This is my manuscript for my sermon on June 19, 2016.
The lessons that I choose were Galatians 3:23-29 and Luke 6:27-38a, 46, and are below. The Gospel lesson was read responsively.
Two of my three churches did not have services today, and were a part of a community worship service.
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Luke 6:27-38a, 46
P (Jesus said,) “I say to you that listen,
C Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.
P If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;
and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Give to everyone who begs from you;
and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
C Do to others as you would have them do to you.
P If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
C But love your enemies, do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return.
P Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High;
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
C Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.
P Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?”
I begin today by apologizing to you. And I will apologize to the congregations of Nazareth and Emmanuel.
Normally on Sunday mornings while I’m home having coffee and breakfast, I check my online newsfeeds, Facebook, and Twitter. Last week was busy, and I hit the snooze a couple of extra times, and so I skimmed through what happened overnight. I remember seeing a mention of a shooting at a nightclub in Florida, but moved on.
When I got home after worship services and a council meeting, I discovered what I glossed over. An armed man went into a gay nightclub in Orlando and executed 49 people and wounded another 53.
This was an act of hate, and it must be met with love.
This was an act of violence, and it must be met with peace.
This was an act of intolerance, and it must be met with forgiveness.
This was an act of injustice, and it must be met with justice. To do anything else is to reject the Gospel of Christ.
I changed the Gospel lesson for today from the lesson about the man possessed by a legion of demons that escape into a herd of pigs. While that preaches a message of inclusion, I don’t want to beat around the bush.
Today is the 171st day of the year. So far this year, there have been 185 mass shootings in the United States, which have left 290 people dead and 686 have been wounded. By the way, for this purpose, a mass shooting is defined as a single outburst of violence where 4 or more people are shot.
I’m not going to preach on gun control – today.
The Gospel lesson I selected is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. He has just spoken the Beatitudes, the blessings for those who follow him, even though those blessings may appear in the form of suffering. Now he tells his disciples and those who have come to hear him how they are to act. You read the most memorable lines, which also happen to be the lines we tend to ignore.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you.
This is the antithesis of the venomous rhetoric we hear from our leaders and those who want to be leaders. They say we need to wipe our enemies off of the face of the earth. They say we need to hunt them down. They say we need to torture them. They say we need to kill their families. They say we need to put the fear of God into them.
The Son of God says we need to love them, do good for them, bless them and pray for them.
Jesus says loving only those who love you is not enough. Anyone can do that. We must love those who don’t love us. This is not just because Christ commands us to do so, but because doing anything else leads to death and destruction.
Returning hate for hate and hurt for hurt, only creates more hate and more hurt.
The cycle of hate and violence must be broken, and Our Savior commands us to break the cycle. Love your enemies.
The lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians shows that Christians have always struggled with even loving our own. Paul writes since Christ has fulfilled the Law, we do not need to use it to discipline ourselves or others, but to instead to be united by Christ. In our baptism, we put on the clothes of one who follows what Jesus Christ said, did and commanded. Being a follower of Christ is our only identity. No longer are we identified by ethnicity - Jew or Greek. No longer are we identified by wealth or status - slave or free. No longer are we identified by gender - male or female. We are all the same –all of you are one in Christ Jesus, heirs according to the promise.
Paul tells us we are all equal within the Body of Christ.
Christ commands us to love those inside and outside of that body in the same way.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.
Jesus calls us to forgive those who have done wrong to us. He has forgiven the sins we have done against him. That is why he suffered and died on the cross; to show us even THAT cannot separate us from His love.
He taught us to pray that our sins are forgiven AS WE forgive those who have sinned against us. We ask God to forgive us just as we have forgiven others. The problem is, what if we haven’t forgiven others? What if we hold onto their sins? Does God hold onto ours? Jesus wants the sign of the Kingdom, the mark of all believers to be love for everyone.
We can not do that if we exclude, reject, rebuke and deny others because they don’t meet our criteria. People have used parts of Holy Scripture to justify all kinds of oppression and atrocities.
The only people Jesus rebukes are leaders who hold strong and fast to the letter of THEIR interpretations of the Law. Instead, Jesus lifts up those who these leaders denigrate and deny, siding with them, loving them and giving them forgiveness and restoration.
In his First letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes, When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
It took a war to end slavery in this country. The pursuit of equality for women, people of different races and ethnicities and members of the LGBTQ spectrum are ongoing. They all face systemic repression, oppression, minimization and violence. It is time to put away the childish ways of trying to use God’s laws to oppress. It is time to grow up and live out the Gospel command to love one another.
You may say, or feel, that you haven’t done anything to any of those people. That may be true, but have you stood up when someone has?
Have you picked or rejected on someone because they are different? Have you made sure they knew they weren’t welcome? Was it because of their skin color? Or their accent? Or how they acted? Or how they dressed? Or who they were with? If you didn’t, did you stop or say something to those who did?
Even if you haven’t, this type of discrimination and bigotry is ingrained in our society. Don’t believe me?
Recognize your own intolerance. You may not want to admit it. It is there. Recognize that there are advantages in being white. Recognize that there are advantages in being male. Recognize that there are advantages in being economically well off. Recognize that there are advantages in being straight. Realize your privilege.
Stop how you’ve been acting. Stop what your judging and condemnation. Release what you haven’t let go of.
After telling his followers how they were to act, Jesus asked, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Think of how you would feel if you weren’t welcomed, accepted or tolerated. Think of how you would feel if you were constantly viewed with suspicion, rejection, derision, disgust or dismissed. If we want God to accept us, forgive us and love us, Just As I Am, why do we demand change and conformity from others?
If I have offended you, or if you feel I have strayed into the world of politics; I do not apologize. I am proclaiming the Gospel, using the words of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul as recorded in Scripture.
Now, for not doing this sooner, and with more passion, I do apologize.
Our hymn of the day is Just As I Am.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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