I know that most of us all know this…but I want to state it for the record…The Scriptures are a Dangerous, Provocative, Startling, Enticing and Challenging set of Books!
And yet we choose to have them as an essential part of every liturgy we celebrate….isn’t that interesting?
And yet some will say…How are the Scriptures all of that? Doesn’t seem too bad really?
Well…when we started Spirit of Hope 12 years ago, one of the dreams I had, was that when folks walked in those doors, they would know they were welcomed, safe, appreciated and loved and when they walked back out over that threshold, they would say,…. Wow I am glad I came…I have a lot to think about this week.
Today with what we have just heard…I truly hope there will not be anyone who walks over that threshold that doesn’t say…wow I am glad I came tonight….I have a lot to think about!
As Paul said in his letter to the Corinthian community…”Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on anyone what God has prepared for those who love God!”
We heard a lot about “Laws” tonight…this particular periscope of the Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount…many times referred to by many as the Be-Attitudes….yet most don’t realize…that these teachings of Jesus on the Mount did not stop there…they kept going…and that is a portion of what we hear tonight.
We could easily say….ok, ok I get it…there is more to a law than just following the law….No killing means more than just literally no killing…No harboring resentments means more than just forgiving…No adultery means more than just not committing adultery against our spouse…
But…I think we would be remiss if that is all we walked away from this Gospel thinking we got it.
You see my friends I think the Gospel calls us to think even deeper…challenges us to understand our own biases, our prejudices and our understandings.
Not to make us feel bad about ourselves but to help us to see how the journey of and the journey to holiness is never over….it is a life long journey of loving, failing, forgiving, learning, trying and repeating that process over and over again.
Let me ask this question: Who here has ever driven over the posted speed limit? Who here has ever taken a pen, pencil or piece of paper from your work place? Who here has never fudged on a tax return or maybe a donation slip or at least been tempted to do so?
Ok…being absolutely honest with ourselves…we have most all likely broken some law, in some form, or in some way….right?
Let’s look at a definition:
1. a person who has committed a crime.
noun: crime; plural noun: crimes
1. an action or omission that constitutes an offense that may be prosecuted by the state
and is punishable by law.
Ok…are we not all “criminals” in some way, shape or form? Yet we live a society that on one hand wants to claim that criminals should not have rights to vote, or to housing, or jobs or any other number of things that the rest of us enjoy…right? Believe me I live this every day. I understand intimately the challenges that every convicted person faces upon leaving Prison.
So what’s the difference? Is there a difference?
According to our Criminal Justice System there are degrees within the criminal reality…from misdemeanors to felony…but the bottom line still remains…my friends we are all criminals One of the things that Jesus did in his Sermon on the Mount is get people to understand…there is a bigger picture…always something more than just the letter of the law. What Jesus did to those who were gathered he is still doing to us who are gathered today….he got and he gets us to think about our assumptions, presumptions, and prejudices. If we are all criminals….and I dare say if we are honest with each other, we truly all are, then aren’t we called to bring restoration to all, not just to some of us who didn’t get caught?
You see, the Gospel calls us to restore sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and to set the captives free. And yet we turn around and say….but not those…those guys, those women…they deserve to be locked up…they did their crime…they do their time…
The question for us is this: Has punishment ever brought about restoration, reconciliation or hope? The truth is, punishment might deter a person from doing something or some act, but it doesn’t change how a person thinks or understands themselves. Only restoration, reconciliation, and transformation accomplishes the hope of holiness.
Jesus had one primary mission in his life and ministry…to transform the world with the love of God… I believe that is our task as well…to carry on the mission of Jesus
Christ. Maybe it’s time to look at the Criminal Justice System again…but first we have to examine our own beliefs, understandings and prejudices…so when they bubble up in our lives, we might be able to invite God’s healing in.
I hope and pray we have a lot to think about this week!