Sermon on Sixth Sunday After Epiphany A February 13, 2011

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A  February 13, 2011
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes                                                          

Holy Child and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
777 Southgate avenue Daly City, CA 94015

Matthew 5:21-37

Today, I want you to feel you are loved and I ask you to love each other. Know that you are welcome in this blessed place and that you were sent here for a reason. Seek further for that reason and you will find that it is because of the love of God that you were found and indeed you found others in this place.

There is so much hate, anxiety and uncertainties that we see happen around us and around the world and we are hurting our relationship with God so much as we hurt our relationship with each other, our country and ourselves. Love, when it gets in our way will take us all in the stream where God wants us to be. So I want you to feel that space where you feel fit, comfortable and in the care of our loving God.

Love each other – not with the love that depends on mood, and feelings – nor even with the love that depends on the behavior of others, but love each other with the kind of love that Christ refers to in today’s reading from the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. Not what one man says, “Walk the talk” but does not do it, but rather “tend my sheep and find those who are lost”

The love that I mean is the love that goes beyond what seems right according to the letter of the law, and enters into the Spirit of what God wants for us, the love that enters into feeding others, into healing others, into showing grace to others, into giving peace to others, the love that values others, regardless of who they are or what they have or have not done. The love that does not despise others when the going gets tough, a true love and compassion to those who needed us the most when confronted with difficulties in life, in their struggle to protect and find shelter for their family. For what profits a man if he gains everything but will lose his soul in the end because he has no love and compassion.

With love – my friends – there is no loophole, no escape hatch, no clauses that say the deal can be revoked if this or that condition is not met. Love is total – it is unconditional – or it is not love at all. Feel the words of Jesus we heard read this morning. They were words addressed to a people used to compromising – to altering love’s demands as they are found in the law of God so that those demands would be easier to fulfill. In each of the four cases presented in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sets for his followers higher standards than the Pharisees. Such might have shocked his disciples because the Pharisees were considered by all to be righteous. Yet, Jesus interpretation of the law called for a far greater righteousness which included outward behavior and inner motive. Jesus’ statement implies an imperfection and incompleteness. Each of the contrasting ideas presented in the Gospel is introduced by the formal “You have heard the commandment” and followed by a verbatim quotation of the law with this, “But I say to you” Jesus pushed for a broader interpretation and wider application than the letter of the law. Jesus was clear in saying; he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill them. His aim is at the motivating force behind one’s actions. You have heard that it was said “you shall not murder” –Jesus elaborated this by saying, “but I say to you that if you are angry with your brother or sister – you will be liable to judgment.” “You have heard that it was said, “you shall not commit adultery,” “but I tell you that everyone who looks with lust at another has already committed adultery…” “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool.” “It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” “But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery;

Now, if I may add, you have heard that it was said, “Walk the talk” But I say unto you, “Do it! And don’t be saying something that comes from the side of your mouth, or say something contradictory behind your back.”

There are no loopholes to be found in Jesus’ words, no compromises, No deals, No escape hatches. What Jesus does is crystallize the issues involved in loving God and our neighbors so that we can know – without doubt – just where we stand, and exactly what we need to aim for. Think about where you stand for a minute – Think about how you love others and ask yourself – is my love up to the standards set by Christ? We greet those who greet us, we do good to those who do good to us, we lend to those who will pay back, We welcome those who welcome us. As for everyone else – well – if asked, most of us have a reason for what we do, and an excuse for what we do not do. What we aim for as Christians – is to break through the limitations of our excuses, we aim to destroy all reasons that we might offer to treat one person as less than another and to enter into relationships with each other that are based upon our equality before God.

 An old pilgrim was making his way to the Himalayan Mountains in the bitter cold of winter when it began to rain. An inn keeper said to him, “How will you ever get there in this kind of weather my good man?”  The old man answered cheerfully – “My heart got there first, so it’s easy for the rest of me to follow.” The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we can meet all the demands of love that are expressed in the law in one way – and only in one way – we can do so if we our hearts go there first.

Today – this day of Love – I urge you – let your hearts go -love God and love each other as deeply as you can. When you do – you will find, no matter how many mistakes you may make on the way, that goodness and blessedness will blossom along your path, and all that God has planned will come to pass. Let neither fear nor anxiety deceive and make you turn your heart away from God. But Love one another.

Today is also youth and young adult Sunday. Let me tell you that I have been on that road before. Youth is life’s summertime. It is the period of time when one feels strongly the tender throbs of life. But it is also a time of pain, hurt, disappointments, frustrations, fear of failures. Most of it is because of the absence of the love of Christ. A young person’s life is not complete without Christ. Let Christ lead you and you will find the greatest adventure of your generation in the company of Jesus, to be the agents of his love than can set the heart of man on fire for God. This Church is a house of prayer for you. When life is so unfair, come and be at peace with your God. Do something out from your love and offer it as an offering to God. Be at peace and feel secure here. Dream together as a youth and explore every possibility of doing service to others as your way of serving God. Do you feel being called to visit the elderly at home and in long term facilities by offering them your time to read news papers, sing songs or simply just being there to listen? Do you feel called to teach our young children who are following you as their models? These are just few of many things that you can possibly offer to God. I ask you my dear young friends to open your hearts to every possibility of loving God, your neighbor and yourself in this place.

Now to amplify more of what I said today, and just to make sure that the message has touched your heart, let me say that in the form of song to make you feel better and inspired. I love to sing you the song, “All you need is love” from the Beatles;

(Sung) “Love, Love, Love. All you need is love, love is all you need.
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy.

Nothing you can make that can’t be made. No one you can save that can’t be saved.Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.  All you need is love. All you need is love. Love is all you need.

My friends let us love one another and walk humbly with our God. Be at peace with one another before you come and receive the body and blood of Christ. Be transformed with that love and go out from this place renewed and tell others the miracle that made you whole. Amen.

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