Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
February 24, 2019
Lessons: Genesis 45:3-11, 15, Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40, 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50, Luke 6:27-38
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people understand that faithful discipleship is a state of being—and doing. It’s a life rather than an abstract concept.
Key Scripture: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:36
Now what? It’s a logical question after last week’s gospel lesson. Jesus looks his disciples and apostles in the eye and lays out a pretty tough row to hoe. Turns out following Jesus isn’t a walk in the park with rosebuds and unicorns. It’s not an “all aboard the glory train” invitation. No, walking with Jesus will take you smack dab out of your comfort zones and places of privilege and into that level place where all of God’s beloved people are to be found, known, and loved.
In this week’s gospel lesson Jesus answers that unspoken “now what” with some operating instructions that sound pretty daunting, if not downright impossible. Take a quick reread of Jesus’ words and let the implications sink on in. Think you’re up to the task? I know I’m not!
I don’t believe that anyone, of our own volition, can do what Jesus instructs us to do. The spirit may be willing, but oh is that human flesh so weak! Remember last week’s blessings for the all-in, and the woes for the comfortable and smugly-self-sufficient? Jesus isn’t done with us yet, and therein lies the good news. Yes! It’s good news that we can’t do these wonderful, impossible things on our own. That’s where grace and mercy flow forth like a mighty river. That’s where God comes into the picture.
Whether we’re talking individual discipleship or how the beloved community functions, we need God in order to do what we’re called to do and be who we’re called to be. The tall order that Jesus lays out is only possible through the grace and mercy of God and by the help of the Holy Spirit. We are not meant to go it alone, no matter what popular culture and our own egos tell us.
We need the church, each other, and God to follow the way of Jesus in these tumultuous times (and yes, every age has its own brand of tumult). There’s more suffering, injustice, pain, grief, hatred, polarization and agitation than you can shake a stick at, enough to make one throw up her hands in despair. Yet, thanks be to God, there’s also an abundance beauty, tenderness, kindness, mercy, compassion, love, and goodness to be found if we look for it—both within each other and in the everyday places, people, and encounters we all have. There is always enough and then some in God’s economy.
Now what? Let grace and mercy abound. Love God and love your neighbor—especially your enemy. Embody mercy and compassion. Pour out grace like the finest wine. Don’t be stingy with anything because with God there is always plenty. Or, as verse 38 reminds us, “…give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you give back.”
Before confession today, spend a little time talking about the power of forgiveness. If you have a personal story to share, consider doing so. If not, here’s the powerful story of Samiha Tawfiq Awad, who almost lost her life in the terrorist attack on St. Peter’s Church in Cairo in 2016. Check out this website for other powerful stories.
Invite worshipers to recall a time when someone forgave them when they may not have deserved forgiveness. How did that feel? Invite them to remember a time when they offered forgiveness to someone who had grievously wronged them? How did offering real forgiveness feel? Then ask them to envision the God whose radial forgiveness is readily available, who looks on them with eyes of pure love, and who desires real relationship. After a brief period of silent reflection begin your order for Confession and Forgiveness.
Many youth may be familiar with the game of “mercy” where two players grasp each other’s hands (with interlocked fingers). The aim is to twist the opponent’s hands or bend the fingers until the opponent surrenders. Here’s a Youtube video as an example.
The game of mercy may be fun, but invite youth to consider what real mercy entails. Jesus tells his disciples to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” How can we be merciful in the same way that God is merciful? Where do youth see mercy being offered in daily life? Where should more mercy be offered?
You might even make up a few scenarios and have youth pair up and tell how they would respond (or not) in mercy to a given situation.
This week’s focus verse is Luke 6:37-38a: Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
In this week’s lesson Jesus gives some clear instructions about how we should live. In math we aim for a balanced equation. Jesus suggests that we aim for balance in life and in the way we treat others. The scripture passage above illustrates this balance. In short, we are to treat others as we like to be treated. Remind the children that it is impossible to act perfectly, but with God all things are possible. With God’s help we can grow into the person that God intends for us to be—one who is loving, kind, non-judgmental, generous, and forgiving.
Finish with a simple prayer for the children and give them a blessing that reflects this week’s focus verse.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This week’s gospel lesson calls us to be stewards of God’s grace and mercy. Just as God shows us unmerited grace and abundant mercy, we are called to pass on these generous gifts to others. How might you be a better steward of God’s grace?
Stewardship at Home
Take Jesus’ instructions this week and prayerfully pay attention to how you are able to be a good steward of God’s amazing grace. Consider carefully what Jesus says. How difficult is it to:
- Love your enemies (both near and far)
- Do good to those who hate you
- Bless someone who curses you
- Pray for those who are mean or abusive
- Give more to those who are greedy
- Give to anyone who asks you for money without interest or expectation of repayment
- Forgive the one who steals and do not seek repayment for the wrong
- Do to other people as you would like to be treated
- Show mercy
- Avoid judgment or condemnation
- Forgive others
Be sure to pray for God’s guidance and help. At the end of the week consider how easy or difficult it has been to “be” the face of mercy and compassion in the world. How countercultural is this? What did you learn? If you are working with children, be sure to simplify the process and perhaps choose only one or two of Jesus’ instructions.
Photos: The Italian Voice, James Cridland, and Kevin M. Klerks, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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