Sometimes, it feels like all the world is against you. Everyone is cursing, hating, or abusing you. Nothing is working out the way you want, and all the powers are conspiring against you.
Sometimes, this is really the case. When that happens, Jesus has difficult but important advice for us. Love those people anyway. The ones who are cursing, hating, or abusing you – they are still beloved children of God, and deserving of love.
Though, Jesus also tells us that he has come so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. And if someone’s hateful attitude towards us is preventing us from living an abundant life, I can’t imagine that Jesus really expects us to continue in relationship with that person. First, we must heal ourselves. Then, when we have enough grace to spare, we can love our enemy, and invite them also to join us in this abundant life.
Even when we are being battered by unhealthy people in our daily lives, we can abide by the second command in Jesus’ teaching today. Do not judge. We never know what someone else is going through. We cannot know the fullness of their reality. So don’t judge. In my opinion, this is one of the most important commands that Jesus ever makes. Judgment is not our place. Leave that up to God, and just love people, as best as you can.
The Revised Common Lectionary offers other readings for this week. Are you bold enough to address Paul’s description of the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15? For a community grieving the loss of a key member, this passage could be particularly meaningful.
Genesis recounts a story more full of grace than most of us can imagine. Years after his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph offers them not only forgiveness, but blessing and food and live for the remaining years of the famine. His invitation eventually leads to their enslavement, but no one could have predicted that at the time – all they knew was that the brother they had wronged choose to invite them in to life. Could you be as gracious as Joseph?
Today’s Psalm could easily relate to the themes in any of the other RCL readings. It is also worth preaching on its own. “Refrain from anger and do not be provoked.” I wonder how our global news headlines might look different if we all heeded this advice! Most of us find it difficult not to be provoked. How might you encourage your congregation in this spiritual discipline?
Wherever the lectionary is taking you this week, blessings in your preaching. Please share any ideas for sermons, children’s times, liturgy, or other worship ideas below. Wishing you all the best in your preparations for worship!
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI. She and her husband are currently binge-watching Star Trek: Voyageur. They are open to suggestions of what to watch next…
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