Summary: Year C Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 18th, 2001
Year C Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 18th, 2001
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
Web page http://lordofthelake.org
By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Heavenly Father thank you for your kindness and generosity, empower each of us here at Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church to imitate You in your generous giving of gifts, be they material, emotional or spiritual, and teach us to expect nothing in return. Amen.
Title: “Imitating God.”
Luke 6: 27-38
Jesus, after addressing his disciples, now turns to all who will listen. In a series of sayings, all applying the way God loves to the way Christians should love, he illustrates how generosity in its many forms is also a form of love and a form of forgiveness.
Luke’s counterpart to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount began with last week’s reading and would continue until next week’s reading, except the final section of the “sermon” is the assigned text for eighth week after the Epiphany year C, which, at least in the Lutheran tradition, would be replaced next week by The Transfiguration of Our Lord for the Last Sunday in Epiphany.
Luke’s version is much short than Matthew’s, encompassing 32 verses to Matthew’s 109. Although Luke says that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, it is clear that he also means to include a much larger and varied audience, especially the “rich.” God’s promise of salvation is an invitation to all to become the “poor of God,” but not all accept it. The “rich,” including the economically rich, but not restricted to them, are those who remain content with their present, materially, emotionally, spiritually comfortable existence. The way to become the “poor of God” is to imitate God in his generous giving of gifts, be they material, emotional or spiritual, and expecting nothing in return. So, by using pithy statements, making it easy to remember, Jesus says the same thing in each of these verses: imitate God by lending money, forgiving debts, giving generously and loving enemies both inside and outside the Christian community.
In verse twenty-seven, “love your enemies”: This is not a command to feel good about one’s enemies, but to do good toward them regardless of feelings. The word used here for “love” is the Greek word, agape, a word Christians reserved to refer to Jesus’ special kind of love for others. Jesus’ followers are not to be selective in loving, as in the case of friendship love. They are to love all, regardless of whether or not the other persons have good will toward them.
“Do good to those who hate you”: It is not enough to refrain from hostile acts. Disciples are to actively do good. Contrary to the natural impulse to “hate those who hate you,” the disciple returns love for hate. This defines “to love” as simply the same thing as “to do good.” Love is an attitude that leads to action, not a feeling that is a reaction to a pleasant circumstance.
In verse twenty-eight, “bless those who curse you”: This is consistent with the above and can be done in the privacy of prayer, the acid test. True Christian love finds expression in words as well as deeds. Though some will curse the Christian, he or she is not to retaliate in kind, but say positive things. This is done before others. But the acid test is when one prays and only God is there. To pray for those who mistreat oneself is a sure sign of love unless, of course, one prays that they be cursed.
In verse twenty-nine, “when someone slaps you”: A slap on the cheek is a metaphor for extreme insult. Even a physical slap is more humiliating than it is violent or painful. Such a gesture was a formal sign of expulsion from the synagogue for heresy, to give an example. Whether physical or symbolic a “slap in the face” or “punch in the jaw,” siagon,“cheek,” can also mean “jaw,” is not to be returned in kind, but forgiven, let go, dismissed. Since nothing infuriates an enemy more than forgiveness, the likelihood of another “slap” will follow is considerable.
“Cloak…tunic”: These are the outer and under garments. Again, it is the principle that is meant. A literal giving up of the clothing one is wearing would result in public nudity. Jesus hardly means that. The point, made concretely to emphasize that Jesus is serious, is that generosity, which is the hallmark of love, prompts one to give freely to those who have no legitimate claim on us whether we like them or not, even if they be thieves or robbers.
In verse thirty, “give to all who beg from you”: Again, this extreme example illustrates the principle of generosity. A literal interpretation would result in saintly paupers and prosperous idlers and thieves. The word “give” is in the continuous tense in Greek and means “keep on giving.” It is a habitual attitude, not an occasional impulse, such as one might see at holidays. Such unremitting generosity may seem as absurd as giving to a beggar, but so it is with God’s love.