Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

I intended to post this yesterday, but well you know the saying about intentions.

I used a power point presentation for the first time during a sermon and it went well. (only 1 overtly negative comment)
 May have to do it again sometime!

Matthew 5: 38-38

Perfection is overrated. This is a phrase I’ve heard hundreds of times. It’s a phrase I use when I fall short of the goals that I have set for myself, when I’ve slipped up, yet again. When I just don’t feel like putting in the effort. Being perfect is an obsession for many in our society.

When I was 13 my grandmother gave me a copy of an Emily Post book of etiquette. I know she was trying to be helpful. To guide me through the hazards of being a young lady. The book to her was a way to help me navigate the treacherous years ahead. Unfortunately for me, I took it as yet another list of rules and regulations that I would never live up to. Another way to judge myself as unworthy.

We struggle to look just like the images we see on magazines, never mind the fact that they have been retouched and changed to the point that they are only shadows of the “real” people they are to portray.

We are faced with ideals of the perfect wife, perfect father, perfect child. Even though these ideals are outdated at best and downright impossible at worst.

And so when I read the words from the gospel this morning “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly father is perfect.” I know there are many out there who react as I do, great, another thing to mess up at this week!

But then I remember, the very definition of Gospel is good news. There must be some good news in all of this. Jesus hasn’t taken us through this reimagining of the Levitical laws to leave us feeling down in the dumps, helpless. These words are to encourage, enliven, uplift us, support us for the journey to which  we are called.

I was directed to a quote from William Barclay, a well known theologian, on the word translated as perfect.

He uses and amazingly simple analogy to get at the meaning of telios. “You have a piece of furniture with a loose screw, so you want to tighten it up, make it right. In order to do this you need a screw driver that is the right size and weight for your hand; that screw driver also needs to be the right size to fit the screw; this will enable you to tighten the screw, fix the joint and make the furniture fit for purpose.   In the Greek sense, the screwdriver is telios because it has fulfilled the purpose for which it was wanted. Thus a man will also be telios if he fulfills the purpose for which he was created.”

This perfection is not about conforming to an ideal of what we should look like, act like, think like. It’s about fulfilling the purpose that God designed us to fulfill. Big sigh of relief, right?

Good, I don’t have to stress about perfection. I don’t have to worry about living up to a list of standards that are so high I get a nose bleed just looking at them.

All I have to do is find out my purpose and live into it.

Wait, my purpose?

The existential question that plagues all of us from our teen years, to choosing our college majors, to career choices to retirement. Who am I and what am I doing here!

Great, now I go from mild anxiety to full on panic attack!

But hold on. Throughout this season of epiphany we have been learning who we are as children of God. We’ve been reflecting on the way that God sees us and calls us to be.


We are beloved children of God.

We are salt.

We are light.

We are God’s field.

We are God’s building.

We are blessed.

We are loved.

Throughout the 5th chapter of Matthew Jesus has been telling us that life is so much more than what we want to make it. It’s not about being powerful and in charge. It’s not about putting others down to feel lifted up. It’s not about oppression. It’s about living a life of loving freedom. And today’s scripture is no different.

This morning Jesus invites us to live a life that is so much better than the one we currently experience.

Let us remember that the people Jesus spoke to lived as oppressed people. In the very Promised Land, they were watched over by a foreign occupying force. They were living under the Romans who had their own rules when it came to justice. Jesus reminds the people that God’s rule for their lives was not the same as Roman rule.

Christ called the people of his day and us to live in ways that are counter cultural. Don’t be obsessed with getting what yours. Don’t look out for number one. Open your eyes to the people around you in need. Give, lend, go the extra mile.

Doesn’t that sound good? Wouldn’t a world lived by the principles be a kinder gentler world? What would it look like?

It might look like this advertisement from Norway.

How many of us wouldn’t like to think we would help that sweet little boy?

 I know it’s an add designed to pull on your heartstrings. But bear with me. Yes, we think, yes I would give that boy my coat, my gloves, a phone to call his teacher. But,

But what if he wasn’t a cute little boy?

What if he looked like this? (images or homeless, of other ethnicities, of poor)

Jesus calls us to love our neighbor in some pretty tangible real ways. And he makes it very clear in today’s passage who our neighbor is. It includes those we would call enemies, not just the poor cute boy on the bench.

This is what we were designed to do. To be the salt and light to a world in need of preservation and removal from darkness.

Jesus told us it was his Holiness that was contagious, not our uncleanliness.

It’s not about just loving and caring for those who love us. Cause that’s easy. It’s about loving those who despise us. Who differ from us. Who are fundamentally opposed to us.

We are called to be telios, to be perfect as God is perfect. To fulfill our purpose. To love with the love of God. That’s a tall order, a challenging one, but one you and I are designed to do.

SO friends be perfect, be perfect in love, loving out of the love God first showed us.

To the world it might look foolish, but love is the best and wisest choice we will ever make.


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