A Smorgåsboörd of Love
Words for 12th Sunday after Trinity – 30 August 2020 – A cyber sermon from the Vicarage
Text: Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12.9–21)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
Occasionally a Bible text comes along that can’t be divided into soundbites or memorable maxims and just needs to be read as a whole and then lived as best as we can. Romans Chapter 12 is one such and if you are reading this and fancy a challenge that will transform your life try taking one of each of the ‘commands’ in the passage above – there are 27 of them in all – and live life according to a different one a week!
They are hard hitting but make perfect sense. If, as is said elsewhere in the letter to the Romans, we are indeed reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Christ we had better start living lives that are reconciled to each other; even if that ‘other’ is at enmity with us.
We have no choice.
Once we have turned towards God and know that we are forgiven, redeemed, and cherished we are called to lead a new life overflowing with forgiveness, kindness and care. And that especially of those who are ‘below’ us, who hate us, or who judge us.
This is hard work (and we didn’t even read the passage from the beginning of the Chapter!) but there is no other way in which we are called to live. Where do we start? How do we renounce a lifetime of weighing others by our standards instead of seeing them with God’s eyes? What will we do when we, if my experience is anything to go by, we fall and fail at this smorgåsboörd from Love’s Banquet.
The call deals with three areas of our lives;
Our devotion to God
Our devotion to other church members
Our devotion to those who hate us
Our devotion to God is to be zealous, bold, joyful, patient and prayerful. This will only begin to happen if we develop daily habits of personal devotion. If we do not spend time reading and studying the Scriptures we should not be surprised if we find that our faith flags and we find little of the joy of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we do not pray we should not be surprised if we do not see the fruits of prayer (which begins with a soul that is quietened) in our lives.
In response to this why not write down one personal commitment to deepen your devotion to God?
Our devotion to other church members is to be generous and overflowing with hospitality. Refusing to see ourselves as separate from others we carry each others joys and sorrows taking care to see that we do not put ourselves over or above another. Only by doing this will we stand any chance to find harmony and unity and become the answer to the prayer Jesus made for us on the night before he died for us and for all those who will find it difficult to love or care for.
In response to this why not choose one personal commitment to serve another member of our church more deeply? P.S. this will work best if done anonymously and without publicity.
Our devotion to those who hate us is the most challenging part of this text.
We are called to give food and drink to those who would malign us. We are urged to seek out the best in every person regardless of how they treat us. When we find ourselves on the receiving end of the hatred of another the only option we have is to respond with love, or else two will be consumed by hate instead of one and how then can anyone be saved? This is what it means to ‘overcome evil with good’.
In response to this why not write on a sheet of paper the ways in which another has wronged you and then burn it?
After that take a fresh sheet of paper and write down one good thing you see in the life of the person who has maligned or judged and then add them to your daily prayers?
Loving others, especially those who hate us, is not easy – it cost our Lord his life on the cross – but it is the only way to the resurrection.
The Golden Rule of ‘treating others as how we would they treat us’ is a truth that beats at the heart of so many of the faiths of the world and one of the reasons why there is so much hatred in the world is not (as some would say) because of religion, but rather because of our failure to follow the tenets of the faiths we claim to own.
In this time of pandemic, which has brought with it selfishness and suspicion, hatred and judgement, our world has great need of people who are deeply invested in following their faith.
People devoted to God
People devoted to their communities
People devoted to loving those who hate
If we but take up the challenge of living a faithful life to the full then, regardless of pandemic or other disease, we will be people who, in the words of the late Michael Jackson, do indeed ‘Heal the World.’
[This blog ‘A Smorgåsboörd of Love’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]