An Antidote to Hate

Donald R.  Elly,  M. Div.

Hate is, I believe, the world’s worst four letter word.  Looking it up in the dictionary I found this definition:  to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility.” When we truly hate someone or something, we usually want to avoid the person or group, or have nothing at all to do with them or the cause being espoused. 

Hatred is growing today in our society. Intense feelings divide, polarize so we lose sight of values to unite us and bring us together.  Such hate produces a loss of community.   Many of our institutions are fractured by hate and they no longer serve the common good. If we are honest we become afraid of talking to one another.  

What is the antidote to such hate?   I want to recommend several insights, prompted by the interpretation and insights of Amy Jill-Levine from her discussion of the Parable in her book, Short Stories by Jesus.  She notes that the Lawyer who sets out to test Jesus knows very well by the answer he gives to Jesus is straight from the Torah, “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength  and with all your mind (intention), and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). In other words one is to love God with the totality of their being—nothing held back.  Jesus even as he commends the lawyer in his knowledge of the law, says Levine, “reframes what is at stake by exhorting, Do this and live.”  

The imperative “do” focuses not on a single action, but an ongoing relationship.  The point is to “live now” and not to be focused on “eternal life.” The Lawyer wanting to look “right” compounds his error by asking “Who is my neighbor?”  The question becomes a polite way of asking, “Who is not my neighbor?” or “Who does not deserve my love…or “Whom can I hate?”  Jesus answer to him  is “No one.”  Everyone deserves that love—local or alien, Jews or gentile, terrorist, or rapist, everyone.”  God’s love cannot be restricted. God’s love for Jesus includes our enemies—the ones we hate. The cycle of violence and hatred is broken as we  let our enemy treat us as neighbor.  Eternal life is inherited now as we love with no restrictions. 

July 14, 2019; Cycle C; 5th Sunday of Pentecost

Lev. 19:18; Deut. 27:17; Psalm.82              Col. 1:1-14; *vLuke 10:25-37

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Packing for Life on the Road (With Jesus)

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

Alyce McKenize, well known preacher, really set the scene for me as I read Luke’s account of Jesus’ instructions to those sent ahead of him to every town and place where he himself intended to go.  Listen carefully to the what he said to them.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”.  

Behind these words is Jesus’ experience of being overworked. Could it be that Jesus’ call to the seventy and to us today is a warning that there will always be more to do than is humanly possible?  

So let’s listen carefully to what Jesus tells us about packing for life on the road in his name.  “Go on your way. See, I am sending you like lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Luke has reported that the conflict over Jesus’ teaching, preaching and healing has intensified to the point where it troubles not only Herod, but causes his immediate brothers and sisters to think that Jesus is crazy.  

In this circumstance what Jesus tells the disciples and us is even more surprising:  “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house (hold)!’  And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not it will return to you.  Stay put in on place (don’t move from house to house). …Whenever you enter a town and you are welcomed, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The Kingdom has come near you.’ Even if you are not welcomed you can be sure that “the Kingdom of God has come near…”  

Jesus is obviously sharing guidelines learned the hard way as he has been teaching, and healing, being accepted and rejected. So the directions to go on the road empty handed and completely dependent upon God is best.  We are to be living examples of dependence upon God alone.   It strikes me that these instructions guarantee that  what we are announcing is about God and demonstrating what God can do and not about us.  

Prayer: Through your Spirit, Jesus strengthen us to advance your cause, not ours. Amen.

July 7, 2019; Cycle C; 4th Sunday of Pentecost

2nd Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians (1-6) 7-16; *Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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Fit for the Kingdom

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

Luke 9:51-62  is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Rather than continuing to provide glimpses of the Kingdom of God breaking in right now through teaching, healing and references to the Torah, Luke writes, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”   Jesus’ interactions with the disciples and those encountered on the road are directed to make clear what we as disciples have to do to become fit for the Kingdom.  

In  Luke 9: 51-55 when the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus because his face is set on Jerusalem—this phrase is used twice—underlining Jesus’ resolve. James and John react in anger and want to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them for their rejection.  Jesus accepts the Samarian’s rejection.  Jesus rebukes James and John.  

