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Epiphany 7C Sermon
Luke 6:27-38
24, 2019


Sermon Archives


Luke 6:27-38

‘But 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.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

When I read Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” you probably thought to yourself, “Oh … that’s the golden rule!” At some point in our lives we have come across this one-line piece of advice that comes from Jesus’ mouth in the sixth chapter of Luke. But have you ever heard of the silver rule? The silver rule is another one-line piece of advice that almost all religions have and has been around since much before Jesus lived. As a matter of fact, Jesus was probably familiar with the silver rule, which says, “Don’t do anything to someone that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” You can see how that advice would be valuable … but not as valuable as the spin that Jesus puts on it when he puts it into the positive … that we should always do to others just as we would want them to do to us.

Our gospel reading today is a continuation of last week’s reading; Jesus is still speaking to his disciples and a crowd of others on a level place. Matthew reported a sermon on the mount … Luke reports a sermon on a plain! Matthew reports the blessings of nine beatitudes … Luke reports four blessings and four curses. Then, in Luke’s gospel, Luke begins to talk about God’s limitless love and mercy, encouraging us to display those same virtues.
What do you think when you hear those words from Jesus? Not only the Golden Rule, but his encouragement to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse you and to pray for those who abuse you? How are you on offering your other cheek when someone strikes you? Do you give more to anyone that asks or begs you for something? Are you merciful as your heavenly father is merciful? If you answer, “Yes, I think I am doing pretty darn well with most of those…” then you, like me, need to take a good hard look at how you think about, talk to or act toward friends and enemies alike.

People have debated for centuries what Jesus’ teachings are all about here, especially if they are prescriptive, or if they are descriptive. Do they prescribe a way of life that we are called to as followers of Jesus and participants in the Kingdom of God? Are they rules to follow in the life of the church? Are these the requirements that we have in putting God’s mercy into practice in our lives? Or maybe they are descriptions of what happens when God’s Kingdom is established, and God’s rule is enacted. Or maybe, just maybe, it is a little of both.

Over and against the reality that Jesus is describing and the life to which he is calling us is the reality of what the world in which we live is really like. For the world of Jesus’ day and for us today, the rule of reciprocity seems to be admired and followed as a “Platinum Rule”. “Don’t do anything for someone else unless they have something valuable to offer to you.” The Rule of Reciprocity is the idea that all relationships are reciprocal. A person behaves generously toward another person who either has already acted generously toward them, or with the expectation that in the future the generosity will be returned. Everything from our nation’s foreign policy to the amount of effort employees give to their bosses are based on the rule of reciprocity. Even the justice system which many believe should be built upon a system of restoring people to good and healthy citizenship is built on the old eye for an eye mandate of fair punishments for crimes committed.
Jesus recognizes that such relationships and rules are so much a part of life on the plains of where people live that even sinners love and do good to and lend to their friends. If Jesus’ followers relate to others based on nothing more than reciprocity then we reinforce what life is like in this sinful, imperfect world.

But in this passage, Jesus exhorts the disciples to replace age-old qualities of behavior with those that are characteristic of God’s relationship with us. In so doing, the disciples are called to imitate God who is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked – those who you would rather just go away permanently than have to deal with. To “be kind” does not mean to approve of their actions and attitudes; it does mean that we recognize the value in seeking the best interest of our community, or the whole of God’s creation as the Kingdom is established. God wants even the ungrateful and the wicked to repent and become a part of the movement of the kingdom’s establishment.

That is why Jesus’ words are both descriptive and prescriptive – because as they describe God’s boundless mercy for everyone – not only you and me, unworthy sinners that we may be, but also those ungrateful people that we wouldn’t even give a quarter to on the street! And in hearing bout God’s love and mercy for those folks, we are encouraged to go against the rules of reciprocity, to embrace the golden rule, and treat everyone – EVERYONE - with grace and kindness and mercy, as we would want.
Jesus closes this passage by giving us a vision of what the community will be like when we embrace this merciful lifestyle. It will be like a woman who goes to the market; instead of barely filling her bag grain to the exact measure, the merchant fills it to the brim, shakes it down so that every nook and cranny is filled, and then allows the grain to overflow into the pockets of her apron to carry home. This picture is how God pours out the mercy and power of the reign into the communities which worry more about treat each other with undeserved generosity than on only giving to those who can afford to give back.

Imagine a world in which we figured out a way to be kind, even to the person or people that we most disagree with, in such a way that we don’t approve or agree or validate their words or actions, but work to restore relationships … even if those words or actions turn our stomachs in disgust. Can you imagine the story that you heard from Genesis 45 happening today – the same young brother who had been beaten and thrown into a well, sold into slavery, carted off to a foreign country, and jailed finally finds favor with a king, only to be reunited with the same brothers who carried out those hate-filled acts years later begging for grain during a famine. Can you imagine that brother, instead of seeking reciprocity for their sins, doing unto them as he would have them do to him? Blessing them, praying for them, loving them and doing a wonderful good thing for them? We agree that Joseph would have been well within his rights to lock his brothers up, to enslave them as they had enslaved him.vBut somehow, God is able to take our sinful plans and actions and, without blessing or approving them, use them to accomplish God’s mission for joy and abundance in life.

Jesus’s Golden Rule stands as a benchmark not only for what life will be like in God’s Kingdom, but also a call for us to try to be merciful in our lives just as God is merciful. It is an impossible task to do perfectly, but when we join Jesus in the restoration of the world then the abundance of God’s love and grace overflows in our lives like we could never imagine. Thanks be to God for that overflowing mercy, and for the opportunities that we have to love and bless and do good and pray for so many people. Amen.