SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:38-48
Reptile brain, monkey brain and human brain, these are three parts of our brain. Our reptile brain is our fight or flight impulse in danger. Our monkey brain is our emotional response. Still not logical, but intuitive, fear based, anger response, impassioned, obsessive decisions. And our human brain is our thinking before we do brain. Jesus is advocating our use of our God given human brain. We need our reptile brain to help us respond to dangerous situations quickly. We need our monkey brains because this helps us to empathize with others. But instead of striking back in anger, we must use our human brains, that help us to build relationships through forgiveness, prayer and
Justice is equal hurt for equal hurt, an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth. When some one hurts us we have a right to hurt them back just as much as they have hurt us, but no more. My Systematics professor, Collin Brown, described forgiveness as giving up our right to hurt back as much we have been hurt. The NRSV has an odd translation of verse 39 "Do not resist an evil doer." Emerson Powery’s Sermon Brainwave’s commentary says, “Rather, Jesus has an alternative strategy for dealing with evil. His objective is to overcome evil with good." So not to be tempted to retaliate or engage in the endless cycle of revenge.
This is illustrated by turning the other cheek. We are not opening ourselves up to getting hit a second time but we are giving up our right to hurt back by offering the other cheek. This has been helpful in understanding forgiveness as an act of
strength and a not weakness. In forgiveness we choose not to hurt back in the way that we have been hurt. Then we don’t have to rely on our poor memory to forgive because forgetting is not a condition to forgiveness, but remembering that
we have chosen not to hurt back is. Then there are those, that no matter what we do, we seem to be at odds with
them. Sometimes we may even refer to these as enemies. At least Jesus doesn’t tell us not to have enemies, but challenges us to submit them to the will of God through our prayers for them. The greatest good we can desire for them is to know God and to have God's rule over their lives. But Prayer is double edged, as we pray for our enemies, we find ourselves subject to prayers for ourselves and our behavior and how we too are to be formed by the will of God.
The blessings of God's rule is for everyone. Knowing God as a parent is different from knowing God as the Judge of the Universe, the Creator of everything and decider of the destinies of life and death. Then the punch line of this passage is to be Perfect as the Lord God is perfect, Perfection not as justification before God but perfect as being complete in love,
growing in intimacy and maturity.
The Lamb of God brings deliverance and liberation that moves us from obedience of the law to the internalization of the intent of God’s will in our hearts. We saw this last week as Jesus tells us to resolve anger, work at reconciliation,
control lust, bolster covenant, act honesty and practice truth telling. This week Jesus challenges us to forgive, pray and love. I like to hang out with smart people because it makes me look smarter than I am. I went to the Maui Outstanding Piano Amateur Festival master class on Friday. Later Damira introduced me to a couple of the pianist who in their real
lives are professors in science doing research! They are like rock stars and made me look brilliant and talented just by being seen talking to them. How do you think people feel being in the company of Christians who are forgiving,
praying for their enemies and themselves, and perfecting their love for God and their neighbors?
Awesome community. What we learn about God hanging out with Jesus shapes our relationship with God. How we live with God and has an effect on how we live in relationship with our neighbor. We are not punished for the hurt we have caused God so we are able to give up our right, to hurt back those who have hurt us.
This draws me back to Allan Boesak and the first time I heard him speak. An antiapartheid leader in South Africa, he spoke at Keawala’i church and talked about seeing ‘the wounds’. When we can see ‘the wounds’ in people, then they become human again and our treatment of them becomes more human. But anytime we count people as being less than human by the color of their skin, their lack of education, economic status, where they come from, their religion, then it justifies our behavior to treat them as less than human. Jesus’ words gives dignity even to our enemies and gives us no excuse for
treating anyone less than a child whom God loves. Jesus takes down walls instead of building them, Jesus speaks truth instead of name calling. Jesus forgives instead of blames, and Jesus chooses love instead of power.
We have three brains. We can take quick action when we are in danger, but when the urgency is not so immediate, we can check in with our feelings and how what we are feeling might be determining how we are reacting. And if we have even more time, then we can even determine our actions beyond what we feel, such as loving an enemy we hate and praying for them or by holding back on our first impulse of revenge in order to seek the reason for the initial blows.
Then by admitting how we contributed to the situation we were in, we can ask for forgiveness and take responsibility for our actions to prevent this from happening again.
We are on the road of reconciliation. We are operating at a higher level, using
our human brain. We are choosing love over justice and participating in the rule
of God over our lives.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:21-27
THEME: Mission reconciling relationships
In the past few weeks we have been focusing on passages that come from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. John the Baptized sets this up for us by identifying Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. A provocative insight on the Lamb of God was that the lamb was not used as sin offering but as a marking on the door post as a sign for the Spirit of death to passover. The Lamb of God is the sign of the deliverer and liberator who takes away the sins of the world. Then as Jesus begins to preach, the premiss is that righteousness, brings us into relationship with God. But righteousness is a gift given to us by the grace of
God. Righteousness is not a product of our good effort but an act of God’s grace and forgiveness towards us. So for the beatitudes, there are no prerequisites for us to be blessed but blessedness is a benefit of living under God’s rule. Today’s
passage is a continuation of the sermon on the mount and the implications of living with God’s truth in our lives.
At first there was a list of ten things for us to do. Now Jesus seems to have put on a stricter application of the commandments of God. It is not just don’t murder but don’t be angry, or it is not just to be reconcile with God with an offering, but be reconciled with others before you make an offering. And then not only don’t commit adultery but don’t even lust over anyone beyond your marriage. Then eliminate the reason to swear by anything by always telling the truth. What Jesus is talking about, is taking the Ten Commandments and internalizing them so they are not a bunch of rules to obey, but to live by the will of God from your heart. These are all in regards to fostering a healthy relationship with God and with others. The result of our relationship with God is to have a community of rightful living. Murder is the boundary we are not to cross but Jesus is concern about how anger effect our relationships. So Jesus is telling us to find ways to regulate our anger and to find appropriate ways to deal with our anger. Giving a tithe or offering to God is a way we worship and appreciate our relationship with God, but if our relationship with God does not have an impact in our relationship with others then we need to expand the love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance that God has for us in our relationship with neighbors. This passage has wrongly been applied to the reception of communion. There is no such condition to make things right with a brother or sister before we go to the Lord’s Table for communion. We don’t merit this holy meal, we come because we are invited to it as Christ’s guest. Don’t add another obstacle to people coming to receive grace from God’s gift. If we are being accused of doing something wrong be fair and honest and try to reach some kind of agreement. The amount of of time, wages lost and inconvenience of being in court is best served if we can settle out of court. If not it may take longer, cost more and be more inconvenient than you could ever project.
Adultery is a breach in your marital covenant. Lusting after other people is a betrayal of our marital covenant. Be proactive and treat each other with love and respect. Forgive the hurt the other has cause, chose not to hurt back, and move
The next part of this sermon exaggerates to make a point but is not to be taken literally other wise there would be a lot of one eyed Christians with hooks for hands. Jesus is not literally saying to take out an eye or to cut off a hand. But
what he is saying is exhibit some self control and how your actions effect the relationships around you. Divorce in Jesus’ day was devastating to the women. They lost everything, family, identity, income, home, security, status and pretty much were left impoverished. Women had no rights so Jesus is saying, take this decision seriously, by divorcing your wife, for whatever reason you are literally taking her life.
Then, in the last part, Jesus is saying to tell the truth. Don’t swear by anything to make what you are saying more truthful. We lie only for our advantage, to get something or to get away with something. Trust in God and always speak the
truth so that there will be no question that what you are saying is not a lie but the truth.
Jesus is not initiating anything new but continuing on the theme of our grace given righteousness that enables us to live in relationship with God. What have we learned in our relationship with God that can help us foster healthy
relationships with our neighbors?
Our relationship with God challenges us to love in profound ways. There is long suffering. We will do the unpopular for justice sake. We will do what is seemingly cold, and uncaring to protect others, protect ourselves, create healthy
boundaries and hope and desire the very best for someone else. We have been suffering like a family that has a member who is addicted to drugs. It doesn’t matter if they are from the street or prescribed. We are ready to help, care and rescue, all good and right in normal circumstances, but when the one we love is on drugs, then this not a normal person, but a person on drugs and to love them we have to have a different set of rules. None of us have the expertise to counsel we can only point to professional help, point to God or listen for the purpose of prayer. We can set boundaries for safety sake, for us and for them. We can choose not to rescue in order for real consequences to be the natural result of choices that are made. I had a friend at seminary who told me that he played the role of the rescuer in his alcoholic family. His dad would be drunk as he drove home and crawl on the lawn to sleep. My friend would wake up, pull his dad into the house, dress him for bed. In the morning when he dad would wake up, he would find himself in his bed with no memory of how he got there, not facing up to the consequence of his actions or choices. He realized that although he loved his dad, all he did was prevent him from seeing the consequences of his choices and prolonged that alcoholic behavior.
We want those whom we love to come to the realization that what they are doing is not working and admit that they need help. We need to be truthful with them, not give into their lies, and not enable them so they can get the help they
need. Unusual but all for the purpose of love. Desiring the very best for someone else and at the same time to preserve ourselves from their destructive and disruptive behavior.
Jesus doesn't want us just to live as a person not wanting to get caught by God for doing something wrong. But Jesus wants us to live with God as those who are delivered and liberated to live in relationship with God. The purpose of God’s gift of righteousness is relationship with God. This gives us to freedom to live creativity in our relationship with God. This forms communities that love and care for each other. We have a ministry of reconciliation that keeps our anger in check, is aware of our relationships with others, that resolves conflict, and pursues what is right. We honor our commitments and speak the truth. We maintain covenant relationships of respect and love. We are challenged by love to set boundaries, so the truth can be spoken and wholeness with God can be found.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:13-20
Black beans. Salty, potent, pungent flavor pods, that bring savory taste to steamed fish, or stir fried lobster. Sam Choy has this amazing recipe in his cook book that takes chopped lobster tails and cooks them with black beans, garlic, ginger, sherry and tomatoes. These salty black beans are so filled with flavor that they need to be soaked and rinsed off with water before you use them (and they still are salty). Black beans add seasoning that blends these flavors together. But
if black beans loose their saltiness, they are good for nothing and then begin to look like little rat dropping.
Being light to the world is to be unique. Being light to the world is another way of saying that we are holy or set apart for God. Not in a stand offish kind of way, but just in knowing about God’s love. What we know about God, through the forgiveness that Jesus makes possible, is different from the how the rest of the world understands God. What we know about God’s grace through Jesus Christ helps us to be better people, than what we could possibly be on our own. What we know about God through the love of Jesus illuminates God’s lavish love for for those who are sick, outcaste, lonely and alienated. What we know is not the usual way the world perceives God. What we know is unique but if we keep this
light hidden and only for ourselves, then our neighbors won't be able to benefit from God’s light from us. Being light, we are a city on a hill. People can either think we are compelling or hypocrites. Being light on a hill, we can be seen as amazing or for show. Being a community of light, we can be known as being genuine or a bunch of phonies. We are the former; compelling, amazing and genuine. Jesus does not trump the prophets or the commandments, but rather, he shows how the promises of the prophets become fulfilled and how anyone can bring the commandments to life by living them. Jesus isn’t bringing a new teaching to replace the old but is showing how the truth of God can be lived, how the commandments have not change, how living in covenant is not just following a bunch of rules but a deeply practical way to live, full of truth and grace and as a blessing to our neighbors. So whoever breaks even one of the least of these commandments, that
represent the will of God and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But if you are using the commandments as a way to work yourself into the good graces of God. Then you are going to have to live lives more obsessive and compulsive than the scribes and Pharisees. They have a reputation of being fastidious about the Law and its practice. If we want to have righteousness before God using the Law, we are going to have to step up our game with lives with better self-control lives and legalism than the scribes and Pharisees. Or we can believe in Jesus and receive righteousness as a gracious gift from God through forgiveness. We can live grace filled lives in relationship with God. The purpose of righteousness is to live in relationship with God. The only way we can achieve righteousness is as a gift of grace from God and not by our good works.
Jesus tells us that we are salt and light as we seek to live as God’s people in the world. With the Spirit’s help, we offer our gifts and talents to extend the reach of God’s realm. What are some of the "indelibly etched pictures" of God's love
that our congregation has drawn?
It would look like members of Iao UCC and our church cleaning the house at 2351 Main Street and eating sandwiches together. Our tenant has moved out and we are leasing this building back to Iao UCC for their new pastor (if ratified by congregational vote). We were cleaning it together to get it ready for the new pastor.
We would have portraits of the saints of our church which we have treated with respect and honor. We would have a picture of a car, because so many of you have picked up and given rides to members who could no longer drive.
We would have a picture of a brown easy chair in the middle of our sanctuary for Dot Romson because she was having difficulty sitting and we brought this chair in the sanctuary so she could still come and worship with us.
We would have a picture of Bubu and Finagan as welcomed additions to our service who love unconditionally.
We would have a picture of the big brown table in Dodge Hall with food on it from all of the Ohanas and Aloha Hours and special occasions. We would have a picture of service men who were stations at Specklesville
and came up here for service and were served delicate little finger sandwiches during the second world war.
We would have a picture of a rummage sale, where we practice stewardship by getting rid of wonderful items so people can get what they need at great prices.
We would have a picture of the stained glass windows that are receivers of light and display our faith in art.
We would have a picture of the organ. That is a symbol of our hearts that sing praises to our God. The $41,000 that was raised to continue this part of worship and ministry. And we would have a picture of Damira because she is an answer to prayer because what good is having an organ if we don’t have anyone to play it? Katherine Matthews says it best in her UCC commentary: when people encounter us--as individuals and as communities of faith--they should see and sense more: they should feel hope, they should feel the possibility of a "different world," Charles Cousar writes, "marked by unheard-of reconciliation, simple truth-telling, outrageous generosity, and love of one's enemies". We're called not to make just a refreshing but a reinvigorating difference in the world, so that all who watch us will feel new life, new vitality, new possibility, new hope, new beauty.
What we know about God through Jesus is so revolutionary it has transformed the way we live. Living in relationship with God makes us live savory, light filled lives. Very simply, to participate in the mission of God, all we have to do is to be a little more salty infusing our surroundings with the flavors of Black Beans, Chung Choi, Harm Ha, Bagong, Nato, gochujang, love, forgiveness and grace and then let the light of God shining through us as savory extroverts. We know we are doing this right, when our neighbors’ lives become infused with the spices of God and they begin to shine.