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Message from Our Pastor

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Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's August 18th homily.  Relevant text:  Luke 12: 49-56.

I really wanted to avoid Luke’s text today, but its truth is so visible in today’s world that I couldn’t see how I could ignore it.

When most of us think about the Kingdom of God, the reconciled eternal kingdom where God reigns and all is right with the world, we think of that Peaceable Kingdom mentioned in Isaiah where: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” Right?

But how does this kingdom come about and how do we become members of it?

Several weeks ago a lawyer asked Jesus that same question: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Do you remember Jesus’ answer? Jesus, answered with a question of his own: “What is written in the law?”

What IS written in the law? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus said: “You have answered correctly, go and do this and you will live.”

If only the lawyer would have just gone and done that, but you know lawyers. The lawyer pushed Jesus further and asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

And how is neighbor defined according to the story of the Good Samaritan? “Which of the three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The one who showed him mercy.” A neighbor is one who shows mercy. To which Jesus said go and do likewise.

To this day, Christians are still asking and answering the question, who is my neighbor? And not all have the same answer.

The understanding of who is our neighbor and what it means to love our neighbor, has divided our country; it has divided us as a Christian body of believers; it has divided communities; and, it has divided families, just as Jesus said he would.

Many of Jesus’ actions and most of what he taught was a living out of the parable of the good Samaritan. Everywhere he went he showed mercy and grace to those who needed it. He didn’t ask their age, or country of origin, or religion, or gender identity, or whether they could stand on their own two feet.

When he saw a need, whether it was a man, woman or child, Samaritan, fisherman, Centurion, leper, cripple, demoniac, or sinner, Jesus reached out and met that person’s need, curing, casting out, forgiving, touching, restoring, feeding, clothing, embracing, having compassion, and showing mercy on those everyone else had cast aside, labeled unworthy and not wanted.

And don’t think that just because Jesus is the Son of God all went well and smoothly. It didn’t. Such talk and actions about caring for neighbors, sinners, and the least of these got him pushed out of his home town. His own family members thought he was crazy and tried to stop him. The established religious and government leaders considered him a threat, so much a threat they crucified him.

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

How is it that Jesus’ message of love and mercy can be so divisive? All we need is love, right? That may be, but to love and show mercy requires us to make a choice. That choice is based on our answer to the question: Who is my neighbor? Whom will we love, to whom will we show mercy?

This is what divided the people among whom Jesus walked. This is what divided Jesus’ family. This is what divides communities today. This is what divides nations today, ours included.

The gospel is radical. Love your neighbor, love your enemies, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give to the poor, visit those in prison, care for the orphan and widow, welcome the outcast and lonely, serve those who should be serving you.

This is not a popular agenda among most of the world’s population. Even Christians have a hard time living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is precisely because the Gospel of our Lord is so radical, that those who commit themselves to Jesus should be prepared for opposition, even from their own family. But this doesn’t mean we should go out looking to be divisive.

It simply means that it goes with the territory of choosing Christ and living the Gospel in such a way as to bring about God’s Kingdom, and seeing to it that God’s is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

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