Grace and peace to you from God Our Creator and from His Son Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord, Amen.
Memories are pictures frozen in time. A memory is worth a thousand words and yet when you hear a memory, those words can capture the expression of emotion.
Contrary to popular belief, being a Christian does not equal a welcome invitation for us as people of God to be submissive
… to be a subservient doormat to this kingdom of the world because Jesus taught to the disciples “blessed are the meek, for they will inherent the earth.”
Contrary to popular belief, being Christian does not equal that we are not allowed to express anger, when our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ are exploited and mistreated…
that we are called to raise our voices in protest, defending those who have fallen wounded, their bodies, their faces riddled with violence.
Contrary to popular belief, those peoples of color have a right to righteous anger when their mothers and fathers, their daughters and sons, their wives and husbands, their elders are violated and victimized because of the oppression of an imperial dominant society who remain locked in the darkness of ignorance.
There has been confusion about this particular verse as we find Jesus teaching on this same mountain, to the disciples, to those who are seeking relief and freedom from injustice in our Gospel text this morning.
“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
Those who were gathered around Jesus and His disciples as He continued to pour out His Teachings were looking for relief from a sickness that plagued their oppressors, the Roman Empire. They were suffering in their low caste, subhuman status in this ancient society. They were subjected to a servitude where they laws advocated admonishing slaves, women and Jews through brute physical force, through slapping them publicly across the face, insulting their humanity and demeaning who they were as children of God, Our Creator. These forgotten were stifled and unable to cry out their outrage for fear of a tortuous death.
They came searching for righteous justice, for affirmation from their God whom they served; whom laws they followed and now this Son of God had finally come, with hope that He would fight for them, that He would put the Roman oppressors and persecutors in their humiliating place.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes His Sun rise on the evil and on the good…”
We have to imagine how these suffering ancient people received Jesus’s words of a countercultural way of thinking. This man who was seen as a Messiah, a King, A Savior of the people, this was His answer to all of the misery-to respond to the unkindness that had been dumped upon them with mercy instead of might?
How are we, in this day and age receiving these same words of Jesus Christ?
Throughout our obedience to God to follow God’s commandments we are taught to treat everyone regardless of who they are with kindness and mercy; What happens when we pass the peace, sharing God’s Love and we are met with coldness? What happens when what is revealed to us, reflected in their eyes is the complete and utter denial of our humanity and how we are all connected before the Table.
I am sure just as I struggle and find that verse so difficult, so do you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is painful for us as people of God to realize those who take issue with whom we love,
who we consider family,
who we are as followers of Christ
that those people see us as the enemy.
The governments of both Arizona and Kansas considers those people that we may love and stand in solidarity with
those in our own community
that they are seen as enemies….
and these public oppressors would rather strip them of their human rights and return to a time where people were labeled by the scientific and medical community as deviants.
The judicial system in Florida considers those people who we may love who are bound to us through ancestral blood, those such as
Our husbands and sons,
Our brothers and uncles
those in our community who remind us of Jordan Davis
whose ancestry does not mirror the same,
that these people of color are seen as the enemies and
and these nameless oppressors would rather deny them their civil rights and return to a time of water hoses and vicious canines.
The dictatorship in the Ukraine considers people that perhaps we will never come across or know in our own communities…
….but whose fight for freedom and existence mirrors those who fought on these shores for recognition as citizens
for the basic right to live
that they too are seen as the enemy and
these ruthless oppressors would rather return to a time
where the poor and suffering were seen as liabilities
that would be best far removed from the “sensitive” eyes of the well off and wealthy.
Lately as this global community collapses all around us
as common sense and a sense of fellowship dissipate into thin air…
…we are reduced to praying and hoping for the destruction of the evil in this world.
And when our prayers go unanswered, our prayers become rough and raw, angrily asking God for retaliation.
We can imagine that those ancient people own voices were painfully hoarse, crying out to God for justice…
… just as God quickly punished and disciplined God’s children when they turned away from the presence of God….
….how could God allow for these outsides, these oppressors to continue to breathe…
To live another day, continuing to wreak havoc and chaos over the lives of God’s People?
So we pull apart God’s Word here in Matthew, and we struggle to understand what exactly is Jesus is saying to us today.
We are to turn the other cheek?
We are to just stand there and take it?
That we are to love our enemy even while they are heaving boulders and raining down agony upon our very being?
There is no love for our enemies….
we want them to experience what they have freely given us!
We want to see them annihilated!
We want them to be struck down!
We want them to feel the desolation, the hurt
we want to see the fear and sadness in their eyes
We want justice, bloody justice.
My brothers and sisters in Christ….
God is not asking of us to lay down in front of their boots, their bats and their clubs…
…to allow them to destroy the sacredness of God’s Creation
We belong to God, and are submissive to no one in this life, in this world.
Jesus Christ does not teach His disciples or us to just be helpless or passive, allowing atrocities that interrupt the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in Faith. Jesus Christ is not teaching us to turn away from the injustices that befall upon the children of God.
What Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord is teaching us is resistance; resistance to the same poisonous evil that has seemingly infiltrated life giving waters that flows throughout Creation; this same hatred that has infected those in this world who are unfortunately transformed into the oppressors that linger in the shadows.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God made the ultimate sacrifice breaking the cycle of humiliation and suffering for the people of God by dying through the torturous death on the cross, thereby empowering us even as the people of God wept for Jesus Christ…
… through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we were given the knowledge that God, Our Healer and Deliverer overcomes any oppression, any darkness and that death is not the end.
Just as those ancient people witnessed Jesus Christ, his miracles, his healing and his resurrection, so we too are a witness to what the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ means for God’s People and God’s Creation today.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Sprit dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.”
We are sacred people of God
We stand as living sacred temples of God…
….and God has made all of God’s Creation….HOLY.
And that all of us,
No matter what our role, our journey in this world…
WE BELONG TO CHRIST….
AND CHRIST BELONGS TO GOD…
AND THAT IS…GOOD….NEWS!
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that Christ calls for us to resist evil because God created us with sacredness and in Love!
Jesus Christ taught those ancient people upon the mountain, and teaches to us today..
“Do not become evil….
…Do not turn into the vileness that you are fighting to overcome.”
By allowing the darkness that creeps into our hearts and pollute the sacredness that God has molded into who we are, we allow evilness to corrupt and dominate the Goodness that is God’s mercy and grace.
But because we are empowered and authorized through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are fueled with righteousness to stand up for those who have fallen…
We are fueled with righteousness to stand as that public living witness that God has not forgotten about any of us…
That God, the Alpha and the Omega has the power to destroy all oppression and God is the only one who has the power…
…to lift the veil of darkness that surrounds those who have lost their way, and think that being an oppressor…
…is the only way to achieve power and status and security in this world.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
A picture is a memory frozen in time. A picture is worth a thousand words and yet when you see these pictures, those memories capture an expression of emotions
…sometimes those pictures hold a treasure trove of what the Good News of Jesus Christ can transform within all of us.
Thanks Be To God.