Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16 Sermon

Forgive the things I've said in haste, O Lord, today,
As evening shadows fold again the light away;
O take away the sting and hurt from hearts, I pray;
And heal the wounded spirits, Lord, in Thine own way! Amen.
I want to begin with an old Cherokee legend…

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Wise Words! They are echoed in our first reading from Ecclesiasticus: We have a choice to make between fire & water, life & death, between a good wolf and an evil wolf inside us.

And yet, is the choice always so easy for us to make?

Sometimes, it’s beyond our choice. Having met one of our moms in the pediatricians office yesterday, her son’s flu will dictate their choice about coming today.

Today, you all made the faithful choice to come this morning, despite the snowy roads, and I hope it wasn’t a difficult decision!

But Jesus takes our decision making even further as he continues his sermon on the mount, to those who were gathered. As we think of the wolves inside us & the choices we make…
"You have heard that it was said `You shall not murder'; and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, `You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Wow! Jesus is not mincing words here. But he is making a strong point. It isn’t just the big sins, like murder that get us in trouble, it’s the everyday sins, anger, insults, the disrespect towards our brothers and sisters. It’s that angry, evil wolf inside us that come out…
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
Set things right, Jesus tells us, or it may get even worse for us. Our gift offerings are important, but so is being reconciled to others, to those we have hurt, to do good.
`You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all…
Jesus again takes these ideas to the next level. Its not just about adultery, but the lust, the coveting of another that hurts us and others. Its not just the no fault divorce, nor swearing falsely. We must go to the next level, and not swear at all, divorce only for cause.

Our choices will not be easy. But they will be our own. We are confronted everyday with choices: fire & water, good & evil, life & death.

Let your word be `Yes, Yes' or `No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
I think of the game of Scruples ..Yes, No or Depends...

When we choose, we must be clear, and even if one day we do choose wrongly, we feed the wrong wolf, we can always change and choose again. Let me end with a story I recently read.

A young man was pouring over the selection of Valentine's Day cards at a local gift store. A clerk asked if she could help. "I'm looking for your most beautiful Valentine card," he explained. "Something that perfectly expresses my deepest feelings." The clerk went to a section of cards and pulled out a card that was beautifully embossed, trimmed with lace, and written in an elegant script.

"This is a lovely card," she said and read the inside, "'To my one true love, the light of my life, the song that fills my heart with joy, the very image of beauty and grace. I love you more than I can say.'" The young man was thrilled. "That's perfect!" he said. "That's exactly the special kind of heartfelt message I'm looking for. I'll take five of them."

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks us to consider the weight and meaning of what we say - and to realize the chasm that often exists between our words and our actions. Jesus calls us to slow down and reflect on what we wolf we truly feed in our hearts and live out in our actions, for the values of God we hold dear, we need to make our words and attitudes reflect those values.
What will we feed today? “Is it anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego? Or is it joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, forgiveness, compassion and faith?”

Choose this day says Jesus and then come follow me. Amen.

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