Worship for Sunday, February 20, 2022

Genesis 45:3-11, 15

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.   Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’”   And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.

For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and find safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,
who shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in the Lord,
and see what God will do.

The Lord will make your vindication as clear as the light
and the justice of your case like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently.
Do not be provoked by the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not be provoked; it leads only to evil. 

For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who hope in the Lord shall possess the land.

In a little while the wicked shall be no more;
even if you search out their place, they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land;
they will delight in abundance of peace.

But the deliverance of the righteous comes from you, O Lord;
you are their stronghold in time of trouble.

You, O Lord, will help them and rescue them;
you will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them, because in you they seek refuge. 

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.   It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.   Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.   But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 6:27-38

[Jesus said:] “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 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. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.   If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For 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. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. 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.

“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. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Hate scares me. It is dangerous. Bad things can and do happen when we hate. Especially when we allow ourselves to hate other people.

Hate twists our hearts and our souls.   Somehow hate makes us smaller and less human.

Hatred changes us. Hate can make us mean and cruel and small. It can blind us to the very humanity of other people. Hate can make us treat other human beings like they do not matter at all.

Think about road rage. People literally hurt and sometimes kill one another over who had the right-of-way at a stop sign or whose turn it was to merge onto the interstate. I know these situations can be terribly annoying – but no one should die over them!

I read just this week about the dramatic increase in traffic fatalities in our nation since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our country is currently enduring the most dramatic increase in traffic fatalities since the 1940’s!   Researchers think anger – even rage – are at the heart of many of these accidents.

I tried to remember a time when I have felt white – hot anger toward another human being. To remember a time when I was filled with actual rage and fury.

We have neighbors who thoughtlessly toss trash into our yard almost every week. They also have two big – aggressive – very badly trained dogs. I find our neighbors and their dogs deeply annoying – but I don’t hate them.

I think drivers who speed through school zones are infuriating and think they are unbelievably selfish and self-centered – but I don’t hate them.

I didn’t like the scary lady who yelled at me in a parking lot this winter. And I will admit I hope I never – ever see her again! But – I didn’t hate her either.

But then I remembered the three guys who had the dorm room directly above mine – my senior year of college. Just remembering them makes my blood pressure go way up! Those guys were the worst – most evil – most vile neighbors in the entire universe. I was pretty sure they were Satan’s servants!

I had gone to college hoping to learn something.   But they had gone to college to party – very – very loudly in the middle of the night. ALWAYS in the MIDDLE of the night!

I can remember trying to sleep at the crazy hour of 3 o’clock in the morning – while they played a rousing – game of drunken basketball in their room which was directly over mine.

The next night – just to keep life interesting – they would try drunken bowling – using their empty beer bottles as the bowling pins.

Other nights it was playing their music really loudly while they jumped up and down over and over again – doing something they called dancing.

They were so dedicated to their work as Satan’s minions they partied loudly – in the middle of the night – 7 days a week.

Soon – I loathed and despised them. I hated them with every fiber of my being. If thoughts could kill – I would have been in really – really big trouble. I started to think of them as my enemies. I wished them ill – night after night. Honestly hatred changed me. It was a blight on my soul.

Wishing people ill does that to us. It damages our souls. It darkens our hearts. It makes us less kind – less loving – less gracious.

Hating people is downright dangerous.

Sadly – hating our enemies and wishing them ill comes as naturally as breathing does to most of us.

But in our Gospel reading for today – Jesus tells us to reject hate. Our Lord doesn’t want us to see other people as our enemies. God doesn’t want us to have enemies at all.

God wants us to love everyone – even folks we might be tempted to call our enemies. God wants us to excel at love.

It may sound totally impossible to you to love your enemies – but it can be done. It has been done. Jesus did it. Jesus loved his enemies.

So how did Jesus show love?

Well – Jesus prayed for his enemies and Jesus tells us God wants us to pray for our enemies too!

Think about that. When was the last time you prayed for your enemies? When was the last time that you prayed for someone who was mean to you? Or hurt you? Or persecuted you? Or just plain made you incredibly angry?

And loving one another does not mean we are always going to agree with each other. Jesus did not agree with the Pharisees and Sadducees on much of anything. But Jesus loved them anyway. And the same is true for us. We are called to love even the people with whom we disagree.

Jesus showed us quite clearly through his own words and actions that you can disagree with folks very – Very – VERY passionately and still love them.

Jesus loved everyone – yep – that’s right – everyone. Jesus loved Judas – even after Judas betrayed him.   Jesus loved Peter who denied Jesus when Jesus needed him the most.   Jesus loved the men who were crucified with him – even though they were criminals.   Jesus loved Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. Jesus loved all people – even people who hurt and disappointed him.

And the same is true for us. We are called to love all people – even the people we call our enemies.   Jesus loved everyone and God wants us to love everyone too.

Jesus spent time with all sorts of people. Even people who others would have run from.

Jesus made time for people. Jesus knew a very important part of loving other people was getting to know them and letting them get to know you too.

Most importantly Jesus showed us loving other people means seeing them as God’s beloved children too.

And the same is true for us. Part of loving people is remembering that God loves us all equally.

We are all God’s children. Each and every one of us. And truly that is Good News. Amen.

 

 

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