THE 7TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
1 Corinthians 15:21-26, 30-42 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Easier said than done. Yes, there are some things that are a little easier said than done. There might be a couple of just such things in what the Lord Jesus has to say to us this morning. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them - the so-called “Golden Rule” - at first glance, might not seem to be one of them. No, many people who think that this is all that Christianity is about, believe it to be, as easily said as done. The path to being a “good” person is simple - just keep the “Golden rule” and you’ve got it covered.
But as Jesus unpacks that little saying for us today, the full weight of it comes crashing down. No, no, we’re not just talking about being polite and nice to other people in your life, or even paying for the guy’s coffee in the drive thru line behind you. No, we’re not simply talking about treating our family and friends in the way that we want to be treated, or even random acts of kindness for strangers. The “Pay it Forward” principle that the Lord lays out for us this morning, is far deeper and greater than all of that.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” All of this is what Jesus sums up with, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
The heart and depth, and so, the full weight of what Jesus is saying is found not in the face of your friends and family, but in the face of those who have wounded and hurt you the most. Here isn’t justice. No, not an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. But mercy, grace and real love. Here is returning good for evil, even when you’d be in the right to demand judgement and punishment. This is what real love does. It gives and sacrifices even to its own harm. Loving the lovable after all doesn’t take much love.
No, love only comes into its fullness, when it’s turned toward the one who hates and is hateful, the one who is not only turned against you, but justly deserves to have you turned against them. Here, beloved, love begins to draw near to its heart and source, that beats at the core of the Holy Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are love, all true love is from them and is only known in them. It is this love of God that the Lord Jesus calls you, who hear Him this morning, into. Not some sham of it or shadowy image of it but its raw almighty reality.
“Some things are easier said than done.” Indeed. If only we had that in mind when we were told the lie in Eden, “You will be like God.” “Ok, here you go, now step up,” the Lord Jesus says this morning. “You want to be like God? This is what it looks like. Are you not only ready to be hated, cursed and abused, beaten, robbed and stripped but also to love, bless and pray for those who do it, while you simply stand there and take it all? You want to be like God? Watch me and see what that looks like. Watch me and see what you’re signing up for.
Watch me as they strike me, spit on me and beat me. Watch me as they strip me, scourge me, crown me with thorns and mock me. Watch me as they burden me with their cross and drive me up Calvary. Watch me as they pound the nails through my hands and feet and lift me up in the air to suffer and die, while they curse and insult me. Watch me as I pray for them, pleading to the Judge of all for their forgiveness. Watch me as I shed my blood for them, suffering and dying to save them. Yea, I don’t think Satan pointed all that out to you in the fine print in his “you’ll be like God deal,” did he?”
You want to be like God? Far easier said than done. As is being a “good” person. God alone is good. And so to be “good” you need to be like God. Again, far easier said than done. But the truly beautiful thing that is revealed for you this morning, as the Lord Jesus lay out what it means to be sons of the Most High God, is that He reveals the heart of the Most High God for you. Even as He lays out the fullness of what He calls you to, that in so many ways is so clearly beyond you, He unveils the depths of what He is in love toward you.
The hard part of what Jesus has to say to us this morning is that we are called to be kind and merciful like God, to the ungrateful and evil, but the blessed Good News is, that this is how God is. No, He is not like us at all. What a blessed relief that is, isn’t it? No, He doesn’t hold unto people’s sins like we do. He doesn’t make them pay for them like we do. He doesn’t say that He can’t forget what they did, even if He can forgive them, like we do. He doesn’t hold on to the hope, that they’ll get what’s coming to them some day like we do. He doesn’t cut people off because they hurt or failed Him too many times.
“A lot easier said than done,” yes, that’s the truth for poor miserable sinners like you and me which is why we need a Saviour, a Lord who will be toward us, all that we fail to be toward others. It is also why we need the Holy Spirit to be at work in us, if there is to be any hope of us being all that God wants us to be as His children. No, we cannot be holy without Him, as we cannot be merciful as our Father is merciful, without His merciful work in our hearts. He and He alone can move us to pay forward what God has given us and continues to give us. He and He alone can make us be toward others all that God is toward us day by day.
The Spirit must give us eyes to see ourselves before God in everyone who hates or hurts us, so that we can be moved from judgement and condemnation to mercy and forgiveness. It is just such eyes that He is at work to give you today, beloved, as through the Word He lays your own hearts bare before the Lord Jesus at the altar, and then directs your gaze to the wounded heart that comes here today to serve you in love and mercy. Judgement? Condemnation? Yes, that is what you each deserve, but no, that is not what is poured out and waiting for you here, because it was poured out on Jesus for you. Look today on His nail pierced hands and feet, and know, that what is a lot easier said than done for you, was fully and completely said and done by Him for you.
So come, now, receive all that Christ was and is for you, all that He has paid forward for you by His bitter sufferings and death, that by His Spirit you might be deepened and enriched in the love that He wants to pay out through you into the world. Amen.