Todays Gospel reading doesnt leave us much wiggle room, does it?
To follow these teachings of Jesus is a rigorous, demanding, unequivocal
proposition. Its to agree to "Do unto others as you would have
them do unto you". Its to affirm that our entire lives are
to be governed by a principle other than self-preservation or the survival
of the fittest. Its to uphold in our own lives a principle of goodness
and generosity that reaches beyond all measure or imagining.
Reading this text reminded me of a story I once heard while we were living in Boston. Its the story of an austere New England Puritan preacher who had the reputation of demanding unflagging piety and good works of his flock. One morning when he was preaching a particularly rigorous sermon to them, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a new awareness and a horrible, sinking feeling that some one of them out there, somewhere ... might be having a good time.
Perhaps it was this mornings text he was preaching on. This Gospel reading is so demanding, so comprehensively rigorous, that its easy to feel a sense of failure before you even get to the third line.
Where do we even begin with a charge like this? With our check books? With our calendars? In our homes? The schools? The housing projects? Where do we begin....? Well, it seems to me that the only place we can begin is with ourselves, inside of ourselves. This goodness and generosity that Jesus calls us to show forth in our actions must first take root and grow in our souls. And, as Ive said to you before, we first have to determine what our own interior point of reference is, because its that center, that self-understanding, that gives shape and strength to our every action. So what is that reference point, that standard for decisions and choices in our life, do you know? Is it ourselves or is it God? Is it our purpose in life or Gods purpose for us? Is it courage or cowardice? Grasping everything to ourselves or sharing with others? Is it faith in the power of God working in us, or faith in our own power, whatever that may be? I think its profoundly important that we ask ourselves these questions and that together we seek the answers. So think about it. What is your interior point of reference? We need to face in to that question, because, you see, I believe that God needs us, needs you and me, to carry on the work that Jesus himself began in the world. So it is imperative that Gods word and Gods will become that reference point for each of us and for our lives.
answer to that question was this:
So I close with an admonition given by Winston Churchill in what I think was his last public speaking engagement. He had been asked to give the commencement address at a particular college. When he rose to speak, that great Lion of England stood at the podium for a long time. He simply stood looking out over all the young people gathered there, so filled with the promise of the future, and yet himself remembering all those other young people who had so recently given up their lives for their country. And then finally he spoke, quite simply, and said, "Never give up. Never, ever give up." And then slowly he went and sat down again.
So Jesus speaks to you and to me this morning. "Love your enemies," he says. "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." And never, never give up.
Copyright 2001 Calvary Episcopal Church
"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. 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." NRSV