Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Love Your Enemies

God appointed annual feast days for Israel. They were days for special celebration. God would be the in the midst of his people, and they would rejoice over his presence. But there came a time when God would no longer accept their praise. We read in Amos:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.   (Amos 5:21-24)

God looked at Israel and saw rampant injustices. We seem to be living in such as time today. Anger can well up inside inside us when things get so bad. What may provoke is when those who are responsible seem to get away with their crimes, even the ones who are charged to protect us.

The psalmist wrote:

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.   (Psalm 37:8-9)

Are we open to such advice. Some of our leaders seem to be enemies of the people, not just in this nation, but worldwide.

Jesus gave us advice about our enemies:

“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.

This may be difficult for us. But we have a example of such love in Joseph. Reading from Genesis:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.   (Genesis 45:4-8)

One of the things that helped Joseph to forgive his brothers is that he could see a much bigger picture of the events. He was able to see God’s picture. He understood God’s purposes.

Again, the psalmist reminds us:

For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.

In a little while the wicked shall be no more;
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.   (Psalm 37:10-11)

We may be discovering how little certain leaders care about our concerns of justice. Our best weapons against them is prayer. Only God can bring about meaningful change. If we allow ourselves to become bitter over the situation, that is what the enemy wants. It could adversely affect our own behavior. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.   (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Jesus said:

“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.   ()

God is long-suffering. He wants to save as many people as possible. Perhaps we need more endurance. In the Book of James we read:

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.   (James 1:2-4)

Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.   (James 5:11)

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.   (James 5:7-8)

The coming of the Lord is surely near. God has shown us his compassion and mercy through the cross of Christ. Let us pray for all the lost. And let us hold onto a Holy Hope – Christ in us the hope of Glory.

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

7 responses to “Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

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