Today's Lectionary Text
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Perhaps you’ve never encountered some of the people I’ve encountered in my life. I’m talking about the people where I find myself saying (sometimes even during the encounter): “Lord, I’m glad you love this person because I’m having a tough time with her/him/them.”
There are people I am confident whose sole purpose in life is to try my patience, get on my last nerve or simply aggravate me to no end. These are the people who never use their turn signal, who use the drive-through when placing an order for 10 different people (who seem to keep changing their minds), or who use the 15 items and under line at the grocery store when they have 30-plus separate (no duplicate) items in their basket.
It is in these moments – that don’t happen that often – that I remember Jesus’ admonition to his first disciples to “love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” as it reads in today’s passage. My real issue with any of this, if I’m honest, is a lack of control.. Something isn’t happening the way I want or expect it to happen; I’m not in control and I’m not happy.
Even when it seems that I have a complete lack of control, I need to remember that can still control myself. I can control my reaction(s) and my words. I can remember that the person making the turn without signaling – and putting others in traffic at higher risk – has been and will one day again be ME! I can remember that the person who absentmindedly got in the 15 items or less line -- has been and will one day again be ME! I’m thinking you’re getting the picture by now.
I can remember … and I can be thankful for the people who have graciously extended grace to me when I have tried someone else’s patience, gotten on someone else’s last nerve or aggravated someone else to no end (no need to email me a reminder of any of those times).
I can remember, I can be thankful, and I can be the person who extends God’s grace in a moment when I have no other apparent control. I may start my “Lord, love ‘em” prayer with a bit of not-so-helpful attitude, but I can finish it with complete honesty, adding a prayer for God to help me be with this person, these people or in this situation in a grace-filled way.
As the 2019 Special Session of General Conference officially starts today, I am confident that there are quite a few people (including me) who have been and continue to lift some version of a “Lord, love ‘em” prayer in the midst of encountering someone who is “different.” My hope is that each of these prayers includes a remembrance of God’s love for all of creation and an openness to how God might use the speaker as an avenue of grace in a challenging moment.
-Rev. Karen Jeffcoat
Registrar, Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry
Prayer for Reflection
Lord, thank you for the love and grace I have received. May I be an avenue of your grace, especially in the situations and with the people I find most challenging. Amen.
This Week's Lectionary
This Week's Liturgical Color