Worship Where You Are

The Worship Where You Are blog contains what we think of as "first drafts" of the sermon for each week.  They are prepared mid-week for people who might not be able to be present on Sunday morning but wish to still participate in the worship experience.  They contain scripture, the sermon text, a few questions to ponder and a closing prayer.  May they help you in your faith journey.

All Bible verses come from the Common English Bible

Miracles - Water into Wine

John 2:1-11

Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

4 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”

5 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. 9 The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

There are seven miracles that Jesus performs in the Gospel of John. Sometimes called the seven signs, these miracles serve as a testimony to the power of Christ, but also are meant to help illustrate who God is and what God is seeking to do through Christ in the world. During the season of Lent, we will be exploring these different miracles to see what we can learn from them. We will also be asking ourselves what miracles God is doing in our lives as well. The miracles of God are not limited to Christ, or even to his disciples in the Bible. Miracles are happening all around us, we need to get better at opening our eyes and seeing them.

The first miracles in John is the story of Jesus turning water into wine. For someone who is aware of the dangers of alcoholism and the negative effects of a culture of partying, I am not always sure I like this miracle. If you are preaching to a bunch of college kids it can sound cool to say that Jesus turned water into wine, but what does it mean for Jesus to be aiding in drinking to excess? Did the Word become flesh and dwell among us so that we would never run out of something to drink?

My own struggles with this highlight several challenges when dealing with miracles. First, we often want to explain miracles, seeking to define what it is that Jesus is doing in the miracle. Second, we can bring our own values and assumptions to a miracle and in doing so can make the miracle about the wrong things. We will see this at other points when people get upset because Jesus is healing (doing work) on the Sabbath, rather than being excited that he has done something amazing and wonderful. In the same vein, it is easy for me to be focused on the fact that Jesus created wine (alcohol) rather than seeing this as a sign of God’s power, abundance, and generosity. This first miracle is a great practice for us in thinking about how we respond to the miracles that God places in our lives.

The miracle of turning water into wine is not about the wine. Instead it is about how God can do amazing things including turning simple water into fine wine. It is about the abundance that is offered through a life with Christ. Symbolically it creates a link between the abundance of wine in John, with the communion wine of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Just as there is more than enough wine to go around in John, there is more than enough grace to go around in the communion cup of wine that Christ offers to us at the Last Supper.

When we struggle to believe the miracles we find in the gospels, it is usually for two reasons. The first it that we cannot explain what has happened. Those of us who understand science know that there is not a method of changing the chemical make-up of water, which is simply two elements, hydrogen and oxygen, into something that is far more complex and contains several other elements without adding something to the equation. Second, I think we struggle to believe miracles because we don’t believe what they tell us about God. Even if we can believe that what occurred is possible, we struggle to believe that God made it happen.

The wedding of Cana is not meant to teach us that God can turn water into wine. It is instead meant to show how God wants us to live lives of abundant joy. The miracle is the miracle of celebration. The question is not do we believe the God who created the universe and everything in it can turn water into wine. The question is do we believe that God wants us to celebrate and have a good time. The first miracle of Jesus shows us that God does indeed want us to be filled with joy.

Now I get that this can be a hard thing for us as Minnesotans to grasp. We are a down-to-earth group. We do not like to make a big deal about things especially good things that happen to us. We spend far more time complaining about how much snow we got than we do celebrating the sunshine and the good weather we are enjoying. As Howard Moore observed in his book How to Talk Minnesotan, we say “‘it could be worse’, because it can always be worse, it can be worse more often than it can be better.” We are not wired to celebrate and have a good time.

God wants to celebrate. God wants us to be filled with joy. We follow a God that turns the simple into the extraordinary and uses a wedding to display the wondrous power that God has to turn our lives into something wonderful. Are we able to believe in that? Are we able to believe that God wants our lives to be amazing? We are like the wine-steward, who tastes the wine and thinks the reason for it is simply the host saved the best for last. We look for rational answers to the good things that happen in our lives because we cannot believe that there is not a rational explanation but rather an irrational one, that God loves us.