Retribution is for Jesus a distraction from getting to Jerusalem which is his priority.  I think how often we don’t learn from Jesus that doing what God asks is more important than rejection. We, like James and John, react and waste energy on those who appear to reject us.

What would happen to the development of the Kingdom of God if we followed Jesus‘ example. When are we going to learn that reacting in anger, while it may energize us, is not Jesus’ way here?

The second part of this passage, Luke 9:56-62, it seems to me, is more likely to be our problem today.  Everything and everyone become a priority over the Kingdom. David Lose shares the excellent question raised by Michel Rogness in his commentary on this passage. “Does Jesus make a noticeable difference in our lives—so that what he wishes becomes a priority?”

Even more to the point: Does the grace, mercy, and love God revealed in Jesus come first we plan and shape our lives, or do we shape our faith to fit life as we’ve already planned it?  Just as to be physically fit requires that we exercise, being fit for the Kingdom means we make listening to Jesus the priority and let that impact how we respond to everything else. Now there is anexcellent goal for a meaning-filled life. 

July 30, 2019; Cycle C; 3rd Sunday of Pentecost

2nd Kings 2:1-14; Psalm 77:1-20; Gal. 5:1,13-25; *Luke 9:51-62

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Unchained! For What?

Donald  R. Elly, M. Div. 

Have you ever had moments when life comes rushing at you with all its changes, or you find yourself moving from one thing to another so rapidly you can’t think clearly? Take a moment to identify one word that describes your feelings as you think about the world right now?

When I explored this question with several friends and colleagues, here are the words they shared: afraid, anxious, confused, angry and unsettled.  The word I chose came to mind for me was “chaos”.   The dictionary defines chaos as a “state of utter confusion, disorder; a total lack of organization.”  This is the word described in the scene Jesus faced as he arrives in the region of Gerasenes at the town of Garsa.

Jesus and his disciples had already experienced the chaos of the sea and now he arrives on shore and is met by a naked man nicknamed “Legion” who is obviously out of control.  The label of legion tells us how deeply disturbed he is. A Legion is a unit of 6000 fully armed Roman soldiers sent by Rome to maintain the peace. Controlled by many demons the man has no home by the local grave yard where he roamed among the dead because no chains could restrain him.

He was loose but not unchained from his inner turmoil.  Jesus and the disciples have already experienced chaos in getting here.  In Luke 8:22-25 Jesus is awakened from a deep sleep as a storm arises and he rescues the fearful disciples who are amazed that Jesus has control over the winds and waves. Asserting God’s power over nature; Jesus has dominion over demons & evil.

What Jesus does is instructive.  First, he does not deny the chaos in nature or human beings.  Jesus names them and with God’s help brings healing. Secondly, Jesus uses tools God has given us for dealing with chaos.  Jesus turned to faith, scripture and and depended upon a growing relationship  with God.   A vital truth in this story is that there is nowhere God won’t go to free us from demons—those experienced by the man and us.  Unchained! For what? Because God does this for us in Jesus we are to offer that today to everyone— No exceptions.

June 23, 2019; Cycle C; 2nd Sunday of Pentecost

1st Kings19:1-15; Psalms 42&43         Gal.3:23-29; *Luke 8: 26-39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Advocate Comes

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

The lessons for this Sunday provide additional teachings about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as followers of Jesus.   Romans 5:1-5 makes reference to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit mutually working together so that we experience Peace. In particular, it is through the Holy Spirit that the love of God has been poured into our hearts so that the suffering for Jesus serves a purpose of strengthening our witness. We are assured that nothing can separate us from God’s love that makes us joint heirs with Christ.  

Listen to how Paul describes what happens when through the Holy Spirit we are adopted by God in Christ. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption.  When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

What difference does this make? According to Paul because of God’s action in Jesus Christ through the Spirit our future is secured and our standing with God is sure. Though Paul uses lots of words it is clear that because of the Holy Spirit’s action, God through Jesus gives us peace and security that cannot be destroyed or changed.  Paul invites us to imagine a life of courage, the courage of those that adopted by God receive a full measure of God’s blessing and riches.  

