Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Matthew 5:43 - 6:6 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Good to know the bar isn't set too high . . .

It is so difficult to love one's enemies -- I find it very difficult to love terrorists who wreak wanton destruction. I find it nearly impossible to love people like James Dobson, or Marilyn Musgrave, or Mitt Romney, or the others who lie about gay families and attempt to put as many legal and financial and human obstacles as possible in place to prevent gay families from being able to function. I find it difficult to love clergy (in our independent movement and elsewhere) who serve idols rather than Christ -- the "unity" some Episcopalians are willing to pursue to the point of turning their backs on lgbt folk, money in the case of some independent "clergy" more interested in the fees they will receive than in serving the people -- to give but two examples. And, quite frankly, if I give money to charity or the needy, I'd like a little gratitude, and I want to be known as a prayerful person.

But, as followers of Christ, we are called to let go of our hurt and anger and see the image of God in everyone, no matter how much they have defiled it. We should certainly be angry at injustice -- but we must "be angry and sin not" -- and not allow our anger to lead us to hate -- or, worse because it is easier -- give up on those perpetrating the injustice.

We should see our almsgiving as a matter of justice and not charity -- something to which we are obligated, not something we do because we are "good". In this, we can learn from our Jewish sisters and brothers -- the Hebrew word translated as "charity" in the sense of philanthropic giving is "tzedakah", literally "justice" -- and the Jewish teaching on this has translated into a strong Jewish presence in the civil rights movements for African Americans, women, lgbt folk, and others -- which puts Christians to shame.

And, if you find all this as difficult as I do, you will agree that the time spent in prayer will be necessary to seek the grace to live it out, rather than a badge of piety.

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