Thursday, 9 September 2010

Shocking and counter-cultural message

Thursday 9 September – Holy Communion at St Giles

Jesus’ Foundation Sermon

Gospel Luke 6

Love for Enemies

27 "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."


People seeking to explore faith – confirmation class – what is the essence of Christianity? Like jailer (Acts 16) who woke up to find prison open: “What must I do to be saved?”

Insufficient to answer that faith based on love. Love God. Love your neighbour. Doesn’t every religion preach similar? “Even sinners do that.”

Words of Jesus in Luke 6 more radical. Passage from verse 17 Jesus’s sermon or Sermon on the Plain. After rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and healings at Capernaum, there is controversy about fellowship, fasting and Sabbath. Jesus then calls first disciples and embarks on foundation sermon. Not surprising he sets out his radical message so clearly at outset of ministry.

He was not alone. A multitude came to hear him. Talks about what community of followers will be like. Beatitudes – poor, hungry, weepers and excluded are blessed. Means those who have suffered in this life will be vindicated by God. Blessed are those who mourn – radical, runs counter to everything we believe in our own lives. Woe to you when all speak well of you. Woe to you who are rich. Woe to you who laugh. Woe to you who are well-fed. Society turned on its head.

Then he says: “Love your enemies” – do good to those who hate you – bless those who curse you. If someone steals wallet or purse, give them mobile phone too and don’t ask for anything to be given back.

Love your neighbour – do to others as you would have them do to you – old hat. Jesus moves goalposts. Conventional wisdom becomes foolishness for Christ. What reward do you have for doing that? But to love enemies, and lend to those who will not repay you, give your possessions to those who are undeserving – for all that counter-cultural teaching your reward in heaven will be great.

This is where Christianity – established church – has lost its edge. We don’t preach enough of the shocking and surprising words of Jesus, given here in his foundation sermon and elsewhere.

Today, in our gospel reading, we are invited to reflect on the demands made on us, and translate these demands into action. Amen

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