CEC News Alerts!
…Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays March 10, 17, 31. We will have Morning Prayer March 3 and 24. Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Ash Wednesday at noon, March 6, 2019.
…Start marking your calendars: We will begin our Lenten early morning (9am) Sunday School with Father Riley March 10th. The theme this year is to seek guidance from Father Riley on topics from the Bible and Prayer Book which we may not fully understand.
…We will soon be starting our 2019 Capital Campaign for raising funds to repair and paint the exterior of our beautiful church. Some of you have already contributed to this needed activity and we greatly appreciate your support and love of our congregation. Stay tuned for more updates.
7 EPIPHANY - C- 19 LUKE 6.27-38
I have always been amazed with those individuals who have never really read and studied the Holy Scriptures, but somehow, somewhere, perhaps by osmosis, they have memorized a verse or two to be used when the situation calls for it.
Today’s gospel contains more than one such example. Not the least of which, I might add, is the “Golden Rule” - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is a virtue, some would say, a minimum Christian virtue as it places man’s desire for goodness (the natural law of self-love) as a basic standard of how to treat others.
It is but the first step on the path to the perfection of virtue found in vs. 36, where God’s mercy, rather than man’s desire is the standard. To be perfect in the Old Testament is an attainment of man; to be merciful is an attribute of God.
Then, there the one about the giving of one’s shirt off one’s back. It is another one of those oft quoted verses usually taken out of context. It is often used in describing the character of an individual, meaning that he is a giving person and is not the type that would withhold anything from one who asked, especially those in need.
Today’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ homily on the plain where he is speaking to a mixed audience comprised of Jews and Gentiles along with his disciples. Last week, you may recall, he spoke of blessings and woes. Today his teaching includes practical applications of the demand of love.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”
The love which discipleship demands, like the love of God, extends to those who do not deserve it. Jesus is presenting the requirement of love and rejecting retaliation. It is obvious from today’s reading that to be a true disciple of Jesus means one has to be willing to go to extremes in self-suppression and joyful endurance of wrong, and to let no ill-treatment affect our unalterable benevolence to those who do wrong.
How difficult is that? We all know how difficult that is. We are not perfect. We are human beings we say, we have feelings, and a sense of what is right, wrong, and fair. Like the rabbis of old who liked to say a “measure for a measure.” we think in terms of retaliation, of putting self and one’s self-interests first and getting back at those who offend us.
Yet the “law of love” Jesus is presenting has to do with our loving unconditionally. We are to be like this for that is what God is like. We are to love expecting nothing in return when we give truly of ourselves. Again, we say we are only human how is it possible for us to love as God loves to be as merciful and forgiving as God is.
Jesus may have done it, we say, but he was divine. However, the scriptures are filled with human examples of those who were able to love and forgive. Look again at today’s first lesson. Joseph provides us with a model. He was a favored child whose position in the eyes of his father caused him to be hated by his own brothers.
Because of their jealousy, they devised a plan to rid themselves of him. They left him to die in a pit only to be rescued if you will and sold into slavery. He was carried away into
sojourned in a foreign land. His initial troubles thus provided him the
opportunity to hear and respond in a positive manner to God. He essentially
died into new life. Egypt
From self-sufficiency, he was plunged into helplessness and a desperate need of God. For this reason, he surrendered to divine leadership. Rather than emerging as a cynical, rebellious and revengeful person, he became an agent of God’s love and forgiveness.
His memory of his father and brothers evoked tears rather than anger. He reached out in love rather than passing harsh judgment on those who persecuted him. Perhaps what appears to be dying moments and experiences of the “pit” of life are actually God’s interventions causing us to turn from worldly directions. Such moments remind us of our need to be concerned with others and the will of God rather than for ourselves alone.
There is yet another verse or two in today’s passage that is not oft quoted “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you…”
Our God is astonishingly merciful. How can we, his forgiven children, be any less? Only when people discover that this is the sort of God they are dealing with will they have a chance of making this way of life their own. Jesus’ homily is all about which God you believe in and about the way of life that follows as a result.
Sadly, many Christians down through the ages including the present age seem to have known little or nothing of the God Jesus was talking about. Today’s passage gives lie to the old idea (which was around in Jesus’ day as well as our own) that all religions are really the same, that all gods are really variations on the same themes.
However, this God, our God, is different. If we lived in a society where everyone believed in this God, there would not be any violence. There would not be any revenge. There would not be any divisions of class or caste. Property and possessions would not be nearly as important as making sure your neighbor was all right.
Imagine if people, took Jesus seriously and lived like that what a different world it would be. The world, no doubt, God intended for it to be. Jesus was speaking of what he knew: the extravagant love of his Father, and the call to live a lavish human life in response.
Later when they struck him on the cheek and ripped the coat and shirt off his back, and nailed him to the cross, he went on loving and forgiving them. He did not show love only to his friends, but to his enemies. He was the true embodiment of the God of whom he spoke.
There are two astonishing things about his instructions to his disciples contained in this homily and to all who chose to follow him. First, their simplicity: they are obvious, clear, direct and memorable. Second their scarcity. How many people do you know who live like this? How many communities do you know where these guidelines are the rule of life?
What’s gone wrong? Has God changed? Or have we forgotten who he really is? Moreover, have we forgotten who we are? Have we not died into the new life? Are we not called to live the “law of love” Jesus preached and exemplified in his both living and his dying?
We know in our hearts the answer to both questions is yes. As we know that it is not by any power of our own that we are able to die to self and live the law of love, but it is only by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, that has poured into our hearts (God’s greatest gift which is love) that enables us to Love God first and our neighbor as our self. AMEN+