Skip to main content

Shifting Paradigms

One of the opportunities we have during our senior year of seminary is to preach in chapel. Today it was my turn. The scripture passage was Luke 6:27-38.


            Our campus is alive with expectation. In 24 days, seniors called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament will receive regional assignments. Graduation for all seniors is a mere 101 days away, not that anyone is counting. We cannot help but wonder where we will land. Middlers, in just a few weeks you will be going through the marathon of internship matching, affectionately called “speed dating” with all its excitement and anxiety. And you juniors are looking forward to completing your first year of seminary and embarking upon the world of CPE. How do you feel about that?
            Today’s scripture passage is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain as Luke's gospel calls it. Just as our regional, internship, and CPE assignments are not for everyone, these words of Jesus are not for everyone. They are not for the multitude. Who are they for then? They are for followers of Jesus. They are for us.
            Once he has our attention, Jesus simply tells us to love. We can do that. God is love. We understand that. That seems basic. And Jesus must have really meant it because he mentions love six different times in these few verses. We are a loving community here. We look after and love our friends and neighbors. And of course, we love our families. But Jesus is pushing us beyond our comfort zone. “Love your enemies.”
            Who are our enemies? We may not feel like we have any. Are those who oppose God’s work enemies? Are enemies those different from ourselves, with whom we are uncomfortable? Are they people of different faiths, different colors of skin, different languages? Beggars in Jesus’ day only had the companionship of other beggars. They may have been seen as outsiders, certainly not friends, maybe even enemies. Who are the enemies that God is calling us to love?
            This love we are being called to is not just some passive, nice, warm feeling. This love lived out shows we are Jesus’ disciples. Jesus fleshes out for us what kinds of actions express such love. First, love will do good. Anyone can do good to those who are loveable.  It is easy to do good for our friends. But Jesus’ call is to do good, not just to outsiders with whom we may be uncomfortable, but to do good to those who hate us.
            N. T. Wright suggests:
Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it. Think of what you’d really like someone to do for you, and do it for them. Think of the people to whom you are tempted to be nasty, and lavish generosity on them instead. (N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone, 73).

            Are you uncomfortable yet? Jesus pushes us even farther now. Not only are we to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, but now it goes beyond hatred to such people cursing us. And just how does Jesus expect his followers to react? We are to bless them. Doesn’t Jesus understand that some people just have to be put in their place? But this is the call for followers of Jesus, we are to bless them—to ask for God’s special favor, to call down God’s gracious power. We are to pray for those who want to hurt us. Really?
            Jesus teaching is radical. It is not the norm. As one scholar said:
Jesus’ mode of presentation certifies that his message is not simply one of prescriptive morality, as though he were telling people how they should or should not act. Rather, [Jesus wants us to accept that he is going to turn the world upside down]... and to act accordingly. (Joel B. Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke, 272)

This is the in-breaking of the kingdom of God
            Jesus summarizes his message, “…love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (v. 35a). This is what Jesus is telling us our attitude should be. Lord, you’ve got to be kidding! Do you want people to walk all over us? No he does not. N. T. Wright suggests, “The kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity” (Luke for Everyone, 73). Jesus directs us back to the nature of God who is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (v. 35b). We are to be merciful just as God is merciful.
            God lavishes love, mercy, and grace upon all. God’s love is indiscriminate. The message that runs throughout this passage is plain: love, do good, lend. If  we pass these words off as mere hyperbole, are we doing justice to Jesus’ admonitions? This life of community in Christ with our neighbors AND OUR ENEMIES is beyond us. But is it beyond God?
            Wright sums up this portion of the Sermon on the Plain in this way:
There are two particularly astonishing things about these instructions. First, their simplicity: they are obvious, clear, direct, and memorable. Second, their scarcity. How many people do you know who really live like this? How many communities do you know where these guidelines are rules of life? (Wright, 75)

Are they really the rule of life here on the Ridge?
            As we each approach our times, of new beginnings let’s turn our ears to hear Jesus calling and let’s move our paradigm to where our world is closer to making the guidelines of love, do good, and lend the norm. Amen.

Google Images

Comments

It's amazing talking with an old classmate yesterday, to see the places we've gone in Christ's service.
The simple truth is you can't see it all yet; but not to worry. I didn't forecast my current call or children or home or anything 12 years ago.
God has a plan for you, so I won't tell you to stop counting, rather I'd encourage you to prepare and to pack light and hold firm to God's Word.
Pax
John
Ivy said…
Thank you John. Peace.

Popular posts from this blog

If and If and If

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 10/1/17 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church. The scripture text is Philippians 2:1-13

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of my favorites. It is full of positive, uplifting theology, like “RejoiceintheLordalways; again I will say, Rejoice (Phil. 4:4 ). It’s a feel-good kind of letter. Today’s passage from Philippians is chock full of great stuff and I could get at least 10 sermons out of

I'm Back & Giving Thanks

Sunday, 9/17, was my first Sunday back in the pulpit after 7 months. I am not completely healed from February's back surgery, but am mostly there. The doctor is letting me work only part time until our next visit. This is the sermon from Sunday, 9/17, preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church.  based on Psalm 103 1:-13.
When I read today’s lessons, I couldn’t take my eyes of of Psalm 103. This psalm is an individual psalm of one who was struggling in a desperate situation, who called out to God and God delivered him.This is my story too.
As most of you know, I had back surgery in Feb. and I too, received God’s deliverance. Following the back surgery, I contracted an Ecoli infection that nearly killed me. I am here today to declare with the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits…”
The odd thing about this psalm is that it isn’t a prayer. It is not ad…

Flying Rebukes

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 2/25/18 at St. Timothy. Lutheran Church. The text was Mark 8:31-38. 


Immediately before today’s gospel reading, Jesus had asked his disciples who people say that he is. This is where the light went on for Peter and he made the confession, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). Peter certainly gave the right answer and was likely thinking of the attributes given to whoever would be the Messiah. The Messiah, people thought, would deliver them from the crushing rule of the Romans. The Messiah would fight their enemies. Basically, the Messiah was a strong king-like figure.
But, now Jesus fleshes out for Peter and others what that is going to look like. They were completely unprepared for the reality.
“Jesus began to teach them” (v. 31). Hadn’t he been teaching the disciples all along? Maybe, but this was different. This wasn’t teaching about miracles and healing. This is the turning point in Mark’s gospel, marking a new beginning.
“Jesus began to teach the…