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Sunday Service 25th February




Lent 2: Turn the other cheek?

25/2/23

                    

Call to worship

Hymn 115(MP): Do not be afraid 

 

Time for all

 

Hymn 94(MP): Come let us sing of a wonderful love

 

Reading:    Luke 6: 27-36 John

Prayer

 

Hymn 361: Forgiveness is your gift

 

Sermon

Prayer of Dedication

 

Hymn 621: Spirit of Jesus (tune 159?)

Benediction

 

 

Welcome to our meditation for 25th February.

WE are now in the second week of Lent, the preparation time for Easter.

And this week we are asked to reflect on how we treat others, especially others that seek to harm us.

What does God expect from us?

And why should he expect us to react in certain ways?

We will think about that after our reading and prayer from John.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon

 

This is a tough passage.

The world is a tough place and there are people out there who are not nice.

I can understand people reading this passage and feeling very uncomfortable about it, because there is the feeling that if we truly acted this way then people would take advantage of us.

 

Couple of real examples.

I had a friend, a fellow minister called John Millar, who was in charge of Castlemilk East. He had a policy that if people came and asked him for money, that he would give it to them because they needed it.

His congregation loved him, but this policy drove them nuts.

They would complain that after services people would be waiting outside the church wanting to see the minister pleading that their giros hadn’t arrived,

that they needed specialized nappies for their children who were hypoallergenic,

that they had been kicked out of their house by their partner and needed money to find a place to stay.

John would tell his congregation that they were all people in need,

his congregation would tell him that they were lying and were just looking for money to buy drink or drugs.

John would tell them that, even if that was true, then they also needed help because they felt they needed to live a lie.

They would tell John he was being naive.

It caused real tension in the church.

 

Or the horrible case down south in Clapham were Abdul Shokoor Ezedi attacked a woman and two young children with a corrosive substance. He was an asylum seeker who was refused asylum twice. Then, after he converted to Christianity his asylum status was changed because Christians are persecuted in Afghanistan. In the news podcasts that I was listening to there was huge debates about whether the church had been hoodwinked by Abdul and he hadn’t really converted at all, he had just used his conversation as a way to bypass our asylum laws.

 

This is a tough passage.

It is a tough passage because as soon as we read it we start to try to put conditions on it.

Like the congregation of Castlemilk East...where they only wanted to give money to the deserving poor, but there was always going to be a struggle to decide who was deserving and who wasn’t?

 

 

 

 

 

Like our government that want to restrict asylum seekers to those that deserve it, but again there it is always a political decision to decide who is worthy of asylum. We forget that before World War 2 the British government agreed to allowed only 5,000 unaccompanied Jewish children into the country, they refused to let their parents into the country.

No doubt justified by the belief that we can’t have an open door policy or we would be swamped by people and the country couldn’t cope.

That sounds very hollow now when we look back and see our policy condemned so many to the concentration camps.

 

The trouble with this passage is that so often we get into the argument between the  ‘But-what-about-‘s.

If we do nothing then we get the, ‘But what about the struggling poor and the needless pain that is being caused...’

If we do something then we get the, ‘But what about our limited resources, the poor in our own country that we don’t look after...’

 

And to be honest when Jesus spoke these words I suspect he didn’t care about either of these things.

What Jesus was caring about was our hearts, or rather the hearts of his disciples.

What Jesus was doing was asking us what we want our heart to be like.

 

So let’s clarify some things.

First of all Jesus is not talking to governments and talking about government policies.

Jesus is talking to individual disciples and the way they should live their lives.

 

Next, we think we live in a particularly dangerous and threatening world and so maybe what Jesus was saying THEN doesn’t apply to us NOW,

and we forget that Jesus lived in a time when life could be brutal.

Let’s not forget that John the Baptist was beheaded.

Jesus and most of the disciples were crucified.

Starvation was not uncommon.

Life was often lived from one harvest to another.

And it only took one season for people’s fortunes to drastically change.

This was a world where the people lived in an occupied land, where a Roman soldier could just grab you off the street and demand that you carried his kit for up to three miles.

This was a land where if you were in debt the loaners could sell your children into slavery, could literally take the take the shirt off your back so that you slept naked outside.

They lived in a time when there was a lot of violence, a lot of threat, and Jesus was asking them, ‘How do you want to respond?’

 

Because there is a temptation, the temptation is that we always try to act from a place of power.

 

When people owe us then we take advantage of that.

If people hurt us then we retaliate.

If people challenge us then we show them that we are no pushovers; that you have to treat us with respect.

Because only then will we have peace, only then will we have security, only then will we be content

 

And Jesus turns round and says, ‘It doesn’t work that way.’

.

If the end result we are looking for is security, peace, then we will never find it by welding power.

We will never find it by retaliating violence with violence.

 

Look at the civil rights movement in America.

