Epiphany 7 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 20, 2022


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            Imagine for a moment a pipe running from up high to down low. There is a hose pouring water into the top of the pipe, but the water is not going anywhere -- it is just backing up at the top.  The pipe is full and no more water can go in.  What’s going on?  There must be a clog in the pipe.  Maybe mud, or rocks or a hairball, or maybe someone has screwed a cap on the end. Once you find the clog and remove it, the water will flow freely through the pipe.

            As a baptized child of God, as a citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven, you are the pipeline of God’s love and forgiveness to the world.  When all is working well, God’s love and forgiveness flows into you from the Lord in abundance and then flows out of you to those around you.  But, like a pipe, there can be clogs which prevent love and forgiveness from flowing.  The pipe gets clogged with anger, hatred, envy, pride. 

            Jesus addresses this in today’s Gospel reading with an incredibly difficult teaching.  It is not difficult because it is asking you do the impossible, but the opposite.  This teaching is difficult to hear because it is actually very doable.  You can do this.  You can unclog the pipe and let God’s love and forgiveness flow through you. But living this way is agonizingly counter cultural.  The world extols ideas such as “Don’t get mad, get even”, and “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  The world teaches that you should dig up dirt on your enemy in order to get them cancelled. Hate those who hate you.  Fight back against those who abuse you.  Jesus disagrees.  In the Sermon on the Plain from Luke 6 Jesus teaches, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” 

Now the devil wants hatred to increase because hatred brings chaos and damage in society.  Hatred tears people apart.  It damages people.  Hate hurts the one who is being hated, but it also, very much, maybe even more so, damages the hater.  To hold onto hate is like holding on to corrosive acid which slowly eats you away and destroys you.

            The devil wants hate to increase and so when someone hates you the devil wants you to hate right back and then some.  Someone insults you, give it right back, only stronger and more vicious.  Two guys get into argument.  Voices are raised.  Words become nasty.  One pushes the other.  The other punches back, the one grabs a stick, the other pulls a knife, the one pulls a gun and fires.  The devil wins.  One family buries their loved one, the other visits their loved one in prison. 

People hate in person and hate remotely on social media as they trade written barbs and escalate the hate.  The devil wants hate to escalate, Jesus wants to eliminate hate. 

Now, it is so natural to believe that wrongdoing must be punished.  You do wrong; you get what is coming to you.  You sin.  God hates sin.  God should hate you.  But Jesus turns this on its head.  Jesus loves you in your sin.  He loves you and calls you out of your sin.  Jesus loves you.  He is punished in your place.  He pays the penalty for your sins on the cross so that you can be declared holy and righteous.  John 3:17 (ESV) 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

If someone slaps you on the cheek your natural response is to slap back or push or punch.  Your natural response is to escalate the hate.  Your natural response is to be a mirror for hatred and reflect it back. Not just a regular mirror, but a convex mirror that not only reflects the hatred but amplifies it.  When you respond hate for hate, hate grows.  The pipe gets clogged with hate.  Jesus teaches Luke 6:29 (ESV) 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 

            Jesus calls you to not be a mirror for hatred, but rather a sponge.  A sponge absorbs hatred, and returns love for hate.  You are called to love like God.  Luke 6:36 (ESV) 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  God has mercy on you even though you do not deserve it.  As someone living in the Kingdom of God, as a recipient of God’s mercy, you are called to have mercy on others even though they don’t deserve it. 

            This is a clear call for how to live in the Kingdom of God, and it is very achievable.  You can do this.  With the power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit, you can be the stronger person and absorb hatred in the world instead of spreading it.  Do not let hatred, anger, envy and pride clog up the pipe bringing forgiveness and love to the world through you. 

As a sinner that Jesus has embraced, and cleansed, and clothed in His righteousness, be the one who does not engage in conflict; the one who does not respond to an attack.  You be the one to humbly turn the other cheek.  Be the one to Luke 6:27–28 (ESV) 27 “… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Keep the pipe clear and let the love and forgiveness flow.  

Because Jesus has forgiven you your sins, you can forgive.  I worry that we misunderstand forgiveness.  Often when you apologize to someone they will say, “That’s okay.  No big deal.” And sometimes, for minor matters, it is okay.  But forgiveness in no way says that what you are forgiving was okay.  It says that you will not hold it against them.  When God forgives your sin He does not say “your sin is okay,” or “your sin is no big deal.”  He does say, “I will not hold your sin against you.”

If you get into an argument with a family member and lose your temper and storm away, be the strong one who humbly goes to your loved one and gives them a hug and says, “I’m sorry.  I should not have lost my temper.  I should not have raised my voice.”

            And not just for family members, but also your enemies. Love your enemy.  When you live life in the Kingdom of God and respond to a hateful enemy with love it will befuddle them.  If someone steals from you and you give them more, it will baffle them.  When someone is being hateful toward you, do something good for them.  Living like this will change the world.  Eliminate the hate and elevate love.

When you feel anger toward another immediately lift them up in prayer. Praying for an enemy changes your attitude.  When you respond in a heavenly way to earthly issues it changes people’s lives because you are responding with Jesus’ love and forgiveness flowing through you. 

You pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  You are praying to keep the pipeline of love and forgiveness flowing freely.  You are praying to keep Jesus’ love and forgiveness flowing into the world through you.  Eliminate the hate.  Elevate the love.

            Love your enemy.  The great thing and the terribly challenging thing is that you can do this. This is not some impossible task; this is little adjustments in your day-to-day interactions.  And this is also not something that has to be done in some huge, complicated way, but rather in small acts in your daily interactions.  Someone is abrupt with you, smile and reply in a calm voice.  Someone on the highway flips you the one finger salute, make the sign of the cross over them.  Someone makes a mistake, let it go, or gently help them to fix it. 

            You are not the judge of the world; that is well above your pay grade.  Jesus did not come to condemn, so you are not to condemn others.  This is not to say you should never warn someone about sin, but do it gently and lovingly, as a fellow sinner who also needs forgiveness. You come alongside a fellow sinner and speak the truth in love with the goal of bringing them to repentance and faith in Jesus and the forgiveness of sins.

            Jesus is serious about keeping the pipeline of love and forgiveness flowing freely.  He warns about it after teaching the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:14–15 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Also in the parable of the unforgiving servant after Peter asked Jesus how many times should Peter forgive and, Matthew 18:22 (ESV) 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” And warns that the unforgiving will be treated like the unforgiving servant.    Matthew 18:34–35 (ESV) 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” 

            We all have plenty to repent of for clogging up the pipeline with hatred, anger, envy and pride.  We all desperately need Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  Each day remember who you are.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  You are loved and forgiven.  Let that love and forgiveness flow.

            In His Word and His Sacraments Jesus pours out His love and forgiveness on you in abundance.  He has forgiven you all your sins.  Let that love and forgiveness flow through you and out to others.  Humbly rid yourself of any hatred or anger or envy or pride that may be blocking the pipeline from letting love and forgiveness flow out to others.  Because you are loved by Jesus, because your sins are forgiven, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Amen.