Love, Pray, Sleep, Repeat

November 13, 2016
by Rev. Melanie Homan

View, print or save PDF: sermon-11-13-16-lovepraysleeprepeat

(Message Following National Election)

“Love, Pray, Sleep, Repeat”

Rev. Melanie Homan

November 13, 2016

Scripture: The Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-11

5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sermon:  “Love, Pray, Sleep, Repeat”

I ditched our ordinary heroes series for this Sunday. I decided that, as interesting a person as Barnabus is, we needed something a little different.  The divisions within our country right now are more intense than I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  I know that for every person who is deeply grieving the results of the election or fearful about how this election will directly impact their lives, there is another person who is filled with hope.  People who have been desperate for economic change and believe that now it will finally come are filled with hope.  And yet people are scared.  Scared for their safety.  Scared for their future.  Because the change that’s coming has been cloaked in racism and misogyny.

Given how divided we are as a country, it’s important not to assume that everyone here this morning is of the same mind as you. We might talk to one another in the halls or in our small groups like we are, but that’s not reality.  I thought it would be good to re-ground ourselves in the most basic of Jesus’ teachings.  When you go home, read the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.  These three chapters make up the Sermon on the Mount.  Usually in worship, we hear just parts of it, because it would take too long to read all of it in worship in one setting.  But, if you want a greater understanding of Jesus’ teaching in its entirety, read the whole thing in one sitting.

It starts with what _______ just read…the beatitudes – or the blessings.  Blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted, those who are meek.  These blessings show us that God has compassion and mercy on those who suffer, those who work for peace, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

But, it doesn’t end there.  Jesus goes on, teaching through parables – some that are long, others that are short, sweet, and to the point; sometimes they make no sense and other times they are really clear.  Jesus is trying to teach the people how God wants them to live.  Follow these teachings. Put your faith into action. 

In this same Sermon on the Mount, we are given this very foundational teaching– what is often called “The Golden Rule”. “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Do to others as you would have them do to you.  This is foundational.  This is what we try to teach our kids first and foremost, because if we can’t act on this it doesn’t really matter how great we are at believing the “right” things or living out the rest of the gospel.  It’s right up there with “Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

With so much hateful rhetoric being tossed about, we have to go back to the basics of our faith and ask ourselves how we are doing with living it out. Now, you might be thinking – oh, those Republicans…all that hate!   But, here’s the thing.  Some of the most hateful words I’ve heard and read lately have come from Democrats.  Hateful words and actions – we’ve opened the floodgates and it’s coming at us from all directions and, sometimes, we are the source of it.

One of the things that I’ve discovered – perhaps you’ve experienced this, too – is that the way the candidates and parties spoke about one another in this election implicitly gave permission to the rest of us to talk to one another and about one another in very hurtful ways. I’ve seen it on social media, I’ve experienced it here at church. It feels awful.  It made it really hard to write my message for today, because no matter what I say, some of you will be unhappy with me.  Some of you will be angry with me.  Because we want our own viewpoints mirrored back to us, and there is no way I can mirror back to all of you what you already believe, because there is such diversity of belief among us.  I would like to think that it’s good for us to be challenged to consider other perspectives.

It is a lot harder to disparage others – to criticize, rebuke, and discount them – if we treat them like we want to be treated. “But I’m right! They’re wrong!  I refuse to sit quietly by!”  Then, don’t sit quietly by!  Stand up for what you believe is true and right and good.  Speak out for what you value.  When you see sexism, name it.  Racism, name it.  Oppression, name it.  But, do it in a way that honors your faith and the teachings of Jesus and doesn’t diminish other people. This means we need to be able to listen, just as much as we speak.  That we need to offer each other respect, even when we disagree.  As Karin shared last week, we are all one in Christ, we are all part of the same body.  This means that we don’t get to cut off the parts we don’t like without also destroying ourselves.

