Love and Forgive...

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

7th Sunday After Epiphany – Year C

February 24, 2019 

Genesis 45:3-11,15;  1Cor. 15:35-38, 42-50;  Luke 6:27-38

Love and Forgive…

 

Love and Forgive…

         As we draw towards the end of this Epiphany Season and look towards Lent, let us pause for a minute…take a breath, and figure out where we are on this journey with Jesus through his life and ministry. 

         It’s amazing how fast time can pass.  Just 8 weeks ago, we were singing, “What child is this?” at Christmas.  In what can feel like a whirlwind tour of Jesus’ life…Sunday by Sunday...the Epiphany season unfolds before us in stories that give us insight into who this child is.  Throughout these past weeks, the Gospel writers have shed light on the meaning of the Incarnation. 

         For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what “Incarnation” meant.  I knew it had to do with God and Jesus somehow…but I didn’t want to look stupid by asking something I figured I should already know.  Well…if you’re anything like me…this next piece might help. 

         Incarnation refers to a person who embodies in the flesh a deity or  a spirit of some sort.  When we hear the word being used in regard to Jesus, what is being said is…that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.  So in the Nicene Creed when we say, “…he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man,” or in the Eucharistic prayers when you hear me say, “…you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary…” what we are acknowledging is that we believe…God came among us in a child who grew to be a man, and who was fully human and fully divine. 

         So…back to these last 7 weeks – we began this Season of Epiphany by celebrating the arrival of the Magi as they gazed upon this child said to be the king of the Jews.  We quickly jumped forward to the Baptism of Jesus by John and hear how after Jesus rose from the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended upon him and the words of, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” are heard.  As our Sunday readings marched along…we then heard story after story ranging from the Wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water to wine…to his calling of the disciples …to his teaching and reading in the synagogue, and to filling fishermen’s nets to their breaking point. Over and over again throughout this season…the Gospel writers share with us stories that revealed Jesus’ divine nature.

         And now, we stand with the disciples and all who came from Judea, and Jerusalem, and from afar, to hear Jesus’s words…to be healed of our illnesses - and to find peace and relief from whatever weights heavy on our hearts. So hear these words – these words that have survived thousands of years – these words that millions have listened to…

 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God...

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled…

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse     you, pray for those who abuse you…

Do not judge…do not condemn…be generous…forgive

         These are powerful words.  They clearly outline for us how we are to live…yet for many folks – both back when Jesus first preached them and now in the 21st century – may find them hard to hear and confusing.  They seem to express an idealism that is totally unrealistic and unattainable.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.”  We may feel that to follow Jesus’ words in this teaching is to try something…which is beyond our capacity. 

         Sure, it would be great to turn the other check or to always show love and compassion to those who belittle or discount us, but what message

does that send them?   Do people then see us as weak or easily manipulated?  These are valid questions.  And what about the people who manipulate others or murder or hurt people over and over again with no regard for the pain they cause…did Jesus mean we were to love and pray for them too?  See why these words become challenging to hear, to understand and to live out?

         Jesus was both human and divine.  God sent a part of God’s self to walk among us and to show us a different way of living – a way of living that is based in the Kingdom of God.  This kingdom Jesus kept speaking about is available to us now…not in some distant future.  If all of humankind were willing to live in a way that reflected the words Jesus spoke that day…we’d know the Kingdom of God.  There would be no fighting for power or land or control.  If everyone was seen as equal and worthy…all would have what they needed.  Within God’s economy there is enough for everyone – enough food, enough resources, and enough love. 

         But we can’t control others’ behavior.  We can’t control what political leaders do or what our neighbors do or even our friends and family. However…we can control our actions and responses to others. What I challenge us all to do this week…is to not just hear these words but

to apply them in small and simple ways in our day-to-day lives. 

         How might that look?  Take some time and imagine it… dream it… how might it look to respond with love…compassion…and…forgiveness to the people we encounter in our own lives?  The smallest of actions done in love or with compassion for another can bring a tiny spark of light into this world, and if we add up all those lights…the darkness that people feel gets less and the light of God shines brighter and brighter! 

         Jesus did not ask us to love so that we will be loved.  Nor did Jesus ask us to forgive so that we will be forgiven.  Jesus did however tell us to love and forgive, because we are already loved and forgiven by God – now and forever.   

         So…how might we take God’s love out into the world in simple and kind ways this week?    Amen+

 

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