Sunday, February 23, 2014

Being a Good Lover

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany 
on Matthew 5:38-48; Jesus expands on responding to others and loving enemies

What makes a good lover?  Among other things, Presence (mental presence if not physical presence... two people can be in the same room and one of them is not there...), two-way communication (talking and listening, actively engaging), and the common goal of being in relationship with each other.
Regarding today's scriptures (Matthew 5:38-48 and Leviticus 18:1-2, 9-18), I'll be speaking on two phrases and an MO. There's a blank page in your bulletin for taking notes.
The MO, the method of operation, how do you go about things. Often used in criminal investigations, MO signature. I'd like to use it as a Jesus signature, a disciple signature, a son or daughter of God signature. That MO, that signature has to do with “yielding”. In traffic, yield means slow down (that's how it's used) but more it means to pay attention to surroundings and to give right of way to the other.
I want to use “yield” as an imitation-of-Christ discipline of displacing self from the center... laying aside pride, laying aside pettiness, laying aside thoughts or rights of revenge. If pride (or pettiness, or revenge) is your MO, you're not "holy (set apart) like God is holy" (Leviticus 19:2)
Jesus says this in 38-42, don't oppose those who want to hurt you, turn the other cheek, give your coat as well as your shirt, go two miles, give without expectation of repayment... all have to do with some kind of unequal relationship and not exploiting it, not making a big deal of it. Don't act as though you're better than others, don't let your MO be proving your status, and if others are going to puff themselves up around you, okay. That's their deal. Be holy as God is holy... set apart (again, Lev 19:2).
Two phrases and an MO. The MO: Yield.
Phrase 1: Verse 45 that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.
Translators have to make choices in language. The CEB says "children" where the Greek says "sons." They do that to include women, but the tradeoff is in maturity. I prefer to say "sons and daughters," though I know the word 'daughters' is not present in the Greek.
So that you will be children (NRSV)... be acting as children (CEB)... the Greek word is more a process word, and the phrase is better translated “so that you may become sons and daughters of your Father in heaven.”
Loving enemies and praying for those that harass or persecute you, that is the action that molds you into a son or daughter of God... when you do these things you are becoming son or daughter, you are claiming God as Father and God is claiming you. It's a process of maturation in the Spirit of God.
MO yield, phrase so that you may become sons and daughters, and phrase two from verse 48, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. You've heard it translated be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. “Perfect” and “complete” set off my Greek radar... the word comes from teleos, which has to do with perfection, completion, wholeness... finished, accomplished, mature, the way it's supposed to be... be that. God is as God is supposed to be; I am on my way. How do I get there? By displacing myself from center, laying aside pride, and loving enemies.
We may prefer to think in terms not of enemies, but opponents. (aside: example of worthy opponent in Olympics last week, after winning gold in the 15K cross country ski, Swiss Olympic skiier Dario Cologna waited at finish line for half an hour to greet the last place Roberto Carrelen, from Peru. That's a classy sportsman.)

On dealing with opponents:
I borrow from Bishop Mike Coyner of Indiana, five points (write 'em down)
1 - “I could be wrong” – humbles, allows opponent to have difference.
2 – practice stating opposing opinions without labeling or cynicism, better understanding of other's POV, others more willing to listen
3 – agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Be civil and polite.
4 – keep things in perspective. Don't make mountains out of molehills.
5 – Allow God to speak for himself, and don't presume God agrees with you on all of your opinions.

Being a good lover. Get yourself, your pride out of the middle. See your opponent as human, as a daughter or son of God, as God's beloved... See your opponent as God sees them, as God sees you. Mature, as God made you to be.

Hymn 395 Take Time to be Holy

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