Our February 20 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The February 27 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
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Genesis 43:3-11, 15 | Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50 | Luke 6:27-38
The Genesis text this is morning is, I believe, the only story we have that comes up in the three-year lectionary which is about Joseph. And, since it is appointed for the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, we don’t even get it every three years because some years there isn’t a Seventh Sunday After Epiphany! After all of the things that his brother did to him, culminating in selling him into slavery to their cousins the Ishmaelites, Joseph at the end of the Book of Genesis forgives his brothers. It was the Ishmaelites who sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt, not his brothers. That would make a good Bible trivia question. Realize that Joseph’s family are the ones who put “fun” in dysfunctional. And realize that Joseph has been called the only person in the Old Testament that you can call a saint. This story proves it. Joseph had risen from a slave, to managing his owner’s estate, then his owner’s prison, then becoming basically the Prime Minister, if you will, of Egypt. And in that capacity, he had saved the Egyptians from starvation, and the whole region, including his family in modern day Israel, it was then the Land of Canaan. As the Pharaoh’s right-hand man, his brothers were basically his slaves, and he could have punished them severely. The only person who could have stopped him was the Pharaoh. And I doubt that Pharaoh would have interfered. But Joseph forgives them. More than that, he says, “Am I in the place of God?” It was God’s unseen hand that did this so that so many people could be saved. Notice, Joseph doesn’t even take credit for what he has done. It was all God’s work, another reason why he is considered the only OT saint. Joseph was a very forgiving and gracious man, a faithful man.
Joseph is sort of an object lesson for the Gospel text. Forgive my enemies! Are you kidding? Well, I can forgive my family. You kind of have to do that. Maybe I can forgive my friends, if they are a really good friend. But my enemies??? You must be joking. Actually, thinking about it this week, how many people really have enemies anymore? I mean really personal enemies, people who are out to make your life miserable? People who lay awake nights plotting things to do to you? You know, people who hate you! George Bernard Shaw once said, “Hatred is the revenge of the coward for being humiliated.” I think that is a good definition of a hatred that leads to being someone’s enemy. I can’t think of any enemies of mine. True, there are people that I’m not particularly fond of. But I tolerate them. I can’t think of anyone that I really want to destroy, utterly. Hebrew actually has a verb tense to do something utterly. So, biblically, it is possible to destroy someone utterly. There are some people that may be considered an “opponent” on some subjects, but not enemies. Many of you know that I’m a chess fanatic. What do you do when you sit down to the chess table? You shake the opponent’s hand. Then you play the game. The object of which is to KILL the opponent’s king. Then when the game is over, win or lose, what do you do? You shake the opponent’s hand, and say, “Good game. Thank you.” Not an enemy, but an opponent. And they are due courtesy. Before a karate match and in practice, you bow to your opponent. Why? To thank them for the opportunity to improve your technique. Two violent endeavors, but done with civilized courtesy. You’re not there to destroy an enemy.
On the other hand, this week I learned of a new hybrid sport. That is when they combine two activities into one. It is called “Chessboxing.” I kid you not. It is real. Evidently the two opponents alternate rounds boxing and then playing chess. The winner is the one who either knocks his opponent out in a boxing round, or checkmates his opponent in a chess round. We live in a weird world. Do they shake hands or touch gloves at the beginning, or at the beginning of each round. How do they move a pawn with the boxing gloves on. That alone would be a challenge.
I love to think about the strange ironies in history when we think about enemies. One of my favorites, and most poignant, is that when you visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, when you enter the foyer, you will see on a table in the foyer, a bust of Alexander Hamilton. If you know your history, you know that they were political opponents in many ways. If you ask the docent, like I did, “Who put that there?!” The docent will tell you, “Thomas Jefferson.” It is his tribute to his great opponent, “Enemy?””
Read the real history, you’ll be surprised. During the Crusades, Saladin had a nice, cordial conversation one afternoon with St. Francis of Assisi, on the topic of religion. First, it is interesting that St. Francis went on a Crusade. Second, it is interesting that he wished to speak to Saladin. And third, it is also interesting that Saladin agreed to sit down and speak with St. Francis. But Saladin was interested in all religions. Neither one changed the other’s mind. Also, during that same Crusade, King Richard the Lion Heart became ill. Saladin heard that Richard was ill. What did Saladin do? He sent his personal physician to treat Richard for his ailment. Perhaps our modern world could learn something from the Medieval world.
“Love your neighbor.” Who is my neighbor? Everyone. “Love your enemy.” Who is my enemy? Well, if everyone is your neighbor, and you love them, you don’t have any enemies. So, in the name of Christ, Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and soul, and strength. Love your neighbors as yourself. And if you do that, you can love your enemies, because you won’t have any. And that is the Gospel truth.