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How to Be an Enemy (Luke 6:27-38)
(c) 5/29/20 Tony Webster (flickr) // Minnesota State Patrol troopers stand in formation, wearing riot gear and holding wooden batons, at Minnehaha Avenue and 27th Avenue South near the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct, as the Minneapolis Fire Department battles blazes at Lake Street businesses, following the publication of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed and unarmed Black man, killing him.
This sermon was originally preached on 2/20/2022 at Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Richfield, MN. The service may be viewed here.
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Lectionary Texts:
Genesis 45:3-11, 15 | Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 | 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Gospel Text read from the Native American Translation of the New Testament (included below sermon): Luke 6:27-28
Good morning, beloved of God. The Image of God in me delights in the Image of God in you. The humanity in me honors the humanity in you. The Christ in me calls out to Christ in you, that we may love one another.
I offer this sacred greeting because we have occasion to ponder what Jesus meant when he taught his listeners to Love our enemies and bless our oppressors, not only because it happens to be today’s text, but because it is also today’s reality. We, like Jesus, live in an era of stark, often violent division, increasing disparities between the rich and poor, Black and white, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat, and so on. There is no lack of hatred for the Other, and humanity’s capacity for inhumanity seems boundless.
Just this week, multiple friends of mine were attacked for their race, their gender, or their sexual orientation. My own call to ministry was mocked by a stranger on the internet -- again. I don’t think it’s lost on any of us that we in the Twin Cities, in the USA, in the world continue to grapple with what it means to care for one another in an increasingly polarized world. And we as a society and individuals are still figuring out how to grieve so many deaths and move on with life amidst a pandemic we’re all sick of.
I don’t start with all this heavy to be a Debbie Downer but to tell you this from the jump: I hate preaching about love. To me it often feels fickle, weak, mushy. Like a bypass around real pain and grief and rage. But today I have no choice, because it’s what Jesus preached. So I greet you from the fertile soil of our shared humanity, trusting -- hoping, anyway -- that Love Wins.
To set the stage for what I think is the essence of this part of Jesus’s sermon on the plain, I want to start with a few presuppositions that have grounded and guided my exploration this week:
First, in Jesus’s view and experience, having and being enemies is inevitable AND it is wrapped up in Power with a capital P.
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