Devotional Message: The 7th Sunday after The Epiphany (2/24/2019)

Lessons

Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
1st Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
St. Luke 6:27-38

Prayer of the Day

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace, that where there is hatred, we may sow love, where there is injury, pardon, and where there is despair, hope. Grant, O divine master, that we may seek to console, to understand, and to love in your name, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 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. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 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.” 

St. Luke 6:27-38, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Merciful as Your Father Is Merciful”

This week’s Gospel lesson continues the story we began following last Sunday. Jesus comes down from the mountain after praying there with his disciples for a night, and after choosing twelve of them to serve as his apostles. He makes his way to a level place, where he is joined by “a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.” (Lk 6:17) St. Luke tells us that they want to hear him speak, are seeking healing, and hope to receive relief from unclean spirits. It is a wild, chaotic time, and many are healed by Jesus’ touch.

He then begins to teach them, first focusing on blessings and woes and then, in today’s passage, instructing them to give of themselves in acts of selfless love. Jesus declares that his followers (we might add: “then and now”) are expected to love enemies, love those who hate us, love those who curse us, love those who abuse us, love those who strike us, and love those who would take away our coat. It is a heavy lift, to say the least.

As I sit here in my office writing, it is eleven degrees above zero outside, the snow is falling, and I have to be honest with you and point out that if you were to sneak in and make off with my winter jacket, when it’s time to head home later this afternoon my first instinct probably won’t be one of love for you. It is a heavy lift. And the coat stealers are the least of the worst whom Jesus insists are to be the recipients of our (my!) love.

We could distract ourselves by wondering why Jesus commands us to such extravagant love. After all, in verse 32 he suggests that we don’t do this to participate in some sort of an “I’ll love you; you’ll love me” relationship. And in verses 31, 35, and 38 it seems that we may well have something to gain from this kind of loving. But I digress…

No — at the center of this passage is not an invitation to speculate about his motivation. At the center is his command to love. Love those who do not wish us well. Love them the way we wish to be loved. Love them without any expectation that love will be returned. Love them because this is what children of the Most High do.

Finally, it is the description of us as “children of the Most High” that reveals what Jesus is up to. Jesus describes God as kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, Jesus describes God as merciful. This is how we have come to know God. One who is kind to us, even in those times when we have been ungrateful. One who is kind to us, even in those times when we ourselves have not wished others well. One who is merciful to us, even when — especially when — our own fault makes us worthy of punishment. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Jesus says. Mercy begets mercy. And so these gracious gifts we have received from God — love and mercy — both transform us into loving and merciful people, and become the gifts we in turn share with the world.

Love and mercy. Given by God. Received by God’s children. Shared with the world around us. Signs that we are indeed a people with a wholehearted love for God, and a genuine commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the community Jesus envisions for us. May we be faithful as we seek to live into it.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What is Jesus teaching this great crowd about love, mercy and forgiveness?

  2. How must they have reacted to the unconditional character of the love he describes?

  3. How do his actions demonstrate what he is calling them to be?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When has it been hardest for me to show love, mercy or forgiveness to someone who has harmed me?

  2. When have I felt the love, mercy and forgiveness that God is willing to grant me?

  3. With whom might I share these gifts today?