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Monday, February 20, 2017

THE LORD OUR GOD: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do them no wrong. The stranger that sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him or her as yourself; for you were strangers


Homily - February 19, 2017
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, St. Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala
The Way to Peace 

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how all of us sincerely pray for peace in the world all the time, but lasting peace never comes. Could it be we need to do something different, change our thinking (conversion, repentance), in order to achieve someday (maybe not in our lifetime) what we pray for? I believe Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel is the way to finding real peace in this world?
The nature of conversion to Jesus is that it comes about one person at a time. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. You and I, listening to the Gospel week by week, reading and studying the scriptures on our own, must decide individually to take Jesus’ teaching to heart. While we find ourselves as part of the church, the decision is our own. Like last week in the reading from Deuteronomy: I have set before you life and death. Choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God and obeying his commandments. We would like everyone to join us in our individual decision to follow Jesus. We would like to find comfort in numbers, but remain alone in our decision. “Do you desire to be baptized?” This is not asked of a group, but of the baptismal candidate individually.

I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me, still I will follow.
The readings for this Seventh Sunday of Epiphany, especially Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel, are perhaps the most important for achieving a true and lasting peace in this world. It’s been said that this teaching of Jesus is his most radical, demanding, and truthful of all his teaching. Each person hearing this teaching must decide to change their thinking in order to follow Jesus. This is the individual conversion I’ve been talking about. Let’s listen to what Jesus taught again:
“You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard 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.”

Jesus is saying: Change the rules the world lives by and live a different way! If the world says take an eye for an eye. Don’t do it. If someone hits you on one cheek, offer the other. If someone sues you, give them more than they ask. If someone needs to borrow from you, don’t refuse- do what you can. And then comes the really hard teaching. It is commonly accepted in the world that you should love you neighbor and hate your enemy. This has been an understanding from the beginning of time—until this teaching of Jesus: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This makes you a child of your Father in heaven.

What Jesus is saying is “Blow up the world’s modus operandi. Make your own rules. In a world where people like to go along with the crowd, live differently. Follow me. Find peace. Help bring about my Kingdom someday by changing the way you live now!
Following Jesus is the way to a true, just, and lasting peace in the world and fostering Kingdom come. He really means it when he says Love your enemies. Refuse to see anyone as an enemy. Disarm the enemy who sees you as an enemy by forgiveness; foregoing revenge, retaliation, and retribution. Don’t add fuel to the fires of violence and wars in the world. Without fuel, evil will be itself out. Boundless love is the only way to true freedom and the defeat of the Evil One.
It’s imperative to pray that each one of us, and all of our brothers and sisters in the church, hear, accept, and live this teaching of Jesus today, especially because of the way we determine the date of Easter each year, the Seventh Sunday of Epiphany and this particular Gospel comes up only one time in seven years or so. The Common Lectionary is wonderful: we read almost the whole bible in three years, but unfortunately this Gospel, the core of Jesus’ teaching and important for Christian living and the salvation of the world, is heard so seldom. If we take this teaching to heart, as hard as it is to do, overtime it will lead the whole world to peace. Let it begin with you and me! Amen!
*To most people “neighbor” means kin. Leviticus 19 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does the writer mean “kin?” Some verses later the writer expands the meaning of neighbor saying: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do them no wrong. The stranger that sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him or her as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 

I am the Lord your God.

John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

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