SERMON 11/3/13 “All Saint’s Day”- St. Boniface, Sarasota, FL
“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. In Luke’s gospel today, we find Jesus’ disciples gathering with him on a mountaintop, after he had been praying all night long. From this lofty vista, Jesus chose twelve of his disciples to be his closest followers. What a crew he chose: Peter (the bold and yet, first to run disciple), James and John, (the two who wanted seats of honor, over and above their fellow disciples), and there were others just as notorious (a tax collector and a zealot, just to name a few). Jesus seems to call some incredible characters into a community of disciples, doesn’t he? I guess the messiness of Christian community is what makes it so beautiful, hopeful, and reflective of God’s grace.
Jesus left the mountain with the twelve, and then entered a level locale for his discourse, which would turn upside down, the notions of human power differentials, social ladders and thus, demonstrate our need to constantly show love for one another. There on that plateau, Jesus gave a beautiful sermon of Blessings and Woes, paradoxical sayings and ironic logic, which was counter-intuitive to our very nature. Jesus in this sermon proclaimed that the Christian life comes with blessings and woes, and the Christian life, is a challenging life.
Jesus understood the challenge of our sociological peculiarities, and then he said something so outlandish, so out of the park, so “you’re kidding right.” He announced that in God’s Kingdom we are to “Love our enemies.” “Love your enemies” is not a simple suggestion or a trite saying that looks good on pewter statues, silicone bracelets, or framed artwork. No, when Jesus told us to “Love our enemies, ” I believe without a doubt, he meant it. “Loving enemies” does not seem to be of great value in a competitive, destroy your opponent, and push your own agenda world. We don’t see this enacted in most political debates, especially those we have seen in the recent headlines. Love your enemies just doesn’t sound normal does it?
The definition for Enemy which I found on Wikipedia is: Enemy – a term for an entity, whether an individual or a group, that is seen as forcefully adverse or threatening. The concept of an enemy has been observed to be “basic for both individuals and communities”. The term “enemy” serves the social function of designating a particular entity as a threat, thereby invoking an intense emotional response to that entity. 2 So, Jesus commands us to show love to those folks who are threatening; those folks who by real or merely perceived threats, invoke an intense emotional response in us. Sometimes we are threatened when we experience change in our lives, or when our comfort zones are stretched, or when we face new fears or disappointments. As a result, we may respond from the emotions of fear and anxiety, directed toward another person and in so doing, we wound one another deeply.
Sometimes we perceive others as enemies: folks whom we believe hate us, or we perceive curse us, or they actually abuse us; folks who strike us (physically or emotionally injure us). We can easily recognize times in our lives that others have caused us pain. Equally, each one of us most likely, can identify moments when we have inflicted pain on others. Regardless of which side of the pain we find ourselves, the Christian life gets little dicey for us because Jesus teaches us, that a “like for like” reaction to hate, curse, or abuse has nothing to do with love, and honestly, it is not of God. What is of God in the midst of each other’s pain, is that we embrace love reactions that include: “Doing good, blessing, and praying.” That sure doesn’t sound like a good old catfight, an “I’ll get back at them” response, or a “just you wait and see” reaction, which we find so common in our everyday lives.
The reality is my friends; we are both saints and sinners. We have a great capacity for grace, mercy, and love. At the same time, we possess the capacity to inflict pain, create harm, and wound one another. When faced with this paradox deeply embedded in each of us, Jesus steps on the scene, and lovingly demands, “choose love!” In the midst of challenging community life, God calls for our “best efforts,” our best sainthood efforts, which “sums up the divine character (merciful even to the ungrateful and wicked) and the obligation on disciples to imitate this indiscriminate mercy for all. “1
“Love your enemies?” Is it an old adage that has lost its place in today’s culture? Is it merely a trite saying we learned in Sunday school? No, it is a reflection of the divine character so “exaggerated and provocative (in) quality.” 1 Love your enemies, “is a command in search of elaboration, dialogue, and discernment. It provides direction, but leaves the itinerary to the travelers.” Is there Good News in the midst of paradox, pain, and wounded-ness? Yes there is! We who in this life sometimes travel the journey of broken hearts, and often times sit exposed to the rawness of wounds made fresh; always have before us, the choice to follow the direction of love. The means through which we arrive at that blessed level place of reconciliation, God always leaves to us. We arrive there only by God’s grace enabling us to incarnate generous acts of love, which in the words of Jesus include: doing good, blessing each other, and praying for each other. It is on that level place of reconciling love, where our mutual participation in sainthood is desperately needed in this world; today and in the days to come.
1 Carter, Warren. “Love Your Enemies.” Word & World 28.1 (2008): 13-21. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.