PS I Love You 2-23-14

This sermon comes from Matthew 5:38-48. In this sermon, I try to wrap up 4 weeks worth of the Sermon on the Mount. In particular, I tackle the passage in which Jesus tells us to love our enemies, praying for those that persecute you.  This can be a difficult teaching to accept, much less to act on, but I make the point that by doing so, we are joining with God in the work that will bring this reality to completion.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/ps-i-love-you-2-23-14

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here. As usual, disregard the odd punctuation and the indications to pause.

Earlier this week, I saw a clip from the old Mel Brook’s movie called The History of the World. This particular clip involved Moses receiving the Law from God. Now, if you’re familiar with Mel Brooks, you know that his movies tend to be pretty humorous, and this is no exception. Moses walks out from behind a rock carrying 3 stone tablets. He approaches the edge of a cliff and begins speaking to the people. “People of God…I have received these 15 Commandments from the LORD” and he drops one…the stone tablet smashes on the ground. He looks at it for a moment…and then addresses the crowd again. “I have received these 10 Commandments from the LORD.”
As the week went on I got to wondering what those extra 5 commandments would have been…and if they would still seem as applicable today…who knows…perhaps number 11 would have been. Thou shall mind your mobile manners…and 12 would be Thou shall not cross the street without looking both ways.
Or maybe, if there actually was a third tablet of the law, it wouldn’t have been more commandments…but a prologue…that short bit at the front of a non-fiction book where the author lets you in on some of the insights of what you are going to read…sometimes as I think about the law, I think that would have been helpful.
Dearest humanity…enclosed on these stone tablets you will find 10 commands that shall help you to honor me…and to honor each other.  Keep in mind…at face value they may seem obvious…but in actuality it will be quite difficult for any of you to pull them off as intended…but being God…all-knowing and all that…I’m fully aware of the challenges you will face and so in a few thousand years I’ll switch things up for you…I’ll send my son to explain things…and as he’s going to be the one human to pull of the commandments in their entirety, I’ll plan on sacrificing him to atone for the sins that you will all commit. Until then…happy reading…PS…I love you.
But as we know…there were only two tablets…and God’s prologue to the law, helpful as it might prove to be…wasn’t included. And so for several thousand years during the period between Moses and Jesus, the people pretty much went on about their business…trying to follow the law as best they could…but as we all know…coming up short…but then…things changed…and they changed when God finally said…ok son…why don’t you head on down there…we’ve let this go on long enough…and as we’ve heard many times before…Jesus came on the scene…and the scene was dramatically changed…even though those present…didn’t realize it.
Today marks the 4th week that we’ve been in Matthew chapter 5…the first chapter in the sermon on the mount…and if you’ve been here the past three weeks, you’ve heard me talk about how Jesus changed everything…how when Jesus came on the scene, he brought the kingdom of heaven with him and its here now…and because of that reality is different than we realize…and the old way of doing things…the old way of seeing things…has gone right out the window.
The first week we heard the beatitudes and how God calls the unexpected person blessed…but that when we stop and think about it, the unexpected person being called blessed by God is every single one of us…particularly in those times when we don’t realize it because life doesn’t feel like it.
Then in the second week, we heard about how God calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That we are somehow different…and we also heard that the light of Christ is not something that we hold or something we control…but rather its something that we are…and that God is calling us to be what we were made to be…different.
Then last week things got a little bit uncomfortable when Jesus started laying out in inadequacy of the law….when we heard that the status quo…the you have heard it said in ancient times to act in such and such a way…just wasn’t going to cut it anymore…and not only that but Jesus confirmed…a little harshly…that the law points out sinfulness…period.
And now, at first glance, it sorta seems like he’s doing a little more of the same in the final portion of Matthew chapter 5. We hear more of what I like to call the “yah but’s.” You’ve heard it said this…Yah…but I actually say this.
And in today’s lesson, Jesus almost seems to be giving us the advice “be a doormat.” (pause) If someone strikes you on the cheek…don’t retaliate…turn your face towards them…make it easier for them to hit you…and then invite them to hit you a second time…ouch…my cheeks hurt just thinking about it.
