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You have heard it said...

Notes & Transcripts

class=MsoNormal>Do you want to be a child of heaven? 

Well today we have the wonderful good fortune of welcoming Mya into the family of God by the sacrament of Holy Baptism

            And in doing so she has become a child of God

                        By her birth she was creature of God – one of God’s creation

But by her baptism something wonderful has happened and she has become one of the family and a child of God

Today, as every time we as a church community celebrate baptism, we all claimed or rather reclaimed our own baptismal covenant with God, our Father

            And so everyone here today made a declaration to be a child of heaven

Our Gospel today also gives us a window into being a child of heaven

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But what I tell you is this, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-45)


What a wonderful opportunity and privileged to be given this window into becoming a child of heaven

            This message, as wonderful as it is, is part of a much bigger task and mission

In baptism, we are made one of the family, it is an initiation rite, it is the first step in a life of faith

What lies ahead for young Mya, and in fact all of us, is a life of responding to God’s grace-filled invitation

Stephanie, and Nathan – Derek, Rachel and Benjamin, as parents and Godparents have all promised to help Mya along her journey of faith

            And we as a congregation have made a promise as well

We have promised to do all in our power as we are able to support Mya in her life in Christ

And, we have all made a statement of faith known as the Apostle’s creed

Today, Jesus the Christ tells us some of what it means of our responsibility in the relationship with God

We are continuing our several week series on the Sermon on the Mount

We began with the warm message of blessing that God declares, known as the Beatitudes

Then we jumped into the first part of the ethical teachings of what it means to be a Christian – starting with the Lord’s claim that WE are the salt of the earth and the light of the world

Which brings us with our passage today – so appropriate for our baptism celebrations – appropriate because we are told of our responsibilities to be a child of heaven

To be a child of heaven – we are told to: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44b)

Wait a minute – love our enemies… that doesn’t make sense

Intuitively, we all know that enemies are not to be loved

Dictionary defines an enemy as: a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.[1]

                        These… are the people that we are to LOVE?

                                    I think most people would agree that we live in an ‘eye for an eye’ world

                                                Our whole system of justice is built on it

If someone wrongs you physically – you call the police and their actions have consequences

If someone were to soil a person or business’ reputation – it is called slander and there is a response that strives to evoke justice from the situation

It is the same in our homes, I imagine many of you could relate to this situation

            At the beginning of school year, we were wondering if Matthew was not going to make it

You see on the first day of classes, one of his classmates was in his face – literally putting his hands on Matthew’s face

Well, Matthew being a 4th child has learned to take care of himself and punched the other boy to get him away

We were told by the teacher, and we of course told Matthew that this was not an appropriate way to act

But, in reality we were really not that concerned, I mean the other kid ‘started it’ and Matthew just finished it

The next day was fine, but the third day of school, Matthew was building something with the building blocks and another boy came over and knocked it over

            Matthew again reacted and this time by throwing a block at the other kid

Again the teacher spoke to us and again we reprimanded Matthew and told him, this was not the appropriate behavior

But deep down, we still weren’t that upset – we told Matthew that he was not to hit others in any form what-so-ever but we still weren’t that concerned

I mean, if the other kids hadn’t wronged Matthew, nothing would have happened – … an eye for an eye

Matthew has basically settled down and started to understand what is appropriate behavior and what is not

But one day when Kelly was volunteering in the class, she overheard one boy say to another “don’t mess with Matthew he hits back”

To a four year old and in fact to our entire system of justice “an eye for an eye” makes sense

            It would be considered common sense in our society today and common sense in Jesus’ time

                        Jesus says: You have heard that it was said … But I say to you…

Jesus takes the common understandings of the world and calls for something better – something higher

            “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44b)

                        And the reward is to be called ‘a child of heaven’

Consider some of the other things that Jesus instructs them to do

If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; (Matthew 5:39b)

            Matthew, and most of us, don’t think this way

And on the surface it simply seem illogical and might be the reason why Christians are sometimes seen as doormats – pushed around by society

There are some Christians that believe that Jesus was teaching an ethic of passivism – sometimes exercising their religious freedom to abstain from military service

There are others that direct us to look at what Jesus is saying in the culture that He is in

Walter Wink in an insightful book “The Powers That Be” provides some excellent commentary on this

In this book the chapter titles give some clue to a different response

            Jesus’ answer to domination

            Breaking the spiral of violence

            Jesus’ third way

            Practical non-violence

            Beyond pacifism and ‘Just war’ [theory]

Wink suggests that when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, he is not merely suggesting that Christians take a beating and trust that it is a nobler way

But in fact that the socially acceptable way to strike one’s slave (and 1/3 of the population were financially indentured slaves) was using the back of the right hand (and 90% of the population is right handed) across the right cheek

So when Jesus suggested that one offer up the other cheek, it would have meant that the person would have to strike the left cheek with an open hand

            This was socially unacceptable and seen as an act of violence

                        Back of the hand – simple social discipline

                        Open hand – violence, assault

                                    And thus humiliation

What Jesus has suggested is practical non-violence or also referred to as creative non-violence

Not to roll over and passively be beaten – but create a situation where violence is exposed for what it is


Jesus also says and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; (Matthew 5: 40)

In Hebrew culture is someone was owed money they were allowed to ‘sue’ the debtor for their coat. This would create a constant reminder of the debt and would be humiliating and hopefully mean that they would pay it back soon

            2000 years ago, before central heating, the coat would also be returned each evening

What Jesus is suggesting is that if someone forces you into a humiliating situation of taking your coat, give them your cloak as well, something that was not allowed, thus reversing the humiliation

Again, Jesus has reversed the power balance by creative non violence and there-by exposing the oppressive behaviour


Jesus also says and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile (Matthew 5:41)

In Jesus’ time Israel was occupied land – the Hebrew culture was allowed to exist but within the Roman Empire’s oversight

The Roman military even though the most powerful, was always smaller in number then the people of the land in which they occupied

Roman soldiers were often a mobile force and by Roman rule, they could make someone carry their packs one mile

But aware of not wanting to overburden the people of the land, Roman soldiers were not allowed to demand someone to carry their load more than a mile

So Jesus suggesting that if forced to go one mile, go a second mile – He is exposing the power for what it is an oppressive imposition

Again Jesus is not suggesting that someone simply give in and let others take advantage of you – but to be creative in your response – striping the power

Jesus taught a new way – to follow Jesus is to be engaged in the world – but engage in a different way

            A way of peace – a way of creativity – a way of non-violence

A way in which a disciple exposes injustice – and works towards peace and righteousness

                                    This the way for us

This is at the heart of the promises that are made by Stephanie, and Nathan – Derek, Rachel and Benjamin

And they are what we, each and every one of us, are called to do as we live out the promises of our own baptism

            Which we re-committed, reaffirmed today


And when we turn the other cheek – offer more than is asked – go the extra mile - Love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us

            We are living a righteous life – we are perfect in the eyes of our Lord

                        And   we   are   a   child   of   heaven

Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine! - Amen


[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enemy

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