Sermon Text: You Have Got to Be Kidding!
When my son Ryan was in the fourth grade, he and his friend Brad loved cooking up schemes to make some fast cash every now and then. One summer afternoon they asked if they could set up a little cardboard stand in our front yard to sell lemonade and popcorn to the neighbors. I said, “Sure, but my friend Bonnie will be over for coffee soon, so I would like you two to help entertain her son Christopher while you are doing your stand.” Ryan rolled his eyes, sighed heavily, (“Really??”) and finally (and reluctantly) agreed to involve Christoper in their activity. Well, no sooner had the two boys set up their stand than an exasperated Ryan came running over to me, whispering into my ear as I sat with my friend that Christopher was already ruining the lemonade and popcorn enterprise. “He’s stealing the popcorn and throwing it back at us, knocking down the stand, calling us names, and even sprayed us with the hose! Come on, Mom, we don’t want him around us!” Ryan became even more exasperated when I told him that he and Brad did indeed have to involve Christopher, be nice to him, because he and his mother were our guests, and that we did not want to hurt their feelings.
A little while later, Ryan and Brad came running back to us with open hands triumphantly presenting almost $7.00 of profit from the stand. The ice cream truck had arrived nearby, and they asked if they could buy themselves a treat for their hard work. “Of course you may, Honey, and be sure to get something for Christopher, too.” Ryan gave me a “you have got to be kidding, Mom” look! The look seemed to say, “You expect us to be nice to this little weasel who terrorized us and sabotaged our stand? He doesn’t deserve ice cream or anything from our hard-earned money!” There was even a look of “you can do it, Mom, but we are not! Injustice!” (Well, they did, they had no choice, and it all worked out well, and the three boys sat on the lawn enjoying their ice cream together on that particular summer day.)
Oh, if life could be so easy, if peace and understanding, acceptance and tolerance of one another, all others, could find such rewarded moments over ice cream (or some other good thing) being shared, respected, honored, and enjoyed on the front lawn of our lives! Just like being in the Kingdom of God, living out the Gospel of Love that Jesus so wants us to grab hold of in our Christian and human existence. Rather than criticizing, condemning, castigating, resenting, fearing, and shunning people who are rude, or worse yet, who steal, who lie, those perceived to be evil and violent persons, politics and prejudices aside, Jesus tells us to love, to forgive, to share, to pray for them, for everyone – everyone, without qualifications. To remember that we are called, all of us, to be a community of God’s beloved children, no matter who we are or what we have done to have been perceived as undeserving of tender care. To remember that God loves every single person on earth as if he or she were the only person alive! We are called to do the same.
Most likely, none of us are surprised in knowing and believing that God treats, loves, and cares for everyone equally, at any given time in life. We fully expect God to take care of the poor, the sick, the lonely, the dirty, the derelict, the people who are downtrodden in society. We are not even really surprised that God genuinely and lovingly cares also for liars, thieves, criminals, even horrible terrorists, living among us in the world. What may catch us off guard is what we just heard in Luke’s Gospel, that Jesus expects his followers to do the same! So guess what? We are expected to do the same, that our standard of Christian/human action and attitude must always be none other than that of God himself! We must aspire to God’s standards and be like Jesus Christ among ALL people. Love, forgive, care! No more resentment or seeing others as dirty or despicable! Love is the answer that God is expecting from us! Remember Joseph, who loved and forgave his brothers for the worst possible evil done to him by them? Jesus formulates the ethics of God’s reigning love among all persons on earth, and we are called to be part of this redemptive action and salvation for the best and worst of human persons everywhere. Alleluia!
We are called to do much more than “you can do it, Mom, you can do it, God!” Rather it is “you can and must do it, Dorothy!” (and each one of us). “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” It may seem an unrelenting law of nature that we not to feel it is our bounden duty and privilege to be offended when injustice is in our faces, but once and for all, leave it all behind! May our hearts be the exact reflection of God’s heart of love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion – knowing we ourselves will always receive the very same from our Lord. We are loved!
Buy an ice cream for the pest. Sit in a sweet place and enjoy it with him or her there. Pray for the derelict. Have compassion for persons you believe most undeserving. The Good News of human salvation is the bestowal of God’s grace on all persons. Equity, equality, democracy, and benefits of leaderships are measured by a different value system in God’s gorgeous Kingdom. (Sojourners) We’re invited to meet our Lord on that level plain! Meet our brothers and sisters there, too. It is like being on the Lawn of Love in God’s Kingdom! AMEN.