Then…if someone makes you go one mile…don’t let that stop you…go 2…and if anyone tries to take your shirt, hey why not…throw in your coat as well….bullies of the world rejoice!!!! Jesus seems to be throwing you a bone here. (pause)
But then here comes the really crazy part…another “yah but.” You’ve heard it said to love your neighbors and hate your enemies…Yah…but, how about we try loving them too. (pause) Say what now Jesus? Love those that persecute us? Well how are we supposed to do that? (pause)
Now I’m guessing for most of you sitting out there…this passage is not unfamiliar. We’ve all heard it before haven’t we? Turn the other cheek, pray for those that persecute you…love your enemies. And if we’re honest…we hear that…maybe stifle a yawn…and think to ourselves…Yah right pastor…that’s all well and good in the Bible and all…but in real life?  Nah…doesn’t really work like that.
And maybe we chalk this one up to another one of those Bible mysteries that doesn’t quite make sense…or we think to ourselves that one doesn’t really apply to me…or maybe we go a different direction and think I can’t do that…and then we hear Jesus last sentence to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” And we realize that’s impossible, so we just want to throw up our hands and give up.
But…what if…maybe…just maybe…Jesus isn’t being metaphorical here…and he’s not laying out an individual command to an individual person…but instead…he’s actually telling us to do exactly what he says…because once again, he realizes that our understanding and capability to follow the law is coming up short.
An eye for an eye might be a good deterrent from violence…or in the end we might just all end up blind. A tooth for a tooth might stop someone from taking a swing…or in the end we might all be sucking applesauce through a straw…because returning violence is never going to get us anywhere. Hate will never banish hate…it can’t…all it can ever do is create more hate…that’s what sin does…it breeds more of itself…and we all know where that leads.
But love? Well, you never know what love can manage to do. (pause) Now maybe you’re thinking “really pastor…really?” And I say to you…yah, really…I think that the call to love one another…even in the face of negativity and violence is precisely what Jesus is calling us to in this passage…Jesus is calling us to love the unlovable…to love those that will not repay our love in kind…either because they are unable to or because they chose not to…and when we stop and think about it…and I mean really think about it…isn’t that exactly what God does for us?
Doesn’t every single one of us fall under the category of being loved by God even when we wouldn’t or couldn’t love him back? I’m pretty sure we do and the apostle Paul believed the same. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (pause)
How amazing is it…that while we were enemies of God…enemies who perhaps antagonized believers…or condemned them…or mocked them…or who laughed at God, or scorned Him…or hated him…or perhaps…just flat out ignored him…he loved us enough to die for us…he loved us enough to make a difference by showing us that love…he loved us enough to keep on loving us even as we threw it in His face…until one day when each and every one of us stopped hating…and started listening…and we were each changed by that amazing love of God…the amazing love for the one that would not love in return…until the day that they did.
That is the change that God is invoking in the world…the change that has already come…and is continuing to occur in the world through Jesus Christ…the love of God is spreading throughout the world…and what Jesus is really telling us today is that we get to be part of it.
We’ve been hearing for multiple weeks now that Jesus has brought a change with him…that reality is different and now Jesus is telling us that simply showing love, even to those that refuse it…is how we join with him in bringing about this change in the world.
And while we all know it isn’t finished yet, we know that this world is moving towards something new…something better…something that only God truly understands…and one day it will be finished…one day it will be completed…and that, my friends is when all will be perfect…as our heavenly father is perfect.
Jesus is not telling us that we need to be perfect in our actions and intentions, because Jesus knows we can’t pull that off…if we could there would be no need for a savior…but rather…Jesus is telling us to continue moving towards completion…together with God…so that one day…one glorious day…everyone will understand the love of God…and everyone will mirror the love of God.
But until that day, God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good…and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (pause) God continues to let life go on, day after day…until that one day when we all truly understand it when God says “good job…oh and ps…I love you.”  Amen.

 

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