
Jesus does not force himself on anyone. If we don’t open the door when Jesus knocks, Jesus will not get violent, take a battering ram to knock the door down and come barging in. Fortunately, Jesus won’t go away either, but instead will patiently wait until we hear the knock and open the door.
In a place of safety and quiet, dwelling on God’s power, we are more likely to hear his knock, and open our hearts, and by clearing away the violence in our hearts, we can make space for Jesus to come in, and we want Jesus to come in, because Jesus is our only hope for transforming the violence that has crept into our lives—Jesus is our only hope for transforming that violence into love.
How we transform violence into love will be unique to each one of us and the Holy Spirit working in us.
The Psalmist says in today’s psalm that happy are the people whose strength is in God, and whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way. Being on the pilgrims’ way is to go where God calls us, even to Egypt where we can find the time and the space to take a hard look at the challenges that violence of all sorts poses in our lives.
God’s divine initiative in today’s gospel gave the child Jesus safety in the midst of danger and violence because the hearts of Mary and Joseph were set on the pilgrims’ way and they were willing to set out to Egypt and to leave violence behind.
Finally they found a safe place in Nazareth to make a home that they filled with God’s love, so that Jesus grew up to soak up evil and to transform that evil into love in his ministry of healing and teaching and at last on the cross.
And Jesus challenges us, his disciples, to do the same—to leave violence behind, and to transform evil into love, without using violence in the process.
What is your relationship to violence? How does your relationship with violence separate you from God, from those you love, and from the earth itself? Take the time this year to ponder those questions. Let’s help each other along, pray for one another, and support one another as we all struggle with the ways that violence lurks in our own lives, waiting to divide and to destroy us. Let’s prayerfully listen together to how God is calling us away from the dangers of violence and into the safety of God’s own peace.
- Eugene Boring, “Reflections on Matthew 2:13-23,” pages 148-151, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII. Abingdon Press, 1994.
McGuire, Daniel. The Horrors we Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy. Minneapolis, Fortress Press. 2007.