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Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Sermon Template - September 1, 2016 (24)

Matthew 5:38-48

On Wednesday night, our friend, Andrew, was struck head-on by a drunk driver. His car was obliterated and he is in the ICU in critical condition. The drunk driver was reportedly fine. I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't had a few thoughts about what should have happened to the driver or how long he should go to jail....or even wished, at least just a little, that he might have some kind of pain, or be absolutely devastated by what he's done to our friend. I've thought a good bit about justice. I want something in the cosmos to shift, even if just a little, so that it's not

just Andrew who is suffering. That only seems fair.
But then this annoying voice breaks in...one that says, "Do you really want someone else to suffer? Is that really showing God's love?
And then I roll my eyes and think ...."No...." Sigh. I just want something to make it right for Andrew. I wish the accident never happened. I wish we could take it all away somehow. And somehow it seems that justice might be able to do that....to take some of the sting away. Maybe it wouldn't be so awful if someone paid the proper price for his broken body.
And then that voice starts to break in all over again..this time with more clarity...he says, you want something to make it right, to heal things...and you think vengeance will do that? It can't. It doesn't have the capacity. Justice may balance the scales. But it can't bring redemption or true healing, only God can do that. So, how about, instead of seeking justice in this, you seek God...and then God can help set things right...bringing light, hope, healing, and mercy to a terrible, heartbreaking situation.
That voice makes it sound so reasonable...so simple and straightforward...like I should have thought of mercy and compassion and grace first. But justice really does seem like a decent answer.
Think about it. The logic and the standards of the Old Testament were about justice and they make good sense. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. You hurt me. I hurt you. You cut my hand, I cut yours. You steal two loaves of bread, I want two back. You break my heart, I break yours. This is good logic. One for one. This is right and this is fair. It's reasonable. It's manageable. It's consistent. And it's obvious. One for one, two for two, ten for ten. Anyone should be able to follow that kind of rule. Right?
Of course. But when Jesus steps in and pushes on these arguments, he sort of says I'm not really worried about the laws you know, I'm here to teach you something different. You see a man who slaps you on the face, so you're ready to slap him back. He slapped you, you slap him. Not anymore. If you want to do it my way, you turn the other cheek. Don't settle the score. Don't be consumed by so-called fairness. Jesus takes the historical, and biblical teachings and turns them on their head.
Why? Well, I don't think it's that Jesus is opposed to justice. I really don't. This isn't about letting all evil doers run free. I just think that he sees the bigger picture and knows that justice won't heal our hearts. He knows it's not simply about one for one or 100 for 100. Righting the world, or shifting the cosmos, or, really, simply helping our heart to heal when we've been lied to, betrayed, or hurt takes a whole lot more than justice. It takes mercy and grace. Jesus knew that. So he taught his people to live by grace, to extend the standard beyond the rules of justice and into the realm of God.

One of the most powerful stories of grace and mercy was shared by Bishop Meadors years ago when I was in seminary. He was preaching and shared about a civil war in Africa where a woman had watched a soldier kill both her husband and her son, leaving her alone. Eventually, he was charged with war crimes and she sat through his trial and then his sentencing hearing. During sentencing, the judge asked if she had anything to say. She said she wanted part of his sentence to be to come and have dinner with her once a week because she had a lot of love left to give and, now, no one to share it with. And so that became part of his sentence, to share dinner with the woman whose family he had stolen, and allow her to love him and offer kindness.
This woman took Jesus' teaching seriously. Probably more seriously than many of us are prepared for. But you can't deny that she got it. She saw beyond justice and into the realm of God. She knew that nothing and no one could bring her husband and son back. No form of justice could ever do that. But what she really wanted, was someone to love and share life with. Someone to talk about the day or the week. Someone to cook for. Someone to love. And so she showed God's agape love to a murderer...one who, by all accounts, should have been counted as her enemy.
Living Christ's teaching is not easy, especially here. But, if we can muster the courage, it is worth it. It will look different for different people and different situations.
But, if it feels antithetical, unreasonable, or unwarranted...it's probably the kind of forgiveness Jesus would like. Jesus isn't really into the easy pass with those who are likeable. He pushes the limits with those who are impossible, hate-able, and infuriating. Jesus doesn't want us to ignore the law. Instead, he wants us to live by the rules of God's kingdom. Rules that require compassion, forgiveness, and grace. Rules that are immeasurably harder to maintain than an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Years ago, I was talking about something with my sister. I don't remember the specifics, only that I exclaimed, "It's not fair." In her infinite wisdom my sister said, "In the end we don't want justice, we want mercy." And immediately, begrudgingly, I knew she was right. In the end we do want mercy. We want forgiveness. We want redemption. We want something to make it better and that something has to be God, for only God can do more than we know or understand.
Let us pray.

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