None of their big improvements ever came from violence.

Look at Israel and Palestine just now, neither has found peace and security from showing the other side how violent they can be; that if they are attacked then they will attack back.

 

And yet as individuals we still act as if our peace and security comes from strength and power.

 

Jesus was offering something very radical, a complete change in mindset, a completely different way for our heart to trust.

Jesus was encouraging us to forget about ourselves and to focus on God.

 

To the slave who had been beating by the slave-owner in a demeaning way Jesus was saying; your worth is not defined by how your slave owner treats you.

Your worth is defined by God who created you.

 

To the poor who was being accosted by the loan shark who was wanting to take the cloths of his back Jesus was saying, your self-worth is not defined by the clothes that you wear, but by the God who is watching over you.

 

To the civilian who was manhandled by a roman soldier to take his military kit and carry it, Jesus was saying, your power, your strength is not defined by the Roman soldier who could kill you, but by the God who has promised you eternity.

 

You see if we let others define us; slave owner, soldier, loan shark, or even politician, social worker, minister, parent...then we are limited by their preconceptions, by their weaknesses, by their insecurities.

And our actions become a reaction to their foibles.

 

 

 

Instead we acknowledge how they treat us, but then let our actions be a response to the God who created and loves us.

Our actions are based on other truths.

 

That we are not dependant on what others take from us, we are dependent on what God gives us.

It is his wisdom that guides us, it is his instruction that teaches us, it is his love that inspires us...and it is from that wealth that we act towards others.

 

We are not demeaned by what others do to us; we are raised up by the worth God gives us.

When Paul the apostle was falsely tried and imprisoned, falsely condemned and stoned for his beliefs.

What inspired him to carry on, was not stubbornness or grim determination to show others that he was right,

it was a deep love for others that came from him realising that no matter what others did to him, God loved him, God cared for him, God was always around him, helping him.

 

God could have condemned and attacked Paul for not being perfect, for going against God, for all the mistakes he made, but instead God forgave him and taught him a different way.

Paul’s self worth, Paul’s strength, came not from how wonderful others thought he may be, but on how God loved him, and God loved those around him, even those that sought him harm, that was Paul’s inspiration to carry on.

 

I am an advocate for MCR, a volunteer group that go into schools and mentor children who are struggling.

They looked at the growing number of children who were failing schools and how often those children reacted by just not turning up.

These children believed that the system had let them down, so what was the point of going?

And they saw how the usual reaction to this was trying to punish people into change.

Punish the children by exclusion for not turning up to school. Where is the logic in that?

A child is disenchanted with school and falling behind, so we punish them by forcing them not to go to school so they fall even further behind.

Or punish the parents for not forcing the children to attend school.

 

MCR decided to change the narrative. Volunteers go into the school and spend one hour a week with the children. They don’t teach, they don’t help with homework; they don’t represent the school or the education system at all.

They just sit with the child and ask them how they are getting on; if there is anything they can help with.

They show the child that no matter what others think of them, that doesn’t matter, there is someone on their side, there is someone who believes in them.

 

 

That was what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples, teach us...

 

We have a choice in how we let our heart live, where we find our peace and security.

 

We can be dependent on the views of others, reacting to whatever they do, trying to live in a hierarchy of power, and we do that by being bigger and nastier than everyone else, or by hiding from everyone else, if they don’t see us then they can’t touch us.

I don’t think either of those ways is a good way to live our lives.

 

Or we can trust our peace and security on a God who cares for us, who has planned an eternity with us, who bases his opinion on us not on insecurities or judgement, but on love.

 

 

 

Let us pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Father

Too often we spend our life looking down;

scared to look others in the eye because they are too frightening,

fearful of how they will react,

worried that we do not have the strength to confront them,

We have waking dreams conversations of how we would like to treat them,

how we would want to put them in their place,

show them that we are the boss, that they can’t intimidate us.

 

At other times we are the one looking down on others, seeking to keep them in their place so that our place doesn’t diminish.

 

Instead you want us to look up!

To behold the galaxy of stars.

Gaze at the shifting clouds.

Marvel at the lofty canopy of trees.

To take a moment and be still, no need to do anything, just really, truly look up and realise that the God that created all of those wonders, is the same God that looks after us.

 

Instead you want us to look up!

To gape in wonder at the magnificent sky above.

Contemplate the vastness of the universe.

And instead of living in fear of others, seek instead the unending love of an infinite God.

 

But that takes time.

So maybe we don’t need to have just a brief glance up

take a series of moments and be still and truly look up.

Look above the hurt, pain and grief.

Feel that we are in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.

 

That maybe we could seek the new way of thinking.

Do good to those who hurt us?

Bless those who curse us?

Pray for those who abuse us?

Be part of the love of God

whose very nature is love itself,

believe in the sacrificial love that unites and heals.

 

Amen.

 

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