Sabbath Monday: Love Thy Neighbor

0206171649-1.jpgOk, so I’ve been really absent in the blog-sphere. Life has gotten in the way. And writer’s block.

Ah, well…Moving on…

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Though I sent some pretty adorable valentines to my nephews and nieces, I’ve also been thinking about what Jesus said about loving your neighbor. It’s an idea that has been missed lately, which is sad really.

Yesterday I ascended the steps to the pulpit and preached on a difficult Scripture: Part of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 (verses 21-37), where Jesus expounds on divorce, adultery, anger and murder, and taking oaths. Bleh.

BUT…I made it work.

The Sermon on the Mount is all about calling the disciples out, making them think about what it means to follow him and God, what it means to be called a disciple, a bearer of God’s kingdom or KIN-dom.

And because I’m not going to retype a whole sermon, here’s part of what I said.

And yes, I did go there.

Portion of a Sermon by Rev. Amanda. Preached on February 12, 2017:

“Jesus was the counter-cultural guy. He taught a new way of interpreting the law and what it means to be a disciple and what it means to be in relationship to God and to one another. Jesus stood up to a society that brought fear and hate, war, oppression and more. Jesus made it alright to welcome the stranger, to welcome the other – whomever they may be. Jesus broke down humanness and looked beyond race and gender.

Because at the heart of life is humanity and relationship. That’s Jesus’ point. He told us “to love one another as I have loved you.” He taught us that relationships should not be taken lightly. And we’re not talking only the relationships we are in with family and friends, or our UPS deliverer.

What Jesus is teaching and what God wants for us as bearers of God’s KIN-dom is a mutuality and respect, to honor our neighbors, the strangers, the down-trodden, those who are not like us, as ourselves. Plus, how we conduct ourselves in life reflects onto others. How we show forth God’s love connects us to the rest of humanity. It’s a domino effect because at the heart of all this humanness is a connection to each other – strangers, friends, any person we encounter. Karoline Lewis says, “Nothing we do as disciples, as believers, is an autonomous action” (commentary, workingpreacher.org). Meaning, nothing we do in our day-to-day lives is done on its own. Our actions effect everyone around us.

It takes one person to ruin an image in a heartbeat. It takes one person to instill fear. It takes one action to change history.

So we build walls – any sort of walls – to keep people out, and the effects are felt globally. Love is lost.

I’ve been a fan of the X-men comic book series for years. The X-men comics present this idea that humanity has evolved to have other DNA genes that create mutations, allowing for special “powers” to heal or read thoughts or control metal or walk through walls. So if you’re Professor X and you can read minds, you are forever stamped a mutant. The X-men is fiction and fantasy and yet the same time so incredibly real as basic humanness is revealed and this idea about welcoming the other.

The other night I caught the latest X-men movie on TV. The bad guy (because there’s always a bad guy in the comics) is creating a robot to take out the mutants. Like many of the X-men movies or comics, mutants are not equal; they are not, well human. And so the government does some extreme vetting in way of allowing this guy to create such robots because mutants are seen as dangerous.

Anyhow, my epiphany moment came when I realized that though this was all fiction was that – that’s today. Instead of mutants it’s immigrants or refugees. Instead of mutants it’s Muslims and gays, transgender people. Instead of mutants it’s women or African Americans who are still standing up for equality. They are all deemed dangerous because they don’t fit into a certain box of what it means to be human.

I hope there’s not some guy in a lab creating a robot to take out any one who is deemed a threat or different in the eyes of those in power. Then again, maybe guns and other weapons are the same thing. I mean, it’s happened once before right? Gas chambers, work camps and furnaces that murdered thousands of humans from a single religion, all because they were condemned different by one person, all because they didn’t fit into some ideal box of what it means to be human. Or one person opening fire inside a nightclub because the people inside were not equal as humans.

At the end of the X-men movie, one of the mutants is given a choice – be angry and murder the bad guy or be the better person, walk away and fight for equality in other ways. With the world watching, she walked away.

As disciples, Jesus calls us to stand up against hate and fear. He calls us to be the better person and fight for what’s good and right in the world, to love those whom society has deemed different. Basic humanness goes beyond skin color, sexual orientation, or what religion we practice. Because the other side of this humanness, the dark side of being human is hate, it’s fear, and it’s shunning those people who at the heart of it all share the same human nature that we all do.

So what kind of relationship and connectedness as disciples are we going to show the world? Are we going to allow hate and fear to take over or will we stand up for justice and equality? Will we break down walls and barriers, welcome the other and stranger as God and Jesus taught us to do? Or will bigotry, racism, anger, lack of understanding and hospitality take over? Frankly, I’m not sure that’s a world I want to live in.

I’m not sure I can live in a world where my Indian and Afghanistan neighbors divert their eyes at me in the hallway because I’m a white American. I’m not sure I can live in a world that doesn’t allow for justice and equality of my African American neighbors. Or a world that doesn’t allow women to speak their mind. Or a world where children are raised to live in fear of violence with lack of food or clean or water, no place to go because the world has turned its back on their war-torn country. I’m not sure I can live in a world where my LGBTQ friends are shunned and told they are ill and not welcome. I’m not sure I can live in a world filled with so much hate.

That’s not the gospel message, that’s not what Jesus was teaching. Having fear and hate in our hearts is not what it means to be bearers of God’s kingdom or KIN-dom, to be disciples. That’s not the message of our loving, creating God. That’s not what it means to be in relationship with one another.

Maya Angelou said, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Amen sister.

At the heart of it, will love prevail? Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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