Heaven Shining Down on Our Enemies
Luke 6:27-38 and Genesis 45:3-15
Seventh in a Series of Nine Epiphany Sermons
February 23 and 24, 2019
Dear Christian friends,
We’ve been weaving our way through the life and ministry of Jesus rejoicing, exploring, and reflecting. First of all rejoicing that God has reached down from heaven to rescue us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Secondly we’ve been exploring the obvious truth that mission and ministry happen in specific locations, each with their own significant history and particular opportunities. Third, we’ve been reflecting on this epic battle between the Light of the world and the forces of darkness taking place in ever corner of God’s kingdom, and in every generation, including ours.
In previous weeks, we’ve seen heaven shining down / (referencing map)
The location of today’s sermon is on a level plain, and he’s preaching. Three circles of people are surrounding him, a small circle of 12 disciples, a larger circle of followers, and a much larger circle of folks from all over Galilee and Jerusalem and Judea, even the coastlands are represented.
Last week, we saw heaven shining down on outsiders, on those who have no power and no privileges here and now. Today, we see heaven shining down on our enemies through us. Heaven shining down on our enemies by the way we we think, the way that we speak, the way that we listen, the way that we act. Two parts to our sermon today, first we identify who are our enemies, and secondly, we think about how and why we are to go about loving them.
Would you rescue him? Imagine that you are a college aged guy, that you are a lifeguard at a beach, and that there is a group of guys that has been giving you a hard time. They have been making fun of your physical appearance, they have been embarrassing you in front of your girl friend, and the worst of it is that one of the guys in particular is working hard to steal away your girl friend. In your heart, a spirit of bitterness has turned into hatred, and more than once you have wished for him to be dead. Now imagine that he has wandered into deep water, and it comes to your attention that he’s in very real danger of drowning. Your assignment, in that moment, is to love your enemy, it is to do good to a person who has hated you. Would you rescue him?
A couple of weeks ago, we saw Jesus calling Peter and others away from their fishing business to be on a rescue mission to catch people alive. Today we hear Jesus making it clear that it’s easy to love those who are loving us back. Even unbelievers can do that. It’s easy to be kind and patient and forgiving towards those who are kind and patient and forgiving kinds of folks. Just about anybody can do that. Today Jesus invites us collectively to be on a rescue mission which includes being kind to the rudest of the rude. It includes being patient towards those who couldn’t care less what we are thinking of them. It includes forgiving those who aren’t asking for our forgiveness.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Sermon part #1 - (Identifying) our enemies
For the early disciples, enemies were easy to identify. There were the Pharisees and the Saduccees who were secretly and eventually openly plotting against and wanting to harm Jesus and anybody who was following him. All four Gospels are filled with first century religious leaders giving Jesus a hard time, they tried hard to trick him and trap him with their riddles, they spread rumors far and wide about him breaking sabbath and other ceremonial laws, as you well know, they ended up crying out for his crucifixion and bullying Pilate and Roman soldiers into doing just that.
A second group of enemies for those early disciples were Samaritans. Right in the middle of Palestine in Jesus’ day, right between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south, was Samaria. This was a no – go area for Jewish people. Galileans who wanted to travel to Jerusalem would tend to bypass this whole area on their way southward. They would go down the Jordan Valley towards Jericho and then into Jerusalem, which would add another 25 miles to their journey.
Samaritans and Jews had been sworn enemies for 400 years. On one occasion, John and James asked Jesus if they should call down fire upon an unwelcoming Samaritan village. You will remember Jesus healing ten lepers, and only one of them, a Samaritan, bothered to return thanks. In the story of the Good Samaritan, it was the Jewish priest and levite who came out looking self-centered and lacking compassion. Samaritans and Jews were both political and religious enemies. Animosity was bred and taught right into their souls from childhood on.
Who might you and I identify as enemies in these days? Often they are the people close to us who have been hurt. It could be a spouse, a former spouse, or even a parent. It could be a son or daughter, a co-worker, or a Face-book friend who has opposite political views. Our enemies could be folks who have insulted us or we have insulted them. The animosity could be male/female, it could be baby boomer/millennial, it could be democratic/republican, it could be conservative/liberal, it could be employer/employee, the conflict could be real or imagined, it could be based on long standing differences or merely a hot tempered reaction.
For reflection – who are the three or four folks in my life who I have been avoiding in these days? Who are the folks who I have taken cheap shots at instead of caring about their story. Who are the folks who have made it clear they are against what we believe?
Sermon part #2 - (Loving) our enemies. So how is it and why is it that we are to be loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us? How is it and why is it that we should be trying to rescue people who don’t think they need to be rescued? Loving our enemies isn’t just thinking nice thoughts about them. It’s about throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and Him doing a heart change within us. Loving our enemies is about hearing Jesus pleading for his father to forgive those soldiers who were nailing him to the cross, for they didn’t know what they were doing. Loving our enemies is about God somehow loving the nation of Israel even when they were thumbing their nose at him, it’s about Jesus Christ dying for us while we were yet in our sins, it’s about God in heaven above working in Joseph the kind of faith able to forgive his brothers who had sold him into slavery, loving our enemies is about the Holy Spirit teaching and counseling and guiding us into the truth that set us free, it’s about us letting our Gospel light shine so that others may see our good works and glorify our God in heaven above.
In these three ways, we would go about loving our enemies this week.
First, we would be loving our enemies With intelligent (purpose). The kingdom of God is like a Christian who regularly engages in political debate on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter. Most days, she restrains himself, tries to be reasonable, and let’s a lot of comments slide by. But on her bad days, she gets fed up and just lets it rip, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. This week, she makes a promise to herself that before she comments in writing, she will ask this question, “How can I comment in such a way that whoever reads it will be directed to Jesus Christ as the kind and patient Savior that he is?
Second, we would be loving our enemies With words, actions, and (restraint). The kingdom of God is like a man who is as wounded as he can be by a marriage gone bad. Most days, he watches what he says to his ex wife, he tries to take the high road, and he bites his tongue hard and often. But on his bad days, he has been known to get fed up, he lets it rip, he curses, he demands, he counts the ways he has been wronged, he takes the low road. This week, he makes a promise to himself that whenever tempted to go small and petty, he will ask this question, “How can I speak, how can I act in a way that will honor Jesus Christ, in a way that his name would be kept holy, in a way that his kingdom would come?
Third, we would be loving our enemies With the right (attitude), The kingdom of God is like a middle aged person who regularly prays for her family, her friends, her small town, her congregation, and all those who are in authority. Rarely does she pray for those who have offended, those who have excluded, those who have treated her as if she doesn’t really exist. This week, she prays that God would help her to care about that which He care about, she prays that God would work in her heart a stronger faith and a better attitude.
Speaking of attitude, I was sitting in my favorite chair this past week, and our 8 year old grandson Oli was sitting nearby. As I often do with my grandchildren, I was giving advice, even though they weren’t asking. I was reading an article about having a good attitude, and so I interrupted his screen time by asking, “Oli, you know what?” “What?” I read to him a quote about how attitude is everything, and as I started pontificating, he looked me in the eyes and said, “No, Grandpa, (Christ) is everything!
After a little bit of back and forth, I agreed with him, and Debi and I had one of those “proud to be grandparents” moments! Dear friends in Christ, as you go about loving those who are hard to love this week, know that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life for you, he suffered for you, he was crucified until he was dead and buried for you, he rose up again for you, he is ruling all of heaven and earth on behalf of us, and this week, he invites us to join him on this grand rescue mission that includes both friend and foe alike. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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