Leviticus 19: 2, 9-18
Matthew 5: 38-48

February 19, 2023


Good morning church, when you awoke this morning and started getting ready for church perhaps you were not focused completely on what you have heard through the years from Jesus Christ … perhaps your day did not start with a quick THANK YOU GOD … for another new day; for Your blessings and Your love … although I know some of you breathe out that prayer every day … and there is a chance however that a few of you even made a last minute call to a neighbor or a friend or a family member inviting them here to church to worship God with you this morning … to experience the joy that comes from worshiping … to be in a special place separated from the world where all are welcome and where all are always loved …

St. Paul’s, a church where we do our best to follow what Jesus said in today’s lesson, “Therefore just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to EVERYONE” … I like that part don’t you? Our Father in heaven is completed by showing love not just to the acceptable gang or the popular types of people but to EVERYONE, which I would assume includes each individual in the world because that is what EVERYONE means … rather than only to those who certain human leaders give a thumbs up to. Anyhow, this church believes that in “Showing equal love to everyone it is our acknowledgment that we need to do this because according to Jesus we also must be complete!”

As we continue our 2023 walk with Jesus Christ … as we continue to connect with the God of Creation there are going to be times when we have to ROCK the BOAT because “WE HAVE HEARD IT SAID …” by Jesus Christ, the One from whom we Christians find our faith call in … Jesus our life’s drive and energy … our essence. We understand that by taking on God’s love shown through Jesus Christ that we have an energizing source of our joy … and through our faith there is the potential for each of us to have a peace that goes beyond understanding. We understand we are called to live our faith out there in the world and not just here in church.

BUT THERE WILL BE TIMES WHEN WE HAVE TO ROCK the BOAT because without each of us being the ones who become energized in our faith … if we are not the ones demonstrating our connection to God by freely getting up on our feet to sing JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD HAS COME it sort of means that we have let the world down haven’t we, especially our personal worlds and collectives of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. When we have not shown the open and loving invitation that is available to ALL people from God … we have pretty much turned down the gift of Christ to take on the “power of the Holy Spirit.” Can’t send that back to AMAZON.

Jesus again promised us the Holy Spirit just as He ascended into heaven … a power to comfort us as we “TELL EVERYONE about JESUS in Jerusalem, in all Judaea, in Swedesboro, Deptford, in Samaria, and even unto Philadelphia” of all places.

The power of the Holy Spirit is not a power to judge who is acceptable and who is not … the power of the Holy Spirit is not enabling us to cross the line to throw stones at those who we feel deserve to be stoned … the power of the Holy Spirit guides us through the messy waters and the stormy seas. The power of the Holy Spirit allows us to lovingly rock the boat to show the world around us that there is a choice of accepting God’s love versus aligning with evil. There is a choice of hope rather than focusing in on condemnation … there is an opportunity for forgiveness and love, which results in incredible joy, rather than shouting and bullying others … you know REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS! But to get that power we need to be renewed in our faith … we need to be revived in our beliefs … we need to again accept and focus in on Jesus.

Friends, to use a word that is gaining popularity even amongst those who do not welcome ALL … a word put into use by some who claim to be able to have a closer relationship to God than others they don’t like … I am again calling for all of us to rock the boat that the world finds its comfort in by aligning ourselves to the teachings of Jesus Christ in a spirit of personal revival as we enter the Holy season of Lent.

It begins with the lesson Jesus brought to the world from that hillside along the Sea of Galilee. A lesson for the ages … a lesson for the faithful … and a lesson that the world eagerly wants us to reject. There are some voices out in the world claiming to have the power to discern who amongst us are the good ones and who are the ones God rejects as if they have been granted the power to cast humans created in God’s Holy Image into the fiery pits. But God clearly teaches us to love and not judge … to turn the other cheek and to even give when we are asked.

If our faith walk is to experience a revival that will carry us personally through the Lenten season and that will reenergize our churches far and near it is the lesson Jesus clarifies in today’s Gospel … a lesson of the early days of the people who followed Moses into the wilderness … “YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF! YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and LOVE YOUR ENEMIES!”

We need to start to clear the fog out from our eyes … Jesus said, “God makes the sun rise on both the good and the evil and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteousness. If you love only those who love you … WHAT REWARD DO YOU HAVE? If you greet ONLY your brothers and sisters what more are you doing? JUST AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER is complete in showing love to everyone … SO YOU ALSO MUST BE COMPLETE.”

A MUST STATEMENT from Jesus not from this pastor who frankly is a sinner and who has no more power than anyone else. Please friends be aware that in today’s world we have religious leaders paralleling the Pharisees who do not appreciate Jesus teaching because Jesus teaching might take away their power and wealth.

Frankly, I realize that the lessons of Jesus are difficult to accept … the lessons of Jesus are challenging but the lessons of Jesus are the lessons that come from God and not some website designed to gain followers or likes. God wants love … God expects obedience, which includes loving ALL neighbors … and God through Jesus Christ clearly teaches us from this very same Sermon from the Mount, “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

In our readings from the Torah this morning we heard God’s expectations … “You must love your neighbor as yourself … I AM THE LORD.”

On Wednesday many of us will have an ashen cross added to our outward presentation to the world … an acknowledgment of our sinful nature … we also will share in the TABLE of FORGIVENESS …. A sign that we belong to the ALL ENCOMPASSING CROSS of Jesus Christ that does not set parameters … does not reject those whom human leaders find easy to bully or put down because they are the minority amongst us. The Holy Season begins … will you be focused in?

The cross of Jesus Christ friends … was the place where the AMAZING GRACE of GOD took away my sins … set me free … so that I could try my best to live as God expects … as Jesus taught … and still realize that I continuously need to be rescued because I am just like you … a sinner … I am not perfect but as Paul wrote, “ I am working my way towards the goal of being called to heaven, this is the prize God offers. I keep running but I struggle … Paul reminds us, “I forget what is behind and I struggle for what is ahead.”

And, that brings us to Holy Season. To Ash Wednesday. Not to a season where God tells us to give up things but a season where God calls us to get closer to God. Together, as a community of believers focused on how we can make this a better world beginning here at St. Paul’s … or wherever you are in the world worshiping online with us today.

We need to ROCK THE BOAT TOGETHER and invite more people to church rather than accepting that they are not in church … it is the Sabbath an opportunity when church doors are open and this church door is always ready to welcome those other churches eliminate from leadership and love. This church does not judge rather we welcome and accept and pray together and focus on growing our faith with joy.

Our opening quote came from Gilbert Chesterton who wrote, “We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” There is no doubt that each of us here make up a very small part of the world’s population but if we are to deny our responsibilities to make it this a better world … and if the folks at the next church deny their responsibilities … and the next and the next and none of us tell the world that God LOