Light Cleanses

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Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

Jesus continues to address a crowd of his disciples. He invites his followers to shower radical love, blessing, forgiveness, generosity, and trust even to enemies and outsiders. Living in harmony with God’s intent brings the reward of overflowing blessing.

[Jesus said:] 27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If 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. 35But 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. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, 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.”


Epiphany 7C 2.24.19

So we’re in this season of “Spreading the Light” into all its dimensions. I have been thinking all week about Pastor David’s image of how Christ light permeates everything that is exposed to the light– like adding a yellow play dough to blue play dough changes the blue playdough, and it can never be the same after that… just as experiences of God’s light and grace and truth change us over time into something different than we were before, and we are never the same again.

So today is about one of the most significant things that happens in our lives and in the world as the light of X permeates our being – cleansing us, of judgement – judgement of ourselves and our judgements of others. And the soap of cleansing, we are told in our readings, is forgiveness… “Forgive us our trespasses as we also forgive those who trespass against us.” And it’s probably the most challenging thing for us to do – forgive. How many of you have seen the movie On Golden Pond? Its about a father and daughter who just can’t seem to forgive each other for years of hurts and wrongs in their relationship. IN fact, Chelsea doesn’t even call her father Dad – it’s Norman. And even when living miles apart from him, the resentments and hurts still push her around. Watch this…

Families are so complicated aren’t they? Why is it that the closer the relationship, the harder it can be to forgive? When marriages end in divorce, I have seen time after time both people holding tight to their resentments and blaming and hurts, years later.. What a waste of life.

Bill Campbell, the director of the Bible in 90 Days Program spoke to us Thursday night, about the holiness of God. We heard it at Mt Sinai, where the fire and smoke covered the mountain as Moses received the 10 commandments from God. “Be thou holy, for I am holy”, Don’t for instance worship images, idols, you don’t need images to worship– I am God, and I don’t want you making images of me either, Because I have made you to be in my image. As ruler of the universe, my holiness consists of love, grace and truth. I have made you in my image so you can permeate the world with my holiness, my love, grace and truth. And when you lose track of who I AM , running after other gods in life, you lose track of who you are as well. And when we lose track of who we are, we lose the made in the image of God ability to forgive as well.

We heard today one of the most profound stories of forgiveness in the entire Old Testament. The story of Joseph and his Brothers in Egypt. By the way, reading the Bible in 90 days again, I am struck that if you are looking for good role models of healthy family life, you won’t find many in the Bible! Just look at Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel, or Jacob and his mother Rachel cheating his brother Esau out of his inheritance. Only by God’s love and grace and truth could any of these characters ever be his people!

So here’s the story. Joseph, Jacob’s favorite among his 12 sons. In little ways and big ways, he shows that favoritism, and Joseph becomes such an arrogant little brat. How could it be otherwise when his father is spoiling him rotten? And how that must have bred hurt and resentment over the years? Finally, one day, the 11 brothers have had it up to here with this. Their Dad had returned from a business trip with a very expensive gift only for Joseph — this coat of many colors. Joseph goes out to the field where they are working just to rub it in — na na na na na, look what I’ve got!
Well, those brothers get so made they want to kill him, but the oldest brother Ruben saves him, so they just throw him into a pit, but then when Rueben isn’t watching, the other brothers sell him as a slave to some passing traders. They lie to Dad to cover it up, saying he was killed by a ram. But Joseph learns from his humbling experiences – Joseph gets sold to Potiphar, servant of the Pharaoh, and with his diligence and competence becomes Potiphar’s head of household, till he resists Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce him, and when she accuses him of sexual assault, he gets thrown into prison. But he uses that humbling as well – he has this gift for interpreting dreams, and when this news reaches the Pharaoh, he is brought in to interpret Pharaoh’s dream of 7 fat cattle and 7 lean cattle. When the pharaoh hears Josephs interpretation of his dream, 7 years of good crops, followed by 7 years of famine, he makes him second in command of all of Egypt to prepare for the famine, and he does so well the barns are bursting with grain.