I know that a lot of us are feeling the winter blues as the snow keeps piling up. I know a lot of us are tired of seeing negative temperatures on our phones when we wake up. We are in the season of Lent, a time of austerity and gloom, but I challenge us to look instead for the joy. Maybe God is not going to turn all our water into wine, but God is providing us reasons to celebrate each and every day. God’s miracles are all around us. We need to start opening our eyes to what God is doing in our midst.

What can you do to live a life of joy? What can you do to enter into the wedding feast that God is providing for us? What do you need to do to accept the grace that flows abundantly in God’s presence? Do we act like Mary, believing that God can transform our lives and make a difference, or are we the steward who tries to understand what just happened? God is moving and working in the world. Rather than standing around and wondering how it happens, let us join in the dance and celebrate our God. Amen

Questions to Ponder:

What do you do with the stories and miracles you read about in the Bible?

What is something you need to celebrate in your life?

What is a miracle that has happened in your life that you cannot explain?

Prayer:

God, you move and work in wondrous ways and for that we love you. Open our eyes to the miraculous things you do around us each and every day. Fill us with joy that we might celebrate your good works. Bless us that we might be instruments of your joy in the world. Amen

Mountaintop Moments

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus transformed

28 About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray.29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. 31 They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him.

33 As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. 34 Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe.

35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” 36 Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

What do you do  when you are going on a trip? If you are like me, one of the things you do is think about where you are going. Jesus does the same with his disciples. He is taking them on a journey, from being fishermen to being fishers of men. He is transforming them from humble men and women into apostles who will bring the Good News to the ends of the earth. In order to help them on this journey, Jesus takes moments to prepare them for what is coming and to give them a glimpse of where they are going. The transfiguration is one of those moments.

When Jesus took a few of disciples up onto the mountain to pray, he used it as a chance to teach them about what was to come. He did this in several key ways. He allowed them to see his radiance and divine nature. Through the visions of Moses and Elijah he allowed the disciples to understand what was to happen with his death and resurrection. Finally, the voice of God reinforced what they were seeing, that this was the Son of God that they should be listening to. All of these combine to help the disciples understand what was coming.

Just as we like to have a map, a plan, or an idea of where we are going, Jesus outlines things for the disciples. He knows that they will need to leave the mountaintop and go back into the valleys of the world again. He knows that they will be distracted by the day to day busyness and the trials and tribulations of what is to come, but he wants them to have a greater sense of where they are going. The transfiguration on the mountain is meant to lead and guide them to their destination.

The morning after I arrived in Saint Louis, I walked from my hotel to see the Gateway Arch and found it shrouded in an early morning cloud of fog. The clouds where thick enough that you could not see the top of the Arch, only the base. You knew it was up there because you could imagine it, but you could not see it. You had to trust that it was there, beyond our vision, something yet to be realized.

Saint Louis was not a mountaintop moment for me. Instead for me it was a moment in the long and difficult valleys of the world. For the last 25 years I have been working in different ways to make the United Methodist Church a fully open and inclusive place for GLBTQIA people and an inclusive place for everyone. For years I have been working for that vision of a church where everyone is welcome, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, questioning and certain, Republican and Democratic, everyone. I have seen glimpses of such a blessed community over the years, and I have been working to make it possible.

At the special General Conference, our denomination made the decisions to uphold our stated beliefs about homosexuality and even to tighten our standards, adding more penalties and rules to prevent people from breaking the rules we had created about ordaining gay clergy or performing same-sex weddings. For many, this was a step in the right direction, helping to bring our churches stances more in line with their understanding of scripture and rein in acts of disobedience. For me, it was a painful moment, where my denomination caused harm to people that I love who have been working and longing for a sense of welcome that has been denied them by our institutional church since 1972.

The General Conference was not a mountaintop moment for me. Instead it was one of the moments in the valley where I had to remind myself of what it is that I am working towards. Thankful, I did get glimpses of what I am working towards in worship services and even points when everyone gathered together to pray and worship before taking a meaningful vote. In the end, I must hold on to that vision that God has given me of a beloved community united by our love for God and our love for our neighbor. I need to let that be the image that leads and guides me in the work that I do as I seek to faithfully follow God in my life.