In this same teaching, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of God.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

In other words, it’s easy to love people who completely agree with you. It’s easy to be in relationship with those who are of the same mind.  Anyone can do that!  But, the “Jesus Way” means you always choose love over hate when talking with people you disagree with.  Remember that at Thanksgiving!  A good number of you will share turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie with someone who is hard for you to love.  Love them anyway.  Will you have a big argument, or will you try to understand where they are coming from as you share your own perspective?

We are really good at coming up with great justifications for nurturing hate in our hearts and disregard for individuals and entire groups of people. We can convince ourselves that someone is so awful as to be outside of this teaching.   It’s hard to love enemies – and no doubt enemies are real.  There are real people in our lives and in the world who would do us harm.  Jesus does not ask us to be a doormat upon which people stomp the dirt from their shoes.  But, we are expected to rise above it – to not respond to hate with hate, to figure out what a loving response looks like.  It’s a basic Wesleyan commitment – to do good, do no harm, and to stay in love with God.

It’s so much easier to nurse anger and despair and division. This is probably why Jesus, in this same sermon on the mount, said, “13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy[d] that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The road that leads to life is hard, but it’s the right road to be on.

On Facebook, I can’t tell you how many friends have shared statements that say something along the lines of, “If you voted for Trump/Hillary, unfriend me. We have nothing in common and I want nothing to do with you.”  One even went so far as to list all of the friends she had unfriended because they voted the “wrong way”.  That’s the easy road and there are many who take it.  It’s so much easier to isolate ourselves, to choose to only be in relationship with people who are like us.  The hard road – the road that leads to life – is one that calls us to be in relationship with people who are not like us.

At the women’s retreat yesterday, the presenter, Gretchen Fogo, referenced Psalm 1 verse 1 when sharing her observations of the past week. The Psalm begins:  “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked

Or stand in the way that sinners take

Or sit in the company of scoffers,

But whose delight is in the law of the Lord.”

The first two seem easy enough – don’t walk a wicked path and don’t sin – but, the 3rd one is the one we might find ourselves doing…sitting in the company of scoffers.  We scoff, we mock, we ridicule people so easily.  You can stand for kindness, compassion, mercy, and love…but, not when you’re scoffing.

As hard and as uncomfortable as it is, we are going to need to find ways to love when the world is hell bent on hate.   As one member of our congregation shared with me – and I completely agree with him – “Our problem is that we’ve forgotten that we’re all on the same team.”

Those of us with privilege – which is most of us here – are going to need to stand alongside those who are being harmed in all of this. While doing so, we have to ask ourselves if we are doing anything that is harming others.  Is so, then we repent and turn away from those things as we turn back towards God and Jesus’ teachings.  We are going to have many, many opportunities to live out these core teachings of Jesus.

I want to close with a reflection from my friend Salying. She came to the United States as a refugee from China.  She is now an Episcopal priest serving a church in Silicone Valley – in Sunnyvale, one of the most affluent communities in the whole United States (even more affluent than Southwest Minneapolis!).  “I’m recalling those days when I walked the long halls of Congress, lobbying for the poor on behalf of a conference led by Jim Wallis. It was less than one hundred days after Obama took office. I remember what Wallis said, as he remarked on watching our political officials walk into a room with the aplomb of people who thought they were the center of power. He said how delusional they were. They were not the center of power. No matter what, there is always the power of goodness, of commitment, of perseverance, of love. More so, there is the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. These days, anyone who acts out of these things is incredibly powerful. For these are not prisoners of fear, but prisoners of hope.”

There is incredible power in living with Christ. There is incredible power in living with goodness, perseverance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Claim your power.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Let us pray: Holy One, we give thanks for your extravagant love. We pray for eyes to see as you see, and faith that reaches beyond here and now. Guide us in creating your heaven on earth with bold imagination and hearts that are selfless and brave. Inspire us to welcome strangers, awaken hope where there is despair, and shine your light in the presence of darkness. May we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you and all your children. (Pause to breathe!) Breathe in us breath of God.  Amen.