Sermon for Sunday February 20, 2022

Measure for Measure

Luke 6:27-38

 

In “Star Trek -The Wrath of Khan”: The antagonist Khan is looking at the Enterprise on the view screen of the federation ship he had pirated

 

Khan’s lieutenant reports: They’re still running with shields down.

Khan: Of course! We are one big, happy fleet! Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold?

[pause]

Khan: It is very cold in space!

 

His words are just right before he unleashes a savage bombardment of weaponry upon the USS Enterprise.

 

Of course, that saying about revenge didn’t come from the Klingons. In fact, its origin is a bit obscure. One internet site suggest that it came from an ancient source of the Pashtun people of Afghanistan.

 

I think that the meaning of the phrase is simply that it is most satisfying to return damage to your enemy when he or she is least expecting it. It gives the one plotting revenge the most time to do their worst and the greatest satisfaction that the greatest harm possible has been accomplished.

 

It’s a brutal concept, but not so far removed from human nature.

 

It’s like the old story about a man who was informed by his doctor that he had rabies. The man had waited so long to go the doctor that nothing could be done about his condition. After telling the sad news, the doctor left. Later, he stopped back by to check on the patient who was writing something on a piece of paper. “Are you writing a will?” the doctor asked. “No,” said the man, “I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!”

 

Last Sunday we looked at the verses before these in which Jesus is seen identifying with the pain and suffering of the people around him, and really teaching his disciples to do likewise. Jesus was telling his disciples not to be self-satisfied, but to love and serve others according to their needs, for so this is where God is.

 

Today the theme is in the necessity to be extreme in forgiving one another. Jesus starts out not talking about your family or friends, or even a neighbor, but rather he begins with forgiveness for one’s enemies. At first, we might want to think that this idea of forgiveness for one’s enemies should be optional, but I want you to notice how this lesson is given.

 

In the gospels the importance of a point is often associated with repetition. When Jesus wanted to emphasize a point, the same thing is said perhaps in three different ways. The impact of such sayings is so that we the listeners might hear and have the time to ponder upon what we are being told and understand the lesson. In this scripture we find triple repetition of triplets.

 

Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

 

Luke 6:29-30 (NRSV)
Offer the other cheek, …do not withhold even your shirt, …Give to everyone who begs from you.

 

Another set of triplets…

Luke 6:35 (NRSV)

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

 

This whole idea of forgiveness, do you think it is important?

 

Yes! but there is a problem. One summer day I was driving through the crowded streets of a local city, practicing both my patience and courtesy. I came to a stop in traffic and left the intersection open in case anyone needed to turn. The traffic started to move and just a I took my foot of the brake, a car coming the other way starts to turn in front of me, and so I stop my car to let the guy go ahead and make the turn. Well, even though I am really the one with the right of way and the traffic is now moving. This guy steps on the gas cuts on through and gives me the middle finger! All I ever did was give him the opportunity to make his turn. I did not return the favor, but I was not thinking forgiving thoughts either.

 

I ask you really what kind of an idea is it that tells us to forgive those who abuse us? Sometimes kindness bears you nothing but insults. Some days I would rather be Khan than Jesus.

 

Another time I was in a parking lot, and I a woman knock on my car window. Up front she told me she wanted money for alcohol, because she was an alcoholic and if she did not have something to drink, she could die. That was her plea. Save my life, buy me beer. Now I understand dependency, and I understand the nature of detox and withdrawal. But if someone is begging for that which is a life-threatening problem and not the solution, should I give to the one who begs? Somedays is it not more loving to say no, and not be the instrument of codependency in someone’s troubled life?

 

The problem with these sayings is their extreme nature. They cut across natural human tendencies. They violate one’s sense of fairness and justice. They quite possibly perpetuate bad and harmful behavior. Do these ideas not set us up to have every abuser and forthright villain able to do anything they please, because all the truly good people in life are guided to acquiesce to every evil desire. One might see the problem this way.

 

Sayings…

…do good to those who hate you,. …Give to everyone who begs from you. love your enemies, , expecting nothing in return.

 

There is also another issue. No one lives with that kind of an absolute spirit of love and forgiveness. Living with this level of forgiveness and compliance doesn’t seem humanly possible. It hardly seems humanly wise to live as such.

 

As I was thinking about this it dawned on me that perhaps Jesus was not describing us. Jesus was not describing human nature or even directly human life, but rather his words were describing God’s nature and God’s nature within our lives. Who lives or even remotely portrays this manner of life that Jesus was describing? No one other than perhaps God. Jesus even says, Luke 6:36 (NRSV)Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The image we are given to aspire to is not a human image, but a divine image.

 

These sayings are extreme in their portrayal of absolute grace and forgiveness. Think of the nature of Christ upon the cross when we read these words.

 

Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:29-30 (NRSV)
Offer the other cheek, …do not withhold even your shirt, …Give to everyone who begs from you.

Luke 6:35 (NRSV)

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

 

These words are not me. These words are Jesus dying for me, and God’s absolute love and grace made real. I am not the saint in the picture. I am the abuser, the taker, the beggar, and I am the one who has been forgiven. I am the recipient of that kind of forgiveness without which I would have no place to stand.

 

Jesus is portraying the absolute love of God within his words, and in doing so he has also revealed what we are not, and yet inviting us to share in a greater hope, a greater love, and a greater life. Measure for measure it will be given to you! Shaken down, pressed together running over and put into your lap. If I know what God has done for me, what might I be able to do for others? If I know how I have been forgiven, how much forgiveness might I be able to give another?

 

Jesus says, Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But how do we want to be treated? Perhaps implied in this verse is also the idea that we are to do for others as God has already done for us. If we value love than we should love, but not just with any old love, but with the love that God has already loved us with. If we value mercy and forgiveness, then we should be merciful and forgiving, but not by any old standard; rather according to the mercy and forgiveness shared with us in Christ.

 

This life becomes an act of faith, where no matter what we lose, we are sure that God will replenish, measure for measure, so that our love might never grow cold, or our lives ever feel forsaken. The giving and even loosing we do, might be returned to us from a divine source. Measure for measure, if we are able to live generous lives, we will understand the generosity of God. Luke 6:35 (NRSV) “Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” If you want, think of it as a challenge to out give God. Do that and see what happens. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: