Readings from the Scriptures – Luke 6:27-38
“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. 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.”
Mercy and Grace
May the words of my mouth, the meditations of all our hearts be guided by your Love, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
In the midst of Creation’s springtime growth and flourishing gardens we find renewal and hope. The timing couldn’t be more helpful. The fourteen months have demanded much from us.
It matters not who we are: pre-school or well into retirement, in the face of a global pandemic we have been called upon for patience, understanding and sacrifice. We’ve heard from leaders and teachers from various disciples that normal is gone, that what we once knew and practiced is no longer. We are encouraged to find our way into a new normal. To imagine, to become something new.
In a time of challenge, it’s very possible for communities and individuals to feel lonely and overwhelmed. The pandemic reveals increasing clarity and urgency to:
• Strengthen our social safety net for the vast numbers of people who experience endemic poverty, as well as for those who live long-term care homes.
• We know there must be vaccine equity across communities, generation and border;
• And that we must uphold care for the earth. Our wellness de-pends upon its wellness.
• And, are learning the difficult struggle in seeking freedom from fear of difference.
Such a time was also present in Jesus’ time. Worldly powers and principality’s drove the people to hardships and a multitude of afflictions.
Luke’s passage, at first glance, we may wonder — is Jesus is calling the listener to endless cycles of suffering and violence.
We hear Jesus instruct the crowd, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” I came across a great analogy about this particular passage: It’s very possible we may respond to it the same way children respond to looking at cooked spinach on the dinner plate. No matter how much one tries to explain the nutritional value of spinach, it won’t be difficult to recognize that the child is not being persuaded enough to want to dig in.
There is a vast difference between what we want and what we need. I think of my task of raising two daughters, who are very close in age, called for an intentional journey of exploring, teaching and learning the difference between wants and needs.
Jesus did not expect a passive response to the afflictions of the world. Before this sermon on the plain we hear today Jesus spoke to the crowd, more specifically to his disciples, the beatitudes: blessed are the poor, blessed are the hungry, blessed are those who weep, blessed are you when people hate you, and defame you.
In these words the way of God is spoken – laid out, for those who followed him.
Today’s readings offer much needed nutrition in a hostile world.
Eugene H Peterson, who wrote: THE MESSAGE, The Bible in Contemporary Language) offers this interpretation: “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God created identity the way God [the father] lives towards us, generously and graciously, even when we are at our worst. Our God [father] is kind; you be kind.”
Love, generosity and grace the ingredients necessary for us to live out the radical faith that Jesus demands.
The world was hungry and is hungry now.
Speaking of hunger, 1 Samuel 25 feature the story of David, and his group of hungry men. Abigail barely gets a mention.
I appreciate the work that The Very Reverend Dr. Lois Wilson carried out in authoring the book Miriam, Mary & Me, Biblical stories retold for Children & Adults. It is the book I used to tell the story of Abigail. Remarkable really when you think about brilliant and courage act that Abigail carried. She took a risk to correct a harm her husband had done. The biblical version of speaks only of Abigail, good understand and beauty. Yet, with a deeper dive in the story what is revealed us is a courageous act of peacemaking. Peacemaking for Abigail required decisiveness, even assertiveness. She need act quickly, while listening to others. She accessed her venerability and hospitality to disarms a very hostile scenario.
In response to the recent “white lives matter’ , Zion United Church and ___, provided space for community members who were interested in learning about Active Bystander training. And, as Spirit would have it, the day I was working on my sermon was also the day I have been enrolled for the training. The workshop could have also be named: Active Peacemaking, as the focus of conversation was how to intervene safely if someone is in danger. Many aspects of the training itself were valuable, I couldn’t help but think about what kind of world this would be if had space in our society where building these skills is a life- long learning.
What stories of peacemaking do we have within our families, towns and villages. Do we remember them, with intention to celebrate peace and learn from them?
While 1 Samuel mentions in passing Abigail’s skilled and compassion-ate response to a dangerous situation, she disappears from history.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the great Tree of Peace. The story of the Tree of Peace is not from my culture, but of the Haudenosausnee people. This carved vase was gifted to me by a dear friend, who is now passed. Daryl was from Six Nations. He and his new wife gave to me the day I officiated their marriage ceremony.
I’ll share the story as I understand it. It was Over 1,000 years ago, the Five Nations or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, [made up of the Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations.] together in peace at Onondaga Lake by the Peacemaker and Hiawatha.
Together they planted the Great Tree of Peace and created the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The Tree of Peace would be a metaphor for how peace can grow if it is nurtured. Like a tall tree, peace can provide protection and comfort. Like the pine tree, peace spreads its protective branches to create a place of peace where we can gather and renew ourselves. And, like the White Pine, peace also creates large white roots that rise out of the ground so people can trace their journey to the source. So, if anyone truly desired peace they could follow the sacred white roots of peace to the capital of the Confederacy, here at Onondaga, where they would learn of the words of the Peacemaker. His message is that we all can nurture the “Tree of Peace.”
The Peacemaker had the warriors uproot a great white pine which left a gaping hole. And all of the chiefs and warriors (about 50 of them) threw their weapons of war under the Great Tree where an under-ground stream carried the weapons away and it was lifted back upright.
The Peacemaker said that the Chiefs will be standing on the earth like trees, rooted in the land, with strong trunks, all the same height (wisely telling them that they will have equal authority) in front of the their people. This authority is for the purpose of protecting the people. Peacemaker told then they will have the power of the Good Mind–not physical force.
On top of the tree sits an eagle who serves as a protector of the Piece.
The state of our world, all creation thirst and hunger for mercy and grace.
It seems, in these times, especially in these time we could use a burying of the hatchet that is fear and all that trails behind it, intolerance, hatred, greed, and exclusion.
By the way, the saying, “bury the hatchet’ derives from the teaching of the Tree of Peace.
David buries the hatchet after witnessing to Abigail’s courage and skills as peacemaker. The Peacemaker models that peacemaking is both word and action.
Jesus calls us to even more. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate you. To give to everyone who comes to ask fro someone. And for good measure Jesus throws the end key ingredients for peace and justice: forgive and give.
One final word, the last work taken from Eugene H Peterson’s version THE MESSAGE: (VS 31) Here’s a simple rule of thumb for behavior: ask yourself what do you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!
May it be so, God.