Well, his father Jacob and family are out there starving in the wilderness, with money but no food, so Jacob sends them to Egypt to buy grain. After all those years, Jacob recognizes his brothers, even though they don’t recognize him, and at first he tries to get revenge on them. And then Joseph has another moment of humbling by God – and realizes God has led him through all the painful experiences in his life for just this moment – to be reconciled to his family and to save them from starvation. So he brings his brothers in from jail and says to them – “Remember Me? I’m your brother Joseph whom you sold into slavery. You can imagine the waves of shock and fear that ran through those brothers! But then Joseph says “ Don’t be afraid – You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good. It was not you who sent me here, but God, so that our whole family can be saved from starvation. And then all the brothers weep on each other’s shoulders as they make forgive each other…. after all those years.

How many of those experiences have you had? My family could be in the Bible, we are such prime illustrations of judgementalism and of God’s forgiveness of us. Most recently in the sickness and death of my brother, lost in his gambling addiction. How at odds we were with him – angry, resentful, judgemental… but in his final struggle with life, there was our family, surrounding him not with condemnation and judgement, but with forgiveness and love. And time after time, in my family, it’s been clear to us , that only by the grace of God have we ever been able to forgive each other like that..

It’s out of this, that Jesus says in his sermon on the plain today, Love your enemies, do good, and give , expecting nothing in return – be merciful just as your Father in Heaven is merciful. And what will you show yourselves to be? Children of the Most High, the Great I AM, in whose image you were created! For he is kind even to the ungrateful and the wicked…”

Then comes this other tough part – “Judge not, lest you be judged….” suspend your moral judgements. Because even if you are in the image of God, you are not God, and only God has the final power to judge. That’s his job, not ours. You know, don’t you, that the original sin of Adam and Eve was wanting to be God, knowing the difference between good and evil – as if they had the right to judge everything themselves– this is good, that’s bad, these are good, those are bad. These days, across the whole world, we need more witnesses to open minded ness, and I agree with Bill Campbell, it’s going to have to be us Christians, who when we act like what we are, the holy ones of God, demonstrate to the world how to be humbly open to learning from others, humbly accepting of views different than our own, gratefully accepting of people different from us. And forgiving and asking for forgiveness where we have gone wrong. That’s what our relationship with Saints Simon and Jude represents. All beloved children of the Most High, but with differences on some things. Yet we can worship together, study together, and work together for the good of our community.

So does not judging that mean we can never hold anybody accountable? Well, when we are not caught in condemning and judging and resenting and hating on other people, we still need to hold one another accountable for our misbehaviors. When you kid needs a timeout, you can do it, but when the consequences for the behavior are done, it’s all over – you don’t have to lecture or berate or remind them of their sins time and time again – it’s over. Just as it is with those who end up in prison because of their misconduct. They don’t need to be shamed and abused, they’ve been held accountable, and now they need forgiveness, and a fresh start. They need to be restored to their true self, -made in the image of a loving God self, capable of being agents of God’s goodness like the rest of us sinners.

This is the deal – this judgement and forgiveness thing – because it can be so difficult for us, we fall into judgementalism so easy. I need to have all my relationships filtered through the light of God’s love in Christ. See them as Christ sees them – then I can more easily accept them as they are, not have to figure out how to change them or fix them – leave that to God. Yes, set limits around behaviors that are hurtful or dangerous to me but love like God loves, because if he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, who am I to do any different?…. When we are able to let that light of love flow in even the most difficult of relationships, this is what becomes possible: (show last video clip)

This lent we are going deeper in these matters – as we pray – Not Create in them, a clean heart O God – but “Create in ME a clean heart O God! Renew a right spirit within ME!

And as he does, who knows who knows how he will use that to restore broken relationships and yes, even a broken world?