Epiphany 7 – Feb. 24, 2019

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Title:Epiphany 7 – Feb. 24, 2019

 Epiphany 7, Feb. 24, 2019 (full size gallery)

It was still raining at 9am which along with damp conditions may have lowered attendance at our Rite I Eucharist. Only 4. By 11am weather had improved with rain stopping, clouds breaking up and warmer temperatures.

We had 32 at 11am. With several of families we were able to have a impromptu reenactment of Joseph Coat of Many Colors. The later years of Joseph were included in the lectionary when in Egypt Joseph is forgiving to his brothers after they sold him into slavery.

The main idea this week is that of loving your enemy, forgiving, and dealing with anger. The Sermon considered Martin Luther King, particularly in terms of relationships when they have gone wrong.

“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…

“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.”

King wrote an entire book on redemptive love called Strength to Love”. King believed in a better world, but in order to attain his vision we must first face our fears and then master these fears through courage, love, and faith.

Today’s readings emphasize the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom compared to cultural ambitions. In Genesis, Joseph reveals himself and his dramatic reversal of fortune to his once-estranged brothers, a Torah story teaching us that blessing comes through the least among us through their complete reliance upon God. Paul points out the radical challenge implicit in Christ’s resurrected presence with us. In the Sermon on the Plain from Luke, Jesus presents the blessings of the kingdom that reverse the present order of society.

The Old Testament is Genesis 45:3-11,15 describes Joseph’s revelation of his identity to his brothers. Joseph, who had recognized his brothers, had planted a silver cup in his youngest brother Benjamin’s food bag (Benjamin was Rachel’s other son). When the cup is conveniently “found,” Joseph demands that the boy remain as a slave in Egypt. The brothers are filled with sadness because they know that if anything happens to Benjamin, the aged Jacob will certainly die of sorrow.

Joseph is so overcome with emotion when he perceives the repentance of his brothers that he reveals to them that he is their long lost brother. He also explains that he knows that his enslavement in Egypt was God’s way of ensuring their survival from the famine and thus also making sure that God’s promises would be fulfilled.

Psalm 37:1-12,41-42 from the wisdom tradition (like the book of Proverbs) is directed toward teaching people how to lead their lives. From his age and experience (v. 25), the psalmist assures his audience that those who patiently trust in the Lord will soon see righteousness triumph and evil receive its retribution (vv. 10-11).

The psalmist urges the righteous to take their eyes off of wicked people and to focus instead on the richness of their relationship with God. Three times he warns the righteous not to fret, for such anxiety can gnaw away their righteousness and leads to evil. The wicked assume that God is ineffective against their oppression of the lowly, but those who wait upon the Lord will inherit the land just as the people of Israel received the land of Canaan.

The Epistle is taken from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50. Resurrection is the great sign of transformation, the shape of which Paul expresses through contrasts. These are not mere opposites. Resurrection does not simply reverse our situation or restore something innate. It is an act of “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul makes clear that physical life, both Christ’s and ours, is important. We bear the image of Adam and we will bear the image of Christ. The physical body is ours from Adam. We inherit his likeness, the image of the man of dust. The “last Adam,” Christ, through his resurrection, has become “a life-giving spirit” (v. 45) for us.

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 6:27-38 announces the basic guideline of the kingdom of God: love for all. This principle is applied specifically to the problems of persecution and of possessions. Luke later demonstrates the principle by the examples of Jesus (23:34) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60).

The love called for goes beyond what is fair or right to what is good as expressed in the positive statement of the Golden Rule (6:31). The negative formulation of that rule (“Do not…”) was common in Jewish, pagan and even Confucian writings. The positive form is very rare and much more difficult to observe. Love is offered not in hope of reward, but in response to God’s own nature and our relationship with God, which will be our reward. As we respond to God and to others, so God in turn responds to us.

One difficulty in putting that teaching into action is that some of us aren’t particularly kind to others because we aren’t particularly kind to ourselves. The Talmud teaches, “everyone will be called to account for all the legitimate pleasures which he or she has failed to enjoy.” Sometimes, in our robotic fixation on “what we gotta do,” we are oblivious to the joys of dining, the subtle changes of the seasons, the sweep of the sky and the beauty of the arts. We deny ourselves the pleasure of a long walk, a fascinating novel, a concert or a movie, then wonder why we feel vaguely unhappy. Joyce Rupp, O.S.M. says, “we cannot be too kind to ourselves.”