Fr Peter Beck presided and preached on the Gospel reading from Luke 6:27-38.
Read on for sermon text and the service video.
Eliza Doolittle in the musical ‘My Fair Lady’, for those of us who are old enough to remember it [!], sings to Professor Higgins – ‘Don’t talk of love – show me!’ I won’t sing the lyrics for you this morning! Eliza is fed up and frustrated. The two are falling in love, but the professor is unable to break through the differences and barriers between them, and can only pontificate about love and the nature of love, without actually taking the risk of declaring the love he has and facing the consequences. Well, of course as in any good musical, it all works out in the end, though I’m not quite sure how. Perhaps someone here can remind me after the service!
The song is of course about romantic love between two people at the start of a relationship. Yet its title and theme is strikingly relevant for us, the Church both as a body and as individual Christians. We talk about Love a lot. In fact we are constantly going on about it, admonishing one another to ‘love as Jesus loved us’, ‘to love one another as much as we love ourselves’, ‘greater love has no one than that they lay down their life for their friends’, ‘love casts out fear’, ‘love one another, for love is of God, and those who love know God, for God is love’, and in today’s gospel ‘Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you’. And so on
It is all very well for us to say these things, but it kind of goes against the grain of us fallen human beings. Jesus just kept saying that the things that actually so often take precedence in our lives are as rubbish; things like holding grudges and making judgements and hoarding wealth and being first. Then one night, this Jesus got really strange at dinner and said a loaf of bread was his body and a cup of wine was his blood, that this sacrament that we are shortly to be part of is simply a statement of how things are and ever have been and ever will be. That we are so completely loved that nothing we are or do can or will stop us being loved totally and completely by the source of this Love, which is the heart beat and the driving force of the universe and of all of creation. That love is stronger than hate and life is stronger than death. All our no-goodness is no matter. Then he went and got himself killed in a totally preventable way to prove it!
Take todays Gospel text for example, I mean come on… that is not how our world works. It certainly isn’t the message we are given as we look around, watch TV, and generally live in this society. And yet, I think that is exactly the point.
To love, bless, pray for those who have done you harm and then to turn the other cheek, is exactly the point of following this faith. It is exactly the counter to this culture that we are invited to live into. It is the very nature of the kingdom of God. And it sounds really lovely until you have to actually live it.
Because we know all too well the harm that we humans are capable of is vast. And the institutions that we create that empower us to do all of the things that Jesus talks about here: including hanging out only with people who are like you, lending in order to receive something back or better yet, more than you gave out in the first place and of course, offering judgement, are many. We love that last one.
And we know that we the church are as much part of this as anyone else. Even in the church we have sought ways to control, hold back, keep out of sight or vanquish those things that challenged us, or pushed against the power that some held and wanted to hold on to. ‘Lord Jesus Christ son of the living God, have mercy on us miserable sinners.’
And really that is the thing that makes me feel saddest of all —when we have sought to have power and control over others rather than to show love and to empower others. We are not to have power over others, we are to empower others and seek to work in mutuality for justice and peace. Well, we get it wrong, we hold on to past grudges and past errors in the way we may have treated others and other organisations. Some of this I think is true in the current argy bargy between our parish and our school.
None of us get it right all the time. None of us have all the answers. Our vestry, parish trust and school board, I believe sincerely want to find a way through our current impasse to a solution which will enable us to live together in harmony and love, proclaiming the good news of Jesus in all we are and do and say. Someone said to me last week that our school is the jewel in the crown of St Michael and All Angels. And I agree
Let us pray for those we have entrusted with this mahi, this work, and let us look deeply within ourselves, be open the presence of the risen Lord who has given us the true way of love to guide our every decision and behaviour. Let us all prayer for ourselves that we allow the words of our Lord shape and mould us.
AS we take the sacrament today we do so to remember the nature of Love, which we want to enflesh in our own selves. Do this to remember, Remember because I keep on forgetting. And do this to re-member, to make present the awesome life-giving love of the risen Christ, My friend let us not forget. Rather let us offer our hands and hearts as we receive the sacrament and say ‘Amen’, ‘Yes’ to God, yes to Jesus, yes to the spirit of God which stirs and disturbs us to be the people we have been created to be, made in the image of God, instruments of God’s peace and justice, made of love and for love, precious and honoured in God’s sight.
How about this as a prayer as you reflect on my words:
Before me as I look forward to my day ahead
I look for unexpected surgings of new life.
In all the people I meet and the activities of my day
I look for unopened gifts of promise.
Within the familiar sanctuary of my own soul
I look for shinings of the everlasting light.
Before me, around me, within me
I look for your life-giving love, O God,
Before me, around me, within me.
Be still and aware of God’s presence within and all around.