7 Epiphany Year C
Feb 24 2019
Genesis 45: 3-11, 15; Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42;
1 Corinthians 15: 35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38
Opening Prayer: (Renew Hymnal #91) Open Our Eyes, Lord
Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch him, and say that we love him. Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen, open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus. Amen.
I love this sequence hymn, (prayer) for its simplicity and directness…especially when it comes to trying to make sense of Jesus’ teachings and some of the other scriptures in the bible. Sometimes Jesus’ teachings sound poetic and lovely, and we have no trouble connecting with the message he is trying to get across to His listeners. But other times, his teachings are quite simple and direct…and not so lovely sounding…and they really don’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation. But, we as human beings, have some pretty strong minds and wills…so we are quite adept at filtering out what we think He is saying, and finding creative ways, to dismiss some of his more difficult teachings, as only pertaining to certain people, in certain times, and in certain places.
Our brain’s default, is often to “hear” and “see” what we already know…and feel comfortable with…So, I do think our challenge…in learning new things, considering and accepting new teachings…does call for us to pray to God, to open wide our eyes and our ears…and especially our hearts and our minds…to consider these uncomfortable teachings...these basic and direct teachings that Jesus is longing for us to understand.
IN today’s 1st reading from Genesis, we may shake our heads in disbelief, wondering, how in the world could Joseph ever return to his family, to his brothers who did the unthinkable, first plotting to kill him, but then decided instead to sell him into slavery… and the brothers also caused years of deep heartache and suffering for their father, lying to him and telling him that his son Joseph was likely killed by a wild animal. And how unthinkable, or impossible, that Joseph not only returned to his family, his brothers…but he forgave them…he chose to love them again…having been sent by God to return to them to save them from starvation and poverty…Imagine having to forgive and love and bless the very people who abandoned you and cut you off from your livelihood? Difficult, very difficult to imagine…yet with the love of God poured into Joseph’s heart….we saw how that was possible…Joseph had mercy upon his brothers, forgave them, making room for love to reconcile and heal their family.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in today’s gospel is equally hard to digest. As if the Blessings and the Woes that Jesus spoke about last week were not confusing enough. Today, Jesus continues with his Sermon on the Plain when he was speaking to the crowds gathered…the apostles, his disciples, and many others who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases
This time, he is tackling the very uncomfortable topic about loving your enemies, and forgiveness…
Lets take a look at Jesus’ words in the gospel again…this time…I am going to ask you to repeat after me the words that we just heard a few moments ago….I ask that you listen to your own voice…and listen for how the Spirit is nudging you… I ask that we all listen to each other…all of our voices speaking together…and be aware of how the Spirit might be at work in all of us, seeking to unite us, and reconcile us to one another, our enemies, those we need to forgive, and our own need to be forgiven…
(Follow along in your insert, and repeat each line after me)
Jesus said, "I say to you that listen, 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.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
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.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
These are some pretty basic and direct words from Jesus today. Difficult to digest. Hard to make sense of. Easier said, than done.
Difficult, hard, uncomfortable…yes…but they need not keep us from striving to understand the live-giving ways of God, made known to us, through the love and witness of Jesus Christ. For this love is the greatest gift given to us...May our hearts be opened to receive this gift and trust in its power to heal and transform the most difficult moments when we are called to love our enemies and to forgive those who have caused us or others great suffering …
The psalmist tells us today: put your trust in the Lord, take delight in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord, be still before the Lord…and wait patiently for him…If nothing makes sense today…don’t give up…
Begin again tomorrow morning, every morning… put your trust in the Lord, take delight in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord, be still before the Lord…and wait patiently for him…for God’s mercies are new every morning… begin again with asking God to open your ears, eyes, hearts and minds to hear what the Spirit is trying to teach you…about the saving power of God’s love…
And perhaps, a good place to start, tomorrow morning…is to read this scripture once again…Read it slowly, line by line…write down some things that come to mind after each verse…let God’s Word work on you, not only, tomorrow, but throughout the week…allow it to inspire in you…a path forward….in walking the Way of Love…that Jesus is teaching us…
One last offering I commend to you today is another way to consider the teachings in today’s scripture…The practice of the Daily Examen…
This practice is a great daily discipline, most often used at the end of the day, in the evening...but it can be especially helpful, I think…to help us be honest with ourselves when it comes to the uncomfortable and difficult teachings of Jesus today, about loving our enemies, and forgiving others..
The Examen is a method of reviewing your day in the presence of
God. It’s actually an attitude more than a method, a time set aside
for thankful reflection on where God is in your everyday life. It has
five steps, which most people take more or less in order.
Here it is in a nutshell:
Ask God for light.
I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.
The day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.
Review the day.
I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.
Face your shortcomings.
I face up to what is wrong—in my life and in me.
Look toward the day to come.
I ask where I need God in the day to come.
Version of the Examen from A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney © Loyola Press www.ignatianspirituality.com
Ask God for light, Give thanks, Review the day, Face your shortcomings, Look toward the day to come.
I close in prayer and song this morning, with probably the most difficult and uncomfortable part of the Examen…to face up to our shortcomings….
Lift Every Voice and Sing II - #176 An Evening Prayer
1 If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way,
Dear Lord, forgive!
2 If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I offend some other through the strain,
Dear Lord, forgive!
3 If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in the fold,
When thou hast given me some fort to hold,
Dear Lord, forgive!
4 Forgive the sins I have confessed to thee;
Forgive the secret sins I do not see;
O guide me, love me, and my keeper be.
Dear Lord, forgive!
Rev Julie Platson
St Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church