We have an interesting set of readings this morning. The familiar story of Joseph offering forgiveness to his brothers after thinking they had done away with him long ago. Paul’s invitation to listen, trying to explain Christ’s message, and addressing the Corinthian people directly – helping lead them to change their behavior and their lives. And in Luke’s words from our own Gospel reading this morning, Jesus reminding us that we might not always agree with one another, but it’s critical to listen, in order to understand; to walk away and forgive; and to love and care for one another.
My parents instilled in me a love of travel. We’d pack up the car, often leaving early in the morning, while it was still dark. When my kids were younger, we did the same with them. Just ask them – good memories of getting everyone up and out early.
Traveling enables us to experience other people and cultures – different ways of life and living. It helps us learn and expand our understanding of the world. It teaches us about history and geography. Teaches us about different political and economic systems. It gives perspective and teaches us that not everyone looks like us; or looks at the world in the same way that we do. We gain new insights that help us better understand ourselves, as well as others. Along the way, hopefully you get to talk to people – listen to a different language…maybe speak a different language.
During a recent vacation, we visited La Perla, just outside the walls of Old San Juan. La Perla was originally a home for former slaves and servants, as they were people exiled to settlements outside the walls. It’s one of the areas seen as abandoned by relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. Our visit was part of a give back to the community – that involves any number of different activities – that have included putting together toiletry kits for a homeless shelter; serving at a soup kitchen; sometimes planting trees. We walked along some of the streets there – while listening to the history of the area – with remnants of brightly painted houses, many of which were leveled during the storm – several others abandoned. We then stopped to clean and plant sprouted herbs in the hydroponic garden – that is set up next to the Community Center. The hydroponic system and supplies were donated by a previous visitor to the area…set up to provide some way for the residents to raise their own vegetables and herbs. A way for them to see that in the midst of this devastation life continues.
God invites us into community; yet we spend our lives dividing up every group, separating ourselves by age, gender, occupation, politics, money, sexual orientation. God invites us to learn the joy of giving and sharing the blessings that fill our lives. God invites us to accept the simple grace of his love – and in our doubt, we ignore others trying to prove we have value, worth, that we are somebody.
And yet, God loves us.
Our lessons couldn’t be simpler today with their real promise for real people for this real world.
God knows our rebellion. God knows that we are a sinful people. God knows what separates us. God knows our doubt. And today he comes again with a simple promise of forgiveness. The gift of God’s grace transforms us, allowing us to face each of our challenges. With a chance for a fresh start. No matter where you’ve been; no matter what you’ve done. It’s God’s constant love – welcoming us, telling us “yes” in the midst of our doubt and wonder.
Listen to the Gospel. Listen once again to what Jesus says: Love your enemies, those you don’t agree with, who are different than you. Bless them, pray for them. Care for them. That translates to: Feed the hungry. Welcome the stranger.
God’s Love transforms us – God’s love translated in every language is justice.
The words of the Gospel empower our ministry and our mission so that the church continues to be a place that matters. Take that message, proclaim the Gospel, and do the work of justice…for your neighbor, for all of God’s people.
Jesus says simply, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Live that message of faith. Make those words come to life in the promise of hope. Amen.