It is said that in response to this Scriptural quote: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” – Mahatma Gandhi responded: “that only makes the whole world blind.”
This great promoter of non-violence was only saying that if we keep punishing those we deem cruel-- and worthy of our scorn and disdain --- then we’re no better off than they are. . .
“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”
See if any of this sounds familiar:
I will be NICE to him---- when he is nice to me.
I will TRUST her---- IF she proves she can be trusted.
I will GIVE money to him --- IF I know he won’t go off and waste it.
I will FORGIVE her--- only IF she promises to NEVER to do it again.
I’ll do WHAT HE WANTS-- IF he does what I want.
I’ll STOP CALLING HER NAMES --- when she stops calling me names.
I’ll LOVE him when he starts loving me.
Now -- I would like to say that NONE of that sounds familiar to me – but I would be lying! Many of these statements sound a lot like me.
Oh – I would never say them out loud – and most of the time I would deny even thinking them --- but if I am being totally honest – if I am taking a sincere look at my actions and motives --- then I have to say this list certainly reflects my thinking, and more times than I care to admit --- reflects my actions.
I wish I could say that I NEVER act out of self-interest, never act a certain way based on how others treat me, or think of me – but I can’t. And my gut tells me that not many of us CAN.
A couple of weeks ago, we dealt with the question of what was the worst thing that has ever happened to you in your life???
Let’s change that up a bit this week and ask -- what is the worst thing you have ever done – or continue to do – to other people??
I think most of us would immediately start reflecting on some of the really big stuff – lying, cheating, stealing, slander, broken promises and broken vows ---- but how many of us would consider such things as: I will be nice to him if he is nice to me. I will forgive her only if she promises to NEVER do that again. . .
Most of us probably think all of those things belong in the category of “NO BIG DEAL.”
“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”
I often wonder if nearly all of us think the greatest harm we do to others – are through those big, dramatic sorts of things ---- and in avoiding the big things, we think we are basically living a pretty good life. . .
But what if it is not ONLY the big things – but also the little things that we continue to do over and over and over again – that also determines whether or not we are living a pretty good life??? Because little things – and the accumulated effect of those little things on us and those around us – do matter.
All those little things we do and say every day, every little minor decision we make to say something or to do something because it works for us –
with no thought about how those words or actions affect others – I think are a big part of what we call morality – but most times we don’t even think about them, much less feel sorry for them, much less confess them as sins.
Put simply – what would happen if each and every person only acted out of love & compassion & understanding & mercy & generosity?? Would not the world be a better place? What if people never felt the need to “get back” at someone or punish someone or “use” someone for their own benefit? Could we not change the world?
And maybe that’s too broad of a question – after all – we can’t control what other people say and do. So instead maybe the question needs to be: what would happen if I acted this way all the time – if I acted with compassion and understanding and mercy and generosity – in both big and small matters. . . we could, I think make a bigger difference in our little part of the world -- than we could ever imagine.
Jesus did not tell his disciples, which includes all of us: to offer no resistance to evil – or to love our enemies – or to turn the other cheek – or to go the extra mile --- BECAUSE ANY OF THESE THINGS ARE EASY!!
No, Jesus knew making these choices are hard. In fact, choosing a life of love – with no retribution – refusing to return evil for evil: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth --- cost Jesus his life.
And he asks us, his disciples, to choose the same path – Jesus asks us to follow his example, challenges us to make choices based – only --- on love.
What Jesus knew, and what we often fail to grasp – is the power in that way of living. Love is not a weakness – but a strength – and it is the surest sign of God at work in us and through us.
Jesus embraced a life of love – and he saved the world. And if we choose the same – we can change the world – one person at a time.
I was on vacation February 8 & 9.
Deacon Mike Lewis and Jim Koger preached on February 15 & 16.
So no homilies to post for these two weekends
They met in the temple: Mary and Joseph, Anna, Simeon – and Jesus. What brought them to that place of meeting? What brings us to our temple – this place where God resides?
Mary and Joseph came in obedience to the Jewish law, to present Jesus to God and offer a sacrifice according to what was written in the law.
Behind the legalities, however, there was longing: a search and need for light in their lives.
Anna never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. Her intent, however, was not about a rule of life or asceticism – it is about longing: a search and need for light in her life.
Simeon was guided by the Spirit. He was righteous, devout, and looking for the consolation of Israel. But it was more than piety that took him to the temple. . . You guessed it: it was longing: a search a need for light in his life.
And Jesus is brought to the temple, not as a passive baby – and not just to fulfill a rule or regulation – but as the embodiment of God’s longing for humanity: Jesus came as a light to the nations so those who walked in darkness would not have to stay stuck there – but could walk in light – and so we sing: Christ our light!
As a mother tenderly gathers her children God, you embraced a people as your own and filled them with longing: for a peace that would last and for a justice that would never fail. . .
Today’s feast of the Presentation is a sign that the longing has been fulfilled. This feast reveals the fulfillment of the longing between humanity and divinity.
Our deepest longings are to know and to be known. And those longings can only fully be fulfilled in our relationship with God. And with God’s Son, Jesus Christ – who is light from light, true God from true God.
This deep kind of knowing and being known – are matters of the heart – not the intellect. It is about the union between humanity and divinity that sets us free, the oneness that allows us to depart this place, our Temple, in peace --- walking in the light of Christ --- and it’s about the relationship that brings us salvation.
For this type of relationship to happen we must live with and offer the fragileness, vulnerability, and joy of an open and longing heart. A heart which is free from sin and safe from all distress. A heart that is free from all those things we stuff down in them and don’t want to name, much less deal with.
Our hearts are the temples of meeting --- the place where today we find Mary and Joseph, Anna, Simeon, and Jesus. Longing for that peace that would last and for that justice that would never fail. Longing for the light of Jesus Christ.
Longing is not an absence or an emptiness waiting to be filled. Longing is a presence and fullness waiting to be expressed – waiting to be manifested – waiting to be shown, shared, and experienced.
Two people don’t long for each other just because they apart. They long for each other because they are in love.
We are all too quick sometimes to quench our deepest longings and satisfy our deepest desires by anything that comes along. That type of satisfaction never takes us to the Temple – to our heart -- the place of meeting. But keeps life superficial and us moving from one fix to another.
Real longing and its fulfillment – if trusted and followed --- always takes us to the temple, and there we discover that Christ is already in our presence – we just have to open our eyes and our hearts in faith to realize it.
Through countless generations your people, God, hungered for the bread of freedom. From them you raised up Jesus, the living bread, in whom ancient hungers were and are satisfied. Who comes to us today, in this Temple, in this place of meeting – to fill our hearts and lives with his light and love.
May we open our hearts and find him. As we sing: Christ our light!