Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Year C Proper 20 WED 2019 Bigger Than Whatever

Year C Proper 20 WEDNESDAY, 25 September 2019 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Bigger than Whatever”

Collect: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 5:38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I tend to think of that last verse more like this. “Go the whole distance, therefore, just as God goes the distance.” And because of that, Jesus confronts us in three ways. Personhood. Property. Pride. Jesus wants us to let God get God’s fingerprints all over us. Nothing is off limits. We are in the guts of the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus in Matthew 5-7. Eugene Peterson in his wonderful book, The Divine Conspiracy  calls the Sermon on the Mount “A Curriculum for Christlikeness.” I believe it is.

Personhood. When someone strikes you. When they invade your personal space. When they attack your person with a physical assault, Jesus says to turn the other cheek. Now think about it. What is our natural response when struck? Strike back. But if we are so attuned to God and God’s ways, when we are attacked and maligned, we need not strike back. We are called to be bigger than Whatever!

Now, Jesus is not saying to let ourselves be abused, by the way, and let’s talk if that is your understanding. THAT IS NOT WHAT JESUS IS SAYING. What he is saying is be so transformed by the Gospel that your natural response is changed. When struck you do not back down; you do not strike back either. You stand there, bigger than the situation, bigger than the bully striking you. Claim the moral authority to even take a second strike to prove that it was not a mistake. God plus you is bigger than any bully.

Property. Your relationship with God is bigger than any Thing you have. Clothes. Possessions. Any Thing. God is more and you need not worry. God is a God of Abundance and we live and abide in that understanding. We need not worry about what we are to eat or what we are to wear. (He is getting to that later in the Sermon on the Mount.) You will have what you need. You may even get what you want. And even more, what we find is that our wants recede, and our wants line up more and more with our needs.

Pride. One of the 7 deadly sins, supposedly. We all have an ego, and sometimes we allow it to get in the driver’s seat. Roman Soldiers, in an act of subjugation and humiliation could order anyone to carry their pack for a mile. No more, no less. Romans loved their laws. But they will take that mile, by God. Jesus says, “Carry it the mile, and throw in a second.” This act of service, even to the despised enemy who has overtaken your country, shows that you are bigger and you will not let them get your goat. You are bigger than they are in their attempt to humiliate and subjugate you. This is an empowering not a lessening, except in your ego.

It is what we see when Jesus stopped, stripped, stooped and washed the disciples’ feet. He found his ego needs met in God and God’s okaying of him. It did not come from others, and it did not come from externals. It came from the Kingdom of God and his place in it. And Jesus invites us to have the same.

Love your enemies. Pray for them. Ask God to bless them. Transform them from Enemy to fellow child of God.

And then Jesus says what is the most controversial statement of the entire sermon and we just gloss over it, taking it for granted, but what he says here is Transformative. It is the encapsulation of his whole philosophy of Grace. “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” The old understanding that Good get Good and are blessed is not how God sees it or does it Jesus is telling us. All are in the Realm of Good Things. All are in reach of God’s love and provision. The Kingdom of God is a Realm of Grace, and open to All. Even you. Even me. Thanks be to God! Amen

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Blessings, Rock