my miscellany

Epiphany 7, 2019 — 24 Feb 19

Epiphany 7, 2019

RCL Year C Epiphany 7
Genesis 45:3-11 and 15, Psalm 37:1-12 and 41-42,

I Corinthians 15:35-38 and 42-50, Saint Luke 6:27-38

If Last Sunday’s Gospel sounded to you like the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount, you are on the right track. We are at the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, and this large number of Sundays after the Epiphany  means we have Gospels we do not normally hear. And this year the Gospels are Saint Luke’s version of Saint Matthew’s more familiar Sermon on the Mount, and they contain some of the hardest things for us to hear and to do.

“Love your enemies.” “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” “From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.” “If anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”

These are hard, very hard. And I confess to you that they go against most every human sense of right behavior and response. How, then, are we to make any progress in performing these things that Jesus asks us to do?

A couple of things may help us to understand what Jesus is asking us to do. The commandment to love our neighbor may be found in the Old Testament, in Leviticus 19. There is nothing specifically Christian about the love commandment. And a neighbor usually is considered to be a fellow countryman. In asking us to love our enemies Jesus is extending the commandment to love our neighbor to loving our enemy and our persecutor.

And in extending the love commandment from our neighbor to our enemies and persecutors, Jesus is asking us to do what God does. We hear him making that very request in the Gospel today when he commands us to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”[1] God is merciful to those who oppose him and even to those who sin against him. Jesus is asking us to be as merciful, and just, and even-handed as God is, for God’s justice is his mercy, and his mercy is his justice.

Matthew makes the point perhaps a little more clearly than Luke: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”[2]

We are asked to do nothing less than what God does, and that is a tall mountain to climb. Next Sunday, having climbed a mountain, Jesus will be transfigured into the glory of his Father, and we shall ask God, in the Collect of the Day, to “be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.”[3] That is the life and that is the possibility we are given. Our life and our purpose are to accept God’s blessings as a loving child, certain of God’s mercy and God’s justice.

[1] Saint Luke 6:36.

[2] Saint Matthew 6:44-45.

[3] BCP, page 217.

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