St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-26-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-26-2016

Love: a Christian Response

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, Galatians 5:1, 13-2, Luke 9:51-62

Especially today, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It is my hope that, by this time, you have learned something about my personal thoughts on God and Christ, and what it means to me to be a Christian. I’ve so often talked about the love of God and Christ; how they love us, how we should love them, and how we should love our neighbor; that I recently began to think that I was wearing out that message. But then, I take a look at the world around us and I rethink that notion: I hear the words of hatefulness in the news every morning; I see the terrible things humans do to one another, and the things they do to other creatures of God’s creation and I soon realize that there is no way I can place too much focus on our need for love.

I remember, in times such as this, one of the first songs I learned to sing in Sunday School “Praise Him Praise Him all ye little children, God is love, God is love…” And I recall the words of Christ himself as he gives us the lens through which we should interpret all Scripture

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)

And, I remember Jesus telling the story of the “Good Samaritan” when a lawyer, wanting to justify himself asked, “And who is my neighbor?”… Jesus followed the story with a question to the lawyer “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer replied “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

And then there’s that one thing Jesus said to really make love challenging:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matt. 7:43-47)

Love like this is not easy, Jesus never said it was, but it is the kind of love He calls us to show to the world as he says

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you… …By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)


It is my hope that you have also learned, by now, that I am nonjudgmental; or at least I try really hard to be. And when I catch myself slipping in that area I remember Christ’s words again

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye”. (Matt. 7:1-5)

And I may also recall the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus saying “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Or, how about this one? Again, Christ’s words, “You judge by human standards; I judge no one”.  Those are Christ’s own words; “…I judge no one”. (John 8:15)


One more thing I try hard to show as a Christian, and I hope you’ve noticed about me, is patience with people who might make me angry. Not that I believe anger is always a bad thing, but what we do with our anger can so often be destructive to love. I think the last time you knew I was angry was almost exactly two years ago when I told you of an anti-immigration protest being held at our beloved Bethany Children’s Home; a heart breaking incident to which we responded, not with countering words of hatred, but with a show of love by taking a special collection for Bethany, specifically labeled as a counter to the protest.

To be honest, there are many things that make me angry. If I spent the time required to relate them all to you I’m certain you would be tired of it by now. On the other hand, I cannot allow words that need to be said left unsaid. This week has been one of those weeks and today is one of those days.

Now, before I let it out I want to be clear about one thing. What angered me is connected to the horrible shooting in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando two weeks ago. But I am not speaking, today, about the right or wrong of homosexuality; I have my thoughts and opinions about that too, but that is not today’s topic. What I do want to address, today, is what I believe to be proper and improper Christian responses to that tragic event. That being said…

I was immediately heartbroken over the senseless loss of life but, other than that, my response to the shooting was, at first, slow. While some people, including our news sources, were quick to start analyzing with little factual information to go on, I was waiting for more solid information before I even thought of concluding that this was a Muslim terrorist attack or making any snap judgments about the killer’s motives.

I waited, and I watched the almost unavoidable deluge of coverage as the story consumed the network news and my facebook account. And my heart was broken again as I saw so called “Christian” people with hateful signs protesting at some of the funerals. Simultaneously, I was lifted when I saw other people donning angel wings costumes and forming a screen between the anti-gay protesters and the families and friends who only wanted peace as they gathered to bury their loved ones. Which of these was a neighbor?

Heartbroken I was; and a bit angry at the disrespect shown for the dead and those who loved them by people claiming to represent the same God I worship. But this was only the beginning; the worst was yet to come. I discovered that when a friend prompted me to view an unbelievable video of another so called Christian; this one a preacher.

Within the first few seconds of this video I was so angry… yet I continued to watch and listen; 1) to be fully informed and 2) hoping that he would say something to turn his message around and make it bearable. After nearly 40 minutes I was fully informed on his views, painfully so; but all hope of redemption was lost.

Let me tell you what he said about the Orlando shooting. And I quote…

“These 50 sodomites are all perverts and pedophiles and they are the scum of the earth and this earth is a little bit better place now. And I’ll take it a step further, because I heard in the news today that there are still several dozen of these queers in ICU and in intensive care, and I will pray to God like I did this morning, I will do it tonight, I will pray that God will finish the job that that man started and he will end their lives and by tomorrow morning they will all be burning in hell just like the rest of them so they don’t get any more opportunities to go out and to hurt little children…”

End of quote. (And I admit I was not able to convey the enthusiasm of the original speaker).

This was in the first 2 minutes of his 40 minute message. It didn’t get any better and I surely won’t quote the entire message. (You are welcomed).


Friends; brothers and sisters, this is not a Christian response; this is not Christianity. It is not Christian love. This is not love of God and it is not love of neighbor. And, even though this might be perceived as judgment, I will say this man does not speak the word of God. He judges “by human standards” …and I think that is even giving him more credit than is due.

By the way, as he thumped his Bible citing scripture for his argument, of his 7 selections; 4 were from the Epistles, 3 from Leviticus, none were from the Gospels. Not that I think every sermon should include a Gospel quote; but my bet is he couldn’t find justification for his hate-filled message in the words of Christ. And I say again, this is not Christian love.

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’….’You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. That is Christian love!

In today’s Gospel reading when the Samaritan village would not receive Jesus, and James and John asked if they should “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (an act that may bring up thoughts of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). Did Jesus say “yes”? Of course not, he rebuked his Disciples! That is Christian love!

Jesus made no mention of the race, ethnicity, righteousness or sinfulness, or sexual orientation of the robbers’ victim on the road to Jericho; it didn’t matter. What mattered was the Priest and the Levite who passed him by in contrast to the Samaritan’s merciful response to his need. That is Christian love!

Jesus tells us to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you”; (and He isn’t saying we should pray for them to die and burn in hell). That is Christian love!

The adulterous woman was a sinner, “caught in the very act”, did Jesus condemn her to the fires of hell? No! That is Christian love!

 (Pastor moves among the congregation)

Who among you is willing to admit that you are a sinner? (forgiven or otherwise) (show of hands)

Of you sinners; who among you relies on the Grace of God and the mercy of Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness? (show of hands)

And of you; who of you; would deny that same Grace to any other sinner? (show of hands)

Now, who among you is without sin? (holding out stone)

That is Christian love! That is a Christian response!


(Post Delivery Note: No one in the congregation would deny “…that same Grace to another sinner”, nor claimed to be without sin; the stone was dropped on the floor and remained there through the rest of the service)

Luke 9:51-62
9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him;
9:53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.
9:54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
9:55 But he turned and rebuked them.
9:56 Then they went on to another village.
9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
9:59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
9:60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
9:61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”


Galatians 5:1, 13-25
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
5:15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
5:16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
5:17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,
5:21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
5:22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
5:23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.


2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
2:1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
2:6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.
2:7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.
2:8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”
2:10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”
2:11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
2:12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
2:13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.