Sermon of the Week:
More Than They Ask For
The third of a four part sermon series: Do Unto Others–Being Good Neighbors in a Pandemic
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Keywords: Be Perfect, Sermon on Mount, Break the Cycle, Go the Extra Mile, Revenge, Patrick Hutchinson. #pcusa
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
Is following Jesus supposed to be easy, or kinda hard?
That’s not meant to be a trick question,
but I admit, it’s not an easy one to answer.
On the one hand, Jesus himself, somewhere in the Gospel according to Matthew, says
come to me, all you who are weary
all who are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest….
my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
That’s the comforting side of Jesus,
the one who gets you, you know,
who knows that life has been tough these days,
tough for all of us,
and depending on what’s going on with us,
maybe particularly tough…
This is the Jesus that stands where the hurting people stand
with the comfort of solidarity, and promise.
The Jesus who refuses to let our failures be the last word
as he told the woman rendered guilty by those who would judge her
and cast stones at her.
The Jesus who gives the hungry food to eat
and tells the children to join him, even when others give disapproving looks.
The Jesus who declares God’s blessing
for the poor in spirit, the peacemaker, the one who is reviled.
The Jesus who tells frazzled disciples:
peace, I leave with you; my peace, I give to you…
That Jesus seems kind of easy to follow.
I am excited about following Jesus there.
The promise that I can do it, with Jesus’ help,
is profoundly comforting.
I mean, with Jesus’ help,
Peter walked on water, became a great advocate for the way of Jesus
even though he denied Jesus three times.
With Jesus’ help, Mary became a witness to the resurrection.
With Jesus help, the Apostle Paul
started a new kind of movement
bridging Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.
If Jesus can do that,
Imagine what he can do with me.
Sign me up.
But then there’s the Jesus
who shows us how challenging the realm of God is
for all of us, at least when all we know is this realm, this world,
with its challenges and clashes and conflicts.
Easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle, says Jesus,
than it is for someone-in-love-with-his-money to get into heaven.
Who is my neighbor, Jesus?
Well, let me tell you a story,
about a priest, a Levite, and the guy-you-revile,
and the guy you revile is going to do the right thing at the end,
the noble thing, the good thing,
and then I’m going to ask you to give him credit for that
and to see him as fully human too. Ouch.
And then there’s this,
the reading we have today:
you have heard it said—
an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth…
But I say,
if someone strikes you on your cheek,
turn, and offer the other also;
someone wants to sue you, and take your coat,
well, give them your cloak as well;
if a soldier, one of those occupiers from Rome,
makes you carry his pack a whole mile
don’t stop there…go a second mile,
love your enemies,
pray for your persecutors,
and then if that isn’t enough:
be perfect, as God is perfect.
None of that is even a little bit easy, truth be told.
There are days where
I’d gladly give away all my money to push that camel through that needle
if it meant I didn’t have to acknowledge the-guy-I-revile has some good qualities in him…
and I’d even rather do THAT
than turn the other cheek, give in to the guy suing me,
carry that blasted Soldier’s backpack 10 feet, much less a mile, or two.
It is far easier to nurse our grievances
to separate the world into friends and enemies
to see everything as confrontational
than it is to sign up for Jesus’ challenging way of looking at the world
where everyone is loved
where everyone has responsibilities
where I might be part of the problem, just as much as I’m asked to be part of a solution,
where justice and peace is what God intends for all.
So the question isn’t at all simple:
is following Jesus easy, or is it hard?
I’d rather just linger with that easy Jesus…wouldn’t you?
I think that’s why so many of us
don’t know what to do with texts like this one
from the Sermon on the Mount. [Read more…]