“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
On this particular Independence Day we find ourselves saddled with the most divisive, hate filled, and un-Christian president we have had in our history as a nation. He is promoting enmity and sowing discord among the people of our great nation. He is attempting to divide further, an already troubled nation. My prayer for today is that we, the American people will not allow ourselves to be pitted against one another and that God will bless us with the love which is badly needed to heal the divides which separate us. The concept of loving one’s enemies is startling when you stop to think about it. There are people who I think of as enemies in an abstract way, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever get as far as loving them. For example, I would have a hard time loving a White Nationalist or a homophobe. Still, I have the hope that when people come face to face with the people they think of as the enemy, they’ll come to the realization that there is no room in their hearts for hate or enmity. A few years back I was called an anti gay slur by a young woman in a CVS parking lot. I was startled by it, and my knee jerk response was to strike back with an insult, which was clearly not what Jesus would have done. To my dismay, she burst into tears which startled me. I felt terrible for having hurt her, but I still couldn’t understand why she had felt the need to belittle me. We stood together for a short while silently and then to my surprise she apologized to me and then I to her. I wouldn’t say we parted as friends but we did come to an understanding, and we were able to show one another a small amount of kindness.
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
Today on The Nativity of Saint John The Baptist once again scripture bears witness against the actions of the Republicans and far right. John The Baptist railed against injustice and today I’ll follow his example. Most Republicans and other right wingers wear “Christianity” as a mantle and use the hate speech of radical right wing pastors to justify themselves. I’m not impartial, apolitical or non partisan, and at this point in our country there is a moral imperative to block legislation that hurts many millions of people and benefits few. The “healthcare” bill being put forward by the Republicans oppresses workers and costs them their hard earned wages, it oppresses widows and all other people over forty-six. Medicaid caps and allowing discrimination based on pre-existing conditions will oppress the disabled, orphans and anyone in need of costly medications or medical interventions. So far, every policy put forward by our president and his party stand in stark opposition to the teachings of Jesus and The Prophets. When Saint John The Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a viper’s brood, he could well have been speaking of the Republican’s in both the house and the senate. John The Baptist was not shy about calling out the leaders of his day for their sinfulness and we shouldn’t be shy about calling the denial of healthcare from tens of millions of people sin, because in my opinion that is exactly what it is.
3. “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? *
and who can stand in his holy place?”
4. “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
nor sworn by what is a fraud.
5. They shall receive a blessing from the Lord*
and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
This portion of psalm 24 seemed to me to be particularly relevant at this time. We hear news every day of more and more lies and deceptions from the current administration. The administration seems to be composed entirely of people who have pledged themselves to falsehood and sworn by what is fraud. The image of Donald Trump at the Western Wall in Jerusalem nauseated me. He is truly a defiler of the Temple.
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
Although throughout the history of Judeo-Christian civilization we have been taught to act justly toward one another, as a society we have not learned this lesson, or put it into practice in any meaningful way. Our current legislators run after the false gods of power and money. They seek to take food out of the mouths of the hungry and leave the sick to die unaided and without hope, in order to fill the coffers of the rich. Jeremiah railed against the people of his generation for these sins, just as Jesus did during his earthly ministry. We continue to hear this message preached from pulpits today. It’s hard to comprehend the cruelty with which our Republican congress has gleefully presented a budget that will cause tens of millions of Americans to suffer unnecessarily. They are in essence saying, “Widow and orphan be damned. Alien, get out. You who are sick, drop dead. You who are poor, starve. We won’t help any of you.” They want only to please the rich with tax cuts. They ensure their own reelection by whoring themselves out to the wealthy in return for contributions to their super PACs. People of all faiths, and people of no faith, who have even a small amount of compassion, should be able to see just how wrong and immoral it is to force the least fortunate to suffer, in order to give money to the most fortunate.
After the second sign in Cana there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
It’s striking that for thirty-eight years this man suffered and not one person had the compassion to help him get to the pool until Jesus came and healed him. I feel as if that’s the direction our government is headed. There will be more than one sick man who goes without health care if The Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced with the piece legislation that has been put forward by Paul Ryan and is band of heartless, corporate shills. There are many compassionate and wonderful people who will do all that they can to help those in need, but it won’t be enough. 24,000,000 people will lose their health insurance, and those with pre-existing conditions will likely lose theirs, lifetime caps will be put in place, causing many thousands of people to die because they won’t have enough money to keep themselves alive. What sort of government legislates death for thousands if not millions of its citizens? To allow greed to form our health care policies is depraved, cruel and unjust. Jesus asked the sick man, “Do you want to be made well?” The answer is that we all want to made well when we are sick or injured. Jesus was up against people who have a lot in common with our republican legislators, they lacked compassion, empathy and human decency.
“The one who is righteous will live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
It’s interesting to me that the Republican Party, which strangely tries to pass itself off as the party of family values and people of faith, is the same party that put forward and elected the biggest liar that America has ever known. Most of his lies are easily disproven and one of his lies often contradicts another. I realize that the lies discussed in this passage are lies about God and lies that deny God, but the comparison is justifiable I think, because we must have faith in God if we are to spiritually thrive, and we must also have faith in our government in order for our country to thrive. We cannot have faith in a government if it operates on lies, the suppression of facts and the silencing or discrediting of anyone who attempts to disseminate truth and or facts. Though the truth is invisible, we know truth because there is evidence of truth, just as we know lies because there is evidence of lies. If we substitute the word God with truth, the quote from above becomes more akin to a very timely OpED, “So they are without excuse; for though they knew the truth, they did not honor it as truth or give thanks for truth, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the truth for lies.”
“Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”
Who belongs to this age? I’d say that all of us here on earth at this moment belong to this age, and so we should all have the right to marry. Thankfully, at long last in the U.S. we are all allowed to marry, but the recent election has made me fear that the right of same sex couples to legally, marry will be taken away. What will that mean for those of us who are already married? My husband and I were married in the Church by a priest in the sight of God. We are bonded, spiritually as well as physically. We will remain married whether our marriage is legal or not, but it will be painful for us if our marriage is legally, invalidated by people who know nothing about the love we share. I question the moral character of the “Christian” right, who seem to vote in a block against everything that Christianity teaches us. In my humble opinion, they are the Pharisees and hypocrites of this age.