I share my experiences and struggles with you today not because I expect all of you to be in the same place. I believe that we are not of one mind as a congregation on what scripture teaches us about human sexuality. Some of you may share my pain and others might not. My point in sharing is to let you know where I am, but also to help you think about where you are.

We all have had mountaintop moments in our lives where we have had a glimpse of God or visions of what God Is calling us to. These moments are a guide to us when we go back into the valleys of the world. They are there to help us in the hard times when we feel like we are losing our way. They are meant to give us the strength and courage to push forward when things can seem too painful to go on. In those difficult times, we look back and remember those mountaintop moments and use them as a beacon that leads us to God.

Mountaintop moments are important, and they are amazing. The challenge is to avoid wanting to linger on the mountain and stay in that moment. When Peter experiences the transfiguration, his instinct is to try and enshrine it, and linger on it. He wants to build a monument to it and remain in that sacred place. He is not alone in his desire to dwell on mountaintop moments. What we need to remember is that those moments are meant to give us fuel to do the work that God is calling us to do.

Bishop Ough, in his closing thoughts after General Conference challenged all of us in Minnesota and the Dakotas to go back to work. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are called to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, tend to the sick, comfort the grieving, and do so many other things in the name of Christ.

It is my hope that every Sunday is a mountaintop moment for you. It is my hope that each week when we gather in worship we can get a glimpse of God and God’s vision for our world. We can use those glimpses and visions as fuel for the work we do in the week. It helps us to be better parents and better sons and daughters. It helps us to be better neighbors and community members. It helps us to be better co-workers and friends. It gives us the strength to face whatever the week might throw at us, because we have seen the transforming power of God’s love through Jesus Christ and we have known God’s grace in our lives. Amen

Questions to Ponder:

When is a time when you feel you had a “mountaintop moment”?

How do you hold onto mountaintop moments when you face valleys in your life?

What is the work that God is calling and equipping you to do in the valleys of the world?

Prayer:

Holy and loving God, may your presence shine down on us and your voice once more call us to bigger and greater things. Grant us a vision of your enduring love and grace that we might use it as a beacon as we seek to do your work in the world. Forgive us when we linger to long on the mountain and walk alongside us as we descend back into the world. Amen

Love in a Time of Hate: Love the Stranger

Matthew 25:31-46

Judgment of the nations

31 “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.

34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”

 

 

 

Thoughts on the passage:

There was an experiment done on selective attention involving people passing a basketball and a person in a gorilla costume. The experiment was simple, people are asked to count how many times two basketballs are passed back and forth among the six participants. It is hard to do because the people are moving and with two balls there is a lot to focus on. About twenty seconds into this, a person in a gorilla suit walks right through the people passing the basketball, pauses to beat its chest and then continues off the camera. Through it all the people keep passing the basketballs. That is not the odd thing. The odd thing is that a number of people watching the video never see the gorilla. Their attention is so selectively focused on the basketball that their brains ignore the gorilla.

One of the greatest challenges when it comes to loving the stranger is the reality that our brains, our hearts, our lives, are so focused on other things, like our jobs, our families, our churches, and a host of other things, that we can miss the strangers in our midst. Just like the people watching the video who missed the gorilla and the people in our gospel lesson who did not see Christ, we too are left wondering where the strangers are in our lives. I think loving the stranger is the hardest thing to do because we do not see them. Loving our enemy is hard, but we know who our enemy is even if it is by the harm they are causing us. The stranger is unknown to us, and it is hard to love something we know nothing about. It is hard to love something we do not see.

What makes someone a stranger to us? Usually it is because we do not know them, but often there are other things that separate us from the stranger and keep us from getting to know them. The stranger often is someone who is, or at least appears, different to us. They might not share our skin color, our gender, or our sexual orientation. They might come from a different part of the country or even the world. They might be a part of a different social class than us. All of these are superficial differences, but they have the same effect, they separate us and drive us apart.

