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Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is atrest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.

Let us pray. O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Reading from the first letter of Paul to the Church at Corinth

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? (3:1-5)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Psalm 119: 33 - 40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew

You have heard that 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 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? (5:38-45)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

They are some of the most revolutionary words that Jesus ever spoke: “You have heard … it …said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist an evildoer.’” Or as another translation puts it, “Do not fight violence with more violence.” With these words, Jesus overturns the ancient law of retaliation: if someone wrongs you, you have a right to strike back with equal force. “An eye for an eye …” opposes the idea that if someone takes your eye or tooth, you have the right to wipe out the offender’s entire tribe. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is much more civilized, much more proportional, and seems only right to fair-minded human beings. The ancient law is the grounds for giving the death penalty to convicted murderers. If you take someone else’s life, it is simple justice that your life be forfeited.

But Jesus says, “Do not fight back at one who offends you.” “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.” It doesn’t seem fair, does it? In fact, I once knew a man who refused to teach a Sunday School class precisely because he disagreed with Jesus’ words. “It’s a tough world out there, Reverend, and I’m not going to teach little boys they shouldn’t fight back. They’d just end up getting knocked around.”

But Jesus is NOT advocating passivity. Jesus is proposing an alternative to the two responses to evil that human beings usually choose – fight or flight. Fight is an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, responding to violence with more violence. Flight is avoiding confrontation with evil through escape. What Jesus is talking about is a third response to evil: neither fight nor flight but active, non-violent engagement with the wrong-doer. Jesus’s response is a response requiring strength and great courage.

“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. Consider that situation for a moment. Given a predominantly right-handed world, how do you strike someone on the right cheek? Jesus isn’t talking about fist fight but an insult – a slap on the face with the back of the right hand meant to humiliate someone and put them in their place. Such a back handed slap was the normal way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children, and the Romans, their Jewish subjects.

The people who heard Jesus’ words were regularly subjected to dehumanizing indignities. Why does Jesus counsel these already-humiliated folks to turn the other cheek? Because that’s the only way to win! Turning the other cheek undermines the power of their oppressors to humiliate them. It says, in effect, “Try again; your first blow didn’t humiliate me. I am a human being, just like you. You cannot demean me.” Here is a way for the oppressed to seize the higher moral ground, to preserve their dignity and expose the act of oppression for the evil that it is.

The second example that Jesus gives is set in a law court. Someone is being sued for his coat. In first century Palestine this suit was likely the result of defaulting on a loan in an economic system in which the rich got rich and the poor got poorer. Jesus’ counsel is this: “Give your creditors not only your coat but the rest of your clothes as well.” In other words, “Take it all off and walk out of court naked.” The poor debtor has no chance of winning the case; the law is clearly in favor of the creditor. But in giving up all he has, the debtor refuses to be humiliated and takes the initiative against the oppressive system that got him into debt.

Jesus’ third example of non-violent response to evil is going the second mile. Again the situation is one that many of Jesus’ hearers had probably experienced. As a conquered people, the Jews could be forced at any time to carry the pack of a Roman soldier – but only for a distance of one mile. Nonetheless, this enforced labor was a constant and bitter reminder to the Jews that they were not free.

Jesus’ counsel to his people is neither armed revolt, nor passivity. Jesus proposes a third way where Jews could take control of the situation and assert their human dignity.

Imagine the Roman soldier’s surprise when, at the mile marker, he reaches for his pack and the Jewish man says, “Oh, no; let me carry the pack for you another mile.” Consider the soldier’s bewilderment – “What is this Jew up to? Is he insulting me, suggesting that I’m not strong enough to carry my own equipment? Is he trying to get me into trouble by making it look like I am disobeying the one mile rule?” Rejecting the soldier’s oppression, the Jew seizes the initiative, preserves his dignity, embarrasses his oppressor, and calls attention to an unjust system.

Jesus is not advocating doormat passivity but non-violent confrontation.

Mahatma Gandhi was so impressed with the power of Jesus’ description of non-violent confrontation that he made it the touchstone of India’s campaign to free itself from British domination. Through civil disobedience, mass demonstration, hunger strikes, and self-sacrifice, Gandhi found new ways of interpreting Jesus’ strategies of turning the other cheek, giving away the cloak as well as the coat, and walking the extra mile.

In our own time, Martin Luther King adopted Jesus’ alternative to fight or flight in his struggle to eliminate racial segregation in the United States. Non-violent confrontation through civil disobedience, demonstrations and marches, and voter registration drives, engaged the systems of institutional racism and made it impossible for the conscience of the nation to escape seeing the evil all around them.

Non-violent engagement with evil – the reverberating teaching of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – is neither namby-pamby nor impractical. Where human beings have had the courage and audacity to try it, Jesus’ strategy has worked. The trouble is that Jesus’ strategy isn’t tried very often.

What if after 9/11, the United States had poured billions of dollars into massive humanitarian aid throughout the Middle East? What if we had addressed the poverty and despair in that part of the world? Might that have proved a far more successful “war on terrorism” than the military incursions that have cost so dearly not only in money but in the loss of human life?

What if instead of putting murderers and rapists to death by lethal injection and electrocution, we refused to answer violence with violence? Might that be a more effective way of establishing a culture of peace?

What if instead of putting our energy into teaching our children to return blow for blow, we worked creatively to establish a culture where bullies are not tolerated?

Isn’t it high time we set aside “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” practices and tried in earnest to follow the one we say is the Lord?

The Prayers

Let us lift our prayers for ourselves, for those we love, and for the world about us to God, the maker of heaven and earth, saying,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who fear God and believe in you, Lord Christ, that our divisions may cease, and that all may be one as you and the Father are one.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who do not yet believe, and for those who have lost their faith, that they may come to know, love and serve you.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the peace of the world, that a spirit of respect and forbearance may grow among nations and peoples.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those in positions of public trust that they may serve justice, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who travel and work on the Silver Whisper.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For a blessing upon all human labor, and for the right use of the riches of creation, that the world may be freed from poverty, famine, and disaster.
Lord, hear our prayer.

As we celebrate the feast of St. Valentine, we remember all whom we love, those engaged to be married, and those in loving partnerships.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer; for refugees, prisoners, and all who are in danger; that they may be relieved and protected.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For our enemies, and for all whom we have injured or offended.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For ourselves; for the forgiveness of our sins, and for the grace of the Holy Spirit to amend our lives.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who have died, that they may have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief, but life eternal.
Lord, hear our prayer.

And now let us pray in the words that Jesus taught us:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing and Dismissal

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

HYMN: God of grace and God of glory

The Dismissal

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Musician: Alex Manev

Expected time of next service: February 20, 2022 at 9:15 am

Posted by HopeEakins 12:10

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