Add to this the role of the Holy Spirit as Advocate (one who walks along side us) smoothing the way and teaching us that God is for us from the very beginning of creation–creating and forming us, but also traveling with us into the future.  Things may change, but God will always be giving us strength and insight so that we are reminded that just as God has been at work in the past bringing peace, God is securing our future.  

Prayer: Paul and John reveal that through Jesus you adopt us and give us the power to bear witness to your love.  Secondly you promise to advocate for us walking alongside us and teaching all the new things God is doing.  Thank you. Amen

June 16, 2019   Cycle C      Trinity Sunday

Prov.8:1-4,22-31  Psalm 8 *Romans 5:1-5     *John 15:26-27, 16:12-15 

 

 

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Learning from the Holy Spirit

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

We are moving into the Season of Pentecost.  Those of us connected to the Body of Christ celebrate our awareness and experience of the Holy Spirit.  This season of Pentecost has become one of my favorite and a valuable occasion for reflecting on the importance and meaning of the Holy Spirit.   What have I been taught by the Spirit? Like many people I would affirm the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy  Ghost and move on to study scripture and not give the Holy Spirit a second thought.  

This all changed in a very personal way when I had to deal with cancer and the reality that I could die.  I found  that I needed not only to read scripture, but suddenly I found the passages of John where Jesus talked about his relationship with God, and the Holy Spirit to be a source of comfort and courage.  

Verse 18 of the 24th chapter of John’s Gospel became a way to recognize that though I might have cancer, might even die,  I was not alone.  Listen to Jesus’ challenge to the disciples to deeper awareness of God’s continual presence: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will also live. On that day you will  know I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”  

First, it became a reality for me that God had kept God’s word in Jesus and sent an Advocate (Jesus’ Spirit) to walk along side me no matter what I faced with cancer. If it was surgery and later radiation I was not alone. God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit are always with me.  I can feel the strength of that reality right now, even as I write about it.  

Second, the fact that the Father, Son and Spirit are always with me means that though fear and anxiety are real they are no match for the love revealed to me, that undergirds me as I breathe, and do God’s work.  

June 9, 2019; Cycle C; Pentecost Sunday

Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104:24-34       Romans 8:14-17,26-27; *John 14:8-21

 

 

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Jesus’ Final Prayer Request

Donald R. Elly, M. D

Jesus, knowing  that he will be deserted and face betrayal and death utters a prayer of farewell.   Listen to these words spoken by Jesus, not just to those disciples at the Passover table then, but to us right now. “ I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”    

In The Message, Eugene Peterson puts the first hope Jesus is expressing this way, “The goal is for all of them to become one in heart and mind—Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us.”  As I read these words over and over I imagined that these words expressed comfort and challenge. First the comfort is that Jesus is praying that the witness of Peter, James, John and Paul will come alive in us because the Holy Spirit, which for me is the energy of the Risen Christ that makes me an effective witness. As I experience Christ’s assistance through the counselor, the Holy Spirit my faith in God grows stronger.

Second We live today in an age when we can literally  experience the biological tie with our ancestors through examination of our DNA.  Through Jesus’ prayer we experience the Holy Spirit connecting us to God.  What comfort, and we will need it, because the challenge is still being developed of being one.  On America’s Got Talent there was an act of 27 people ranging in age from 7 to 27.  Every member of the dance had a unique task, but the result of their practice and cooperation was that they danced as one.  The Oneness-unity of hearts and minds--means that we are to be ourselves in following Jesus, but the Holy Spirit  connects each heart and mind so that we bear witness to God as one.

Prayer: Thank you, God, that the unity of hearts and mind becomes one mighty witness to God’s love.  So God, take me—heart and mind—and make me One with everyone else as an expression of your love so I fulfill your final prayer request. Amen.

June 2, 2019; Cycle C; 7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 6:16-34; Psalm 97; Rev.22:12-21         *John 17:20-26

 

 

 

 

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