Psalms 55 8 138, 139:1-17(18-23); Exodus 40: 18-38; Thess 4:1-12; Matthew 5:38-48
Jesus does a whole lot of good for the therapeutic community today. He tells those he is speaking to to be perfect, like God. To turn the other cheek to all aggressors in our lives. To give to everyone who asks something of us. Not only are we to love our neighbor unequivocally, but we are to love our enemies and pray for them and for all that persecute us. Jesus reminds us that even those folks are God's creation, too. So, folks who read this with a literal lens many times find themselves in the therapist's chair trying to understand why they feel like such a failure in life when they fall short of this extraordinarily challenging instruction from Jesus.
So what are we to make of this reading, that comes right after Jesus telling us to be true to the goodness within ourselves? How are we supposed to live into this command? We pass by people all the time who ask for things: usually money. Realistically how are we supposed to give to everyone? Would we have anything left to survive on for ourselves?
At the church in which I serve, our youth confirmation class was asked during Advent to write our prayers of the people. They asked if we could pray for our enemies? And that, of course, was included in those prayers...and have continued since as the last thing the deacon bids: "We pray for our enemies and for those who wish to do us harm."
When we started this, a number of people told me they were uncomfortable with this...But, we have kept this bidding as this is a weekly reminder of our trying to live into this unattainable perfection to which we are directed today. This is a perfect way in which we can be given the grace of uncomfortableness in church...for if we are not uncomfortable at times, than we are not being challenged and we can all too easily fall into complacency - something that should never happen in church...or our spiritual lives...or our lives, period.
Jesus is trying to unsettle us today. He is asking us to really look at what we are doing, how we are living, and evaluate if we are truly doing all we can to create this kingdom he opens for us. So I pray for myself and for all those around me, to be given the gift of being unsettled, allowing all of us to have fresh eyes to look at our ministry and mission to the world.
Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.