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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
February 20 2022
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Grace and peace to you from God, our creator, and from our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Every time we gather for worship, we close the service with a set of instructions. For the last several weeks, these instructions have been “Go in peace. Share the good news of Jesus!” They’re a guideline for how to approach the coming week, and how we’re supposed to conduct ourselves as followers of Jesus until we gather together again.
And while the words vary from season to season, the instructions capture the essence of our mission statement – growing together in Christ to love and serve all people – because loving and serving all people is a way to share the good news of Jesus. And all of that fits in with what Jesus tells us about how we are to treat the people around us, whether they worship here or not.
Show of hands, how many of you grew up hearing the adults in your life tell you the Golden Rule? Do to others as you would have them do to you. There are eight kids in my family, so we heard it a lot, especially when we weren’t getting along.
But when Jesus said it, he meant a lot more than what goes on between siblings, and he didn’t only mean “be nice to each other.”
He also meant: do not exploit, don’t take advantage of, don’t ridicule, do not point out the flaws, do not gossip. It doesn’t matter who the person is. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a position of power or on the margins. It doesn’t matter if you see them every day or if you’re just passing by on the street.
In this rule, Jesus meant love other people as you want them to love you. And he meant agape love – the love God has for us.
In this sermon in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is thinking and speaking holistically. He calls the ones who are listening to him – which includes us by extension – to treat the people around us differently than the world expects. And what he says here isn’t an invitation or even a polite suggestion – it’s a command, an imperative.
In other words, it’s imperative that we do things differently than they’re being done now. Hatred and violence and selfishness and apathy are destroying our world. We need to not only turn the other cheek, but also our attitudes about how we treat our neighbors in Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Sammamish, Issaquah and around the world.
We need to be prepared to not just literally give our cloak, but to think about it differently – more broadly, and give it in ways we haven’t considered before or maybe in ways that we’ve dismissed because it seemed like it might not work.
In other words, it isn’t enough to only treat people with dignity and respect if that’s how they treat you. It isn’t enough to only be friendly with people who are friendly with you. It isn’t enough to find common ground only with people who are willing to approach us first and we be the ones to set the agenda because it suits us.
When we dismiss what Jesus says here as nothing more than, “be nice to each other” we miss the sense of urgency in what he’s saying. The world has been going along in one direction, and it clearly isn’t the right one.
The prevailing attitude in our society is that people who are different are unequal – that if they’re not like us, they’re somehow “less than.” And in no uncertain terms, Jesus is saying that that doesn’t work.
And that the way we deal with society’s problems – to argue instead of seeking understanding, to look out for ourselves instead of the wellbeing of others, or even just to ignore the problems – that none of that is right. That immediate change is imperative. That hatred and violence and indifference toward these issues attack people in ways that compound life problems.
There are very few days that go by when we don’t hear about an incident of gun violence. We hear reports of women and young girls being sexually assaulted, particularly women and young girls of color, and those reports are often left uninvestigated or even covered up.
People in the LGBTQ+ community are targeted for discrimination and violence simply because of who they are. Climate damage and its injustices are rampant and causing damage to people we’ve never met, in places we’ve never been to.
Hoping that indifference and hatred and violence will go away on their own, and ignoring them in the meantime, isn’t an option.
Jesus doesn’t say any of these things to make us feel bad about ourselves. Not only does he not work that way, but when you feel bad about yourself it’s that much harder to treat others the way you want to be treated.
Jesus says these things to instruct us on how to live – to show us how we can be part of creating and living in a community, a world, that is open to all. A place that is designed for the benefit of all, that works for the wellbeing of all, that lifts up all.
Jesus says these things so that we, his followers, know that this place is a world that is supposed to be filled with life for all. A world that we have the responsibility of building and that has a responsibility to us as children of God. A world where there is no place for violence or hatred toward anyone or anything, because it’s a place where all are lifted up, and no one is let down or treated as less than.
As we read Jesus’ teachings and hear them spoken to us, we tend to take them to heart as individuals and strive to embody them in our own lives. And that is part of what he calls us to do. But today’s gospel is directed toward the church and how we live as a community and the importance of our role in bringing God’s realm into our world. We’ve been talking about this a lot lately.
We know that working as a group isn’t always easy. We may have an idea of how things ought to be, but we disagree about how to get there. Or we may disagree about how things ought to be.
But as a community, when we practice the agape love and mercy and compassion that Jesus calls us to, we help each other figure out what that looks like. We encourage one another when it’s hard to live into it. And it deepens our experience of God’s realm and helps us model the promise of it for others.
We will close our service today with the charge to “Go in peace, [and] share the good news of Jesus.” As you hear those words, hear also their sense of urgency. Think about how they will encourage you to approach your week and the places you’ll hear Jesus speak to you – because he will.
And remember that the agape love he calls you to have for others is the same love that God has for you. Thanks be to God! Amen.