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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Epiphany 7 February 20, 2011

Leviticus 19: 1-2. 9-18
Psalm 119: 33-40
1 Corinthians 3: 10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

 The Book of Leviticus deals with the laws which govern all aspects of the life of God’s chosen people Israel. Some parts of this book can seem quite irrelevant to people of our time. For example, the Book of Leviticus forbids wearing garments of two different fabrics and also covers detailed aspects of the dietary laws.

 This portion of Leviticus, however, meshes in spirit with the Beatitudes of Jesus. This is the law which governs the community life of the people, and it is solidly based on love of God and love of neighbor. For example, when the people are harvesting their fields or vineyards, they are to leave some of the crop so that the poor can have food. People should not steal or lie. They shall be honest and considerate of others. They shall take special care of those who are deaf or blind. In sum, the people are called to show others the love and care which God has shown them. This is quite startling when we remember that these words were written thousands of years ago.

 In today’s epistle,  Paul is using the metaphor of a building to describe the life of the Church.  Paul laid the foundation and others are building upon it. The foundation is Jesus Christ. One commentator says that this passage makes him think of the church as a busy construction site with all the workers doing their part. Each of us is using our gifts to build up the body of Christ, the Church. It is not the human leaders who are important, whether Paul or Apollos or whomever. It is that we as the Church carry out the ministry of our Lord.

 And once again we turn to our Lord’s expression of the core of our faith in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” From our modern vantage point, we think an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is rather primitive and gory. But actually, this rule, called the lex talionis was designed to keep people from going too far in their retaliation. It was actually designed to control violence, so that, if somebody hurt someone’s arm, for example, the opposing side could not kill him. The comment about, if someone forces you to go one mile, go the second mile refers to the fact that Palestine was occupied territory. If a Roman soldier asked you to carry his pack for a mile, you had to do it.  Turning the other cheek and giving the coat as well as the cloak also fit into this approach of going the extra mile. The law says that we should love our neighbors, but Jesus is saying that even our enemies are our neighbors.

 Then he ends with that statement, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” If we were reading the Beatitudes in Luke, we would have an easier time. Luke says, “Be merciful as your father in heaven in merciful.” But we are faced with Matthew’s version, so let’s try to think about it together.

  As we all know, we are far from perfect. Is Jesus asking us to do the impossible? These Beatitudes can be seen as so impossible as to be deeply depressing or so impossible as to be ridiculous, so we’ll just have to sweep them under the rug and ignore them.  But let’s try to persevere.

 Let’s start with “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” The Greek word translated as “perfect” is teleios. Teleios means, according to Bishop Frederick Borsch, “to come to the goal or purpose, to become what one was created for, to reach full growth, potential, maturity.”  Ephesians 4, Borsch writes, “presents the vision of all Christians attaining, ‘To the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature (teleios) humanity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’”  Borsch goes on to say, “In relationship to God, there are no limits on who we may become morally and ethically.” He says,  “ But we may also see ourselves as people just beginning to realize the power of love that is God’s gift. We become who we are meant to be—God’s children—as we more maturely reflect the character of the divine parent.” (Proclamation 4, p. 49.)

 The Beatitudes are our goal as a community of faith, the goal to be channels of God’s love and healing.  We are called to actively and energetically extend love and generosity. These are the principles which guided Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

 I always have to say that this vision does not mean that we are condoning or accepting abuse of any kind. In this fallen world, we are not telling the battered woman to go home and take another beating, and we are called to protect children from those who would hurt them in any way. But when Jesus talks about loving our enemies, there is a truth there.  In this very small world, we need to be very careful not to demonize our opponents. We need to focus on learning how to find common ground.

 I once saw a demonstration of what Jesus may have meant when he talked about turning the other cheek. It was a martial arts demonstration—Aikido, I think. The attacker came on, the person doing the demonstration skillfully absorbed and redirected the energy of the attacker in such a way that each of them ended up where the other had been, and with their bodies having rotated so that their cheeks were indeed turned.

 Nothing is as powerful as love. All of these lessons are talking about how to live together as a loving community, whether it is the people Israel, the congregation in Corinth, Grace Church, the United States of America, or planet Earth.

 Jesus was a revolutionary. He was a radical, meaning he went to the roots of things.  His vision is not business as usual. It is difficult to embrace and transform negative energy rather than simply to retaliate.

Thanks be to God for people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. They are our icons for these lessons. And these lessons are, in the words of Bishop Borsch, “the invitation to an unlimited human adventure in holiness.” (Proclamation 4, p. 52.)

 May we be inspired by the vision of our Savior and our brother, Jesus.

May we put love above all else. May we be channels of God’s love, peace, and healing.    Amen.

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