The Word of God: Matthew 5:43-48 – March 12, 2022

This is the reading and sermon from today’s worship service for the Gentle Shepherd. Today’s reading is from the Jerusalem Bible version of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 43 to 48:

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

In today’s passage, which is a timely one for the current state of the world, Jesus helps his disciples to realize what it means to be his followers in the world. Following Jesus means meeting up with those whom we would consider to be our enemies. These could be others with whom we have the most profound disagreements, and for whom we might even wish banishment from the Kingdom of Heaven.

In this, Jesus is right and righteous. What reward comes from only loving those who love us? What reward comes from appreciating the lovely and not seeking to understand and connect with the unlovely? In all of this, we should be reminded of the Great Commission. As Christians, we are called by God to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that God has commanded. As Christians, we understand that God is with us all even unto the end of the age. Discipleship means bringing a sense that God is with us into the dark, dreary, and destructive corners of our world.

And, yet, in our own sin, we reject divine revelation. We think that we know better, and are better. Instead, we must be the salt and the light, and not permit for one second that our light in the name of God be hidden from the world. Our enemies are also our neighbors. We cannot heal that which we believe to be the Devil inside ourselves and in others with weapons, with self-righteous words, with hollow protestations of Scripture in God’s name. No. We are called to be still and know that God is here. We are called to heal the Devil within ourselves and within others by embracing him. We are called to accept all of each of us. We are called to look at our strengths and our shortcomings honestly through the eyes of our heart, as God does for each and every one of us.

In Lent, especially, we are called to repent and renew. And, with God’s grace, we must try again to bring the arc of our lives closer on this Earth to the eternal reality of God’s dominion in the Kingdom of Heaven. In this way only will we become peacemakers capable of being known as the children of God. In this way only will the wounds of the broken-hearted ever fully be bound up. Amen and Amen.

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