Sermon – 09-02-18 – Proper 17 – Cycle B
Scripture: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Sermon Title: Resisting Evil With Love
Lord, thank you for your presence in our hearts and minds. Amen
Evil did not go away since last Sunday. How many accounts in the news came straight from the darkness of evil? On the other hand, how many stories in the news filled us with hope and a sense of rightness and of God’s presence? How can the world move from darkness to light? From ugliness to beauty and hope?
The Ten Commandments shout at us from the Old Testament. We could expect that these instructions, straight from the hand of God, would not let a crack open, through which evil could creep. But alas, where in these Ten Commandments do you see and hear “love?” In Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 6 we find the love part. You see, the law from God, as in the Ten Commandments, needs to be combined with the love of God to be effective.
There is the idea that we are born with sinful natures. It seems that we should move through some kind of machinery to squeeze the sinfulness from our innermost parts. I propose that we reverse that thinking. God creates us in love. God loves us. It makes no sense to me that he would include sinfulness in the development of his precious creations. I think that all babies are born pure and innocent and sacred no matter how the conception happened. Do you think that is wrong thinking?
In the Reformed tradition, we baptize early. We are wrapping the child more securely in God’s love and care. We are accepting the blanket or bubble of protection of God for the child so that evil will be resisted. Along with this once-in-a-life sacrament, we lead parents and child on the path to a close relationship with God. The closer the relationship, the tougher it will be for Satan to influence and spoil the child’s life.
So where are the children? Where are the parents, we ask? What did we do wrong that we are especially thrilled to have one or two children and young parents?
Trying to find the blame in ourselves for this state of being as a church will get us nowhere. We know it is the way of the world at this moment in time. The world largely is not pure and sacred and innocent. There are so many temptations, not the least of which is the scarcity of time.
The world really does need “Love, Sweet Love.” Think of love as a visible substance; maybe like syrup – chocolate or maple – take your pick. It will flow wherever there is a possible path. Think of it not as something to be cleaned and stopped. Think of it having a healing effect where ever it goes. Or we can think of this spreading love like the water of the recent floods. Love has a force of its own. It can move into lives unexpectedly, even unwanted. Just as flood waters chase people who don’t want to be chased, love can invade people’s lives and chase evil which does not want to be chased.
How many acts of love come to your mind? Zion Womelsdorf is filled with acts of love. They are obvious from looking at the website, from reading the newsletter, from hearing your stories. Could there be more acts of love, can there be more love flowing out the front door and the side door and the windows into the streets? Would the borough workers, other than those of you who work for the borough, be awestruck when they can’t help but notice the flood of love? Would it not be interesting if love oozed from every church in the towns between Womelsdorf and Reading?
It is already happening. Just like the kingdom of God is here but is not complete. Satan is still alive and working. So it is with love. Love is already being spread by the churches along the 422 Corridor but is it complete?
Should we be checking ourselves to measure our own personal love quotient? How do we hold back in this loving-our-neighbor business? I fall far short. Many of you are models for me to grow my love quotient.
There is another commodity akin to love. It is joy. I am in the habit of receiving and reading and meditating on the daily devotions which are provided on-line by the UCC and are written by various individuals. Thinking about resisting evil, Emily C. Heath, wrote “Joy as Resistance.”
Emily used Philippians 4:4 and 7 as her starting place. “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Quoting part of her devotion, “As a young activist I believed that it was irresponsible to be joyful while injustice flourished in the world. Happiness felt almost sinful while others suffered. Later in life I learned that it wasn’t my responsibility to fix everything. And I also learned a lot about joy. I learned that though this world will always be imperfect there are often moments of extraordinary beauty and grace that require nothing less than our abundant joy.
Emily continues, “Paul wrote to the church in Philippi and told them to “rejoice.” It’s worth noting that he was likely writing his letter from a jail cell. If anyone has reason not to be joyful, it is Paul. And yet, even in the midst of injustice, he found reasons for joy, and evidence of God’s peace. If that isn’t resistance to the forces of evil in this world, I don’t know what is.” End Quote
It is interesting that at the present time the United Church of Christ, under the leadership of Rev. John Dorhauer, is functioning and growing in the Holy Spirit by focusing on the program of “3 Great Loves” which are “Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, Love of Creation.” We can be using this vision and purpose along with Zion’s own mission statement.
Love and joy. Joy and love mixed with the Ten Commandments is the recipe to resist evil in ourselves and in the world. Will this recipe work in borough meetings, in school board meetings, in state and national government, with our growing children, with our adult children, our grandchildren? Do you think the Father is waiting for the second coming of Jesus until we get this love thing right?
Holy Father, this is a big project, definitely only possible with your approval, your guidance, and your power. We anticipate your presence with us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen