Today in church we heard the beatitudes from the gospel of Luke. They sound different than the ones in Matthew. I was particularly struck by verse 22. We have all suffered by being excluded, ignored, insulted. Exclusion hurts. It makes us feel “less than.” We have to remember that exclusion is something that humans do. God will never exclude us for any reason. God always includes.
Luke 6:20-26 New International Version (NIV)
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Today being all about love the most important description of it comes from 1 Corinthians 13. Nothing says it better.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Hopefully we each have someone who loves us. Those who love forgive our mistakes and look beyond to the person beneath. God has promised that we are each loved this way by him. His love sees all that we are…warts and everything. We are each loved.
Too often we think about love as an emotion. When we love there are times when we do feel an emotion surrounding it but that is not all there is. Love is what we choose. Love is what we do. The emotion may not be forefront but the choice and the doing always are.
When something goes wrong in our lives we often either feel guilty if we see ourselves as responsible or we blame someone else. Neither position helps us. The only things that helps is to take the problem to God. If we are truly responsible then God will forgive us. If we hold anger or resentment God will help us to see that love is more important. No matter what…take it to God
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
Too often we are quick to find fault with others. It is so easy for us to see the sins of others and not look to our own first. Sometimes the thing we see in someone else is actually something we are guilty of ourselves. We are not called to judge others but to love them and share with them the message of Christ.
Today I have been thinking about morality. Einstein is correct. Morality is for us. God already has it. Morality is based in compassion, love, and empathy. Love is the most important. If we love others as ourselves we have no problem with morality. It will follow as naturally as the night follows the day.
I think this is the perfect time to center on a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am sure that Christ had no plan to be the most important person the world has ever known. His plan was to teach us about his father and how to live our lives. Each of us has a choice each day to live as Christ taught us. What is right is always the thing to do. We don’t know what the impact of that choice will be. It doesn’t matter.
Isaiah has a clear picture of what we wait for during Advent. We wait for Jesus who can show us how to live. His life is our path. Follow it.
Isaiah 61: 1-3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.