Father Mark, Sermons

Practicing Liberty

Independence Day; Matt. 5:42 ff. 7/5/20

From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great among the nations…. (Malachi 1)

I hope you have had a moment to thank God for your Liberty this weekend and for our ancestors who have sacrificed to maintain it.   I have found it interesting that the readings for Independence Day talk about a deeper Independence that comes from God.   With the way the world is sometimes, we need that deeper Independence.

The word, “love” used in the Hebrew and the Aramaic text from Matthew comes from the root word, meaning to warm, kindle, or set on fire.   Love has no sentimental or affectionate qualities but means being warm, kindly or amicable or well-disposed toward others.   This is the practice of peace and reconciliation. 

Love is intended to bring out the best in human beings.  When we love our enemies and pray for those who hate us, we release the most potent force in the universe that is hidden within every human being—the likeness of God’s presence, shining on all creation.   Love bonds without the use of force. 

Love is more than a lofty ideal, but is a practical presence and means to win over anyone opposing God’s counsel, love and sovereignty. 

In fact, the quote Jesus uses from the Old Testament was a mistaken interpretation of the time, added by the culture.  There’s nothing in the Mosaic Law that directs one to “hate one’s enemy,” in contrast to loving one’s neighbor. 

The reference to the word “hate” is from Leviticus instructing not to hate one’s brother in one’s heart.  Nowhere in the Old Testament does it instruct us to hate. 

As far as cursing, there’s been a lot less cursing since COVID-19 because sports teams haven’t been playing.   All humor aside, it was a custom to invoke evils, misfortunes and proclaim calamites upon someone who offended you—

you know, the kind of desire hidden within that yearns that the one who hurts you deserves a ten-fold amount of suffering for what was originally dished out to you—something along the line of the old curse, may the fleas of 1,000 camels infest your armpits.  

The real danger with cursing others is that the negative energy builds, distorting our divinely inspired reason so that we assume God is right alongside of us joining us in cursing the dirty rotten scum who hurt us.   Instead God is hoping that we invite him into our pain instead of intending to inflict it on the other, while at the same time praying that the other part wakes up and realizes their mistake.   

Yes God does pray for us—that’s the sun shining on us with the same warmth and kindness that is shown to everyone else.  It’s a mystery why some people realize this presence of Divine Kindness and others do not. 

Our mistake is to attempt to take the inventory of the other instead of attending to our own inner distress and learning to let it go and open ourselves to God’s kindness again.  The other problem with cursing or vengeance, is that we wish on another, we also wish on ourselves.  This is a spiritual law built into creation, akin to the Natural Law of Physics that every action yields an equal and opposite reaction. 

So how does this play out in real life?   I would hate to be a business owner or resident in Minneapolis or Seattle and have my business or home burnt to the ground or have my family members and myself assaulted.   I would hope that I could hear and feel God’s presence after the cacophony of all that hate being inflicted against me.   Being assaulted and having your living/working space destroyed by violence is a terrifying phenomenon.   Being shocked, terrified, and angry to the point of rage is a normal human reaction to violence received. 

What would we do with all that psychological carnage within ourselves?  

Not wanting to experience the pain of it all, it would be human instinct to react by attempting to give the suffering back to the other in either an equal or greater form—thinking that by doing so we’d be getting rid of it ourselves.  

The infantile nature of this reaction is that we think we can stop hurting by giving the pain back to the other—which further deepens our own.   

Forgiveness requires that we accept the pain of the hatred of others, without the act of returning the same.   Accepting suffering without hating drives us to our knees to make a space for God to reorient us from that which has terrorized us, to heal our fear, to replace our identity as “victim” to our original identity as “child of God,” and then to listen for the discernment of the Spirit.  

Forgiveness means no longer being tied to the person in that event.                                                      To experience oneself as being victimized (act) without identifying with being a victim requires a deep foundational spiritual identity built over time.

This doesn’t mean we cannot establish boundaries to protect those we love, including ourselves, or even to seek justice for ourselves—but that our boundaries are not established in hate but in the peace of God.

If others bring violence, we have the right and perhaps the  responsibility to

Defend ourselves from it.  We are not to repay evil for evil but may defend ourselves from evil.  But to do so without hate or vengeance. 

The whole goal is to maintain our Liberty in God—living as free beings created in the Image and Likeness of God.  Being one with God is the greatest freedom there is—and the foundation of the freedom we experience on earth as it is in heaven. 

God invites all of us to live in perfect freedom in himself.

Perfection is being whole and complete in God.  The ultimate Liberty.