Jesus does not want us to be apart. Jesus wants us all to be a part of God’s beloved community. He did not come to earth to show just a few of us how to live or to save a couple of us. Jesus lived, died, and rose again for the salvation of everyone. In Christ the distinctions that we cling to vanish. Paul teaches the Galatians, and us, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free. This lesson is reinforced in the scripture today. It stresses in the least, the last, the left out we will also find Christ.

I once heard about a nun who only referred to people using the “we” pronoun. She felt that our very language creates a separation and a distinction that drives us a part. Think about it. The very use of words like “them” and “they” creates a distinction because opposite them is us. In our language we have made a distinction that God does not make. It is just another reminder of the ways that we make it harder for ourselves to love the stranger.

Only thinking about people terms of “we” and “us” is hard. It is hard because of the habits we have formed but it is also hard because it forces us to see the strangers in our midst and to recognize ourselves in them. It forces us to take those differences that we experience in the world and to make them unimportant. It changes how we think and act. People who look different, act different, vote different than us are a still a part of us.

When we talk about helping homeless people, what comes to your mind? How many of you think about the guy, sitting on the side of an off ramp in downtown Minneapolis with a sign asking for help? Those are the homeless we do see. The homeless we do not see are the ones who are working a job, or maybe two, and still cannot afford rent and food for their families and so are living in the car or bouncing between couches of their family and friends. Those are the ones we do not see. All of them are strangers to us. All of them are children of God. In all of them we will find Christ.

The United Methodist Church has been struggling for over forty years to come to an agreement around our beliefs about human sexuality. In 1972 we put language into our Book of Discipline stating that we believed that homosexuality was incompatible with Christian teaching. Ever since then we have been fighting with each other about whether to remove that language or make it stronger. Who is the stranger here? For some of us, it might be people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or something else. We find it hard to understand them because their experiences are different from ours. For others the stranger is the person who does not read the scriptures the same way we do. The stranger might be United Methodists in the Congo or California or Alabama or the Philippines. These people experience God and scriptures in different ways than we do. They live different lives and they can seem like strangers. All of these people might be strangers to us, be we are called by God to see Christ in each one of them.

I am not going to tell you what to think or believe when it comes to matters of sexuality. I have my thoughts that are grounded in how I read the scriptures. I also believe that many of you might have different beliefs that are grounded in how you read the scriptures. I do not think that what we need now is more divisions and disagreements. We live in a time of divisions. More and more we find that our opinions are shaped less by solid facts and more by our political preferences and views. We all like to think that we are smarter than that, but study after study finds that we are not. We cling to the ideas and views of people like us and we become increasingly isolated from those who are different.

I believe that God is calling us to get rid of those differences. I believe that God is not only commanding us to do it, God is imploring us to do it. We need to open our eyes to see those people who are not like us but are still children of God. We need to see their hurts, their needs, and to help them, because in them we will find Christ. We need to love the stranger because we are the stranger, and God loves us.

Questions to Ponder:

What comes to your mind when you hear the word stranger?

Who are the people you struggle to love in your life?

What can we do to open our eyes to see those people we have missed because of our own blinders and distractions?

Prayer:

Open our eyes God that we might see you in our midst. Help us to recognize you both in the presence of our friends but also in the strangers we pass by and sometimes never even notice. Give us the courage to reach across the divisions we create that in those who seem so unlike us, we might also find you. Amen

Love in a Time of Hate: Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:38-48

Law of retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.

Law of love

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.

Luke 10:25-37

Loving your neighbor

25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31  Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 32  Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33  A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34  The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36  What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”

37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

Thoughts on the passage:

One of the worst things we have done in Christianity is turn it into a personal faith that focuses on each of us. I believe we do this because we as individuals are genetically wired to be self-interested. We also do it because we live in a society that was founded around principles that focus on the individual. It makes it very easy for us to focus on the question of, “What is in it for me?” when it comes to our faith. Even our methods of reaching people with the message of the gospel have leveraged this self-interest. Fear of Hell and damnation have long been used as a selling point for Christianity. The motivation to follow Christ is oriented in our own desire for eternal self-preservation, we have made it personal.

The problem is that the Christian faith is not meant to be a about us. It is not about our own personal salvation. The Christian faith is focused on God’s redemptive work in the world. We believe that God is in the process of “making all things new.” We believe that God’s mighty acts in creation are an ongoing work and we are asked to be a part of it. Our faith is not meant to be focused on us, but it is about following God and joining with God in working in the world.

Nowhere is this more clear than in Jesus’ command to love our enemies. This is a point where we are asked to not only resist the culture of our world, but to also resist our own natural inclination. When we are pushed, it is hard to not instinctually push back. I have been learning to play racquetball as a way to get in better shape. The Lutheran pastor I have been learning from is obviously much better than me. Invariably, when I make a good shot, his instinct is to make an even better one back. He usually is quick to point out that if I am going to make it hard for him, he is going to make it hard for me. He does not do it to be mean, it is just the instinctual thing to do. Our call to love our enemies challenges that natural response.

Many of you have probably heard the quote, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” that is attributed to Mohandas Gandhi. While I love the sentiment of it, and strongly believe a lot in the practices and teachings of Gandhi, I fear the quote falls into the same trap of self-motivation. It teaches us to be nonviolent and loving out of self-interest, emphasizing the negative repercussions of a cycle of violence that leaves us all blind. The reason to not respond is oriented in what is best for us. Matching violence with violence feels good emotionally in the moment but will cost us in the end is the message the quote drives home.

When Jesus teaches us to love our enemies as well as our neighbors, he does not focus the motivation on what is best for us. Instead, like in all things, Jesus points us back to God. We are called to love our enemies because God loves them. Being a Christian means seeking to be like Christ. We know that Christ loved his enemies, not only did he pray for them while he was on the cross, but he bled and died for them. So great is God’s love for us that not only is God willing to die for us, God is willing to do it even when we are the ones that are seeking to kill God.

Jesus reminds us that there is nothing great or noble about loving the people who love us. Such a reciprocal love is easy for everyone. When someone does something nice for us, we find it easy to do something nice for them. How much harder it is to be nice to someone when they are being mean to us? Our faith teaches us to look for ways to extend love to others even when we have no hope of getting it back. We do not love others because they will love us. We love others because God loves them, and we are called to love them as well. It is not about us, it is about following God.

Gentiles are often used as a rhetorical device in the teachings of Jesus. In our text in Matthew, Jesus contrasts the actions that he challenges us to do with the actions of Gentiles. “Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Do we really want to only do as much as those people we think are inferior? In Luke, Jesus uses a similar comparison with the story of the Good Samaritan. Again, we are left to wonder if a Gentile can show acts of love, how come we cannot do the same?

The story of the Good Samaritan is a great example of a love that is not self-interested. The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all have reasons to not help the injured man. Only one of them, is able to get beyond what is best for himself and think about what might be best for the injured man. What is most striking is that the person who does so has the least motivation to help. Samaritans existed as second-class citizens. They were constantly looked down on and mistreated by the Jewish community. Good Jews would often avoid Samaria, taking a longer route to avoid being around people they felt were unclean. A Samaritan helping a Jew was not unlike a black person helping a white person in the 1950s.

When we think about what it means to love our neighbors, we realize that it also means loving our enemies. It means getting past the feelings of personal animus and dislike we might have towards someone. It means letting go of the grudges we bear. It means overlooking the harm they have caused to us and instead showing them only love and respect. It is not easy. It is what we are called to do.

We follow a God who loves us even when we turn away from God. We follow a God who cares for us even when we refuse to care for God’s children. If we want to be true followers of God, we need to reflect the love and care that God shows to us to others. We need to look past our own personal disagreements and grievances to reflect the love and grace we experience from God. We love our enemies, not because it is the smart thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do. We love our enemies, because God loves us.

Questions to Ponder:

Who are the enemies in your life?

When is a time you have struggled to love someone because of what they have done to you?

What are the ways we get past our own tendency to be self-interested?

Prayer:

Ever-loving God, even when we stray, you love us, call to us, and seek to bring us back into the fold. Help us to show that same love to each other when we cause harm to one another. Help us to offer love in the midst of brokenness. Make us instruments of your peace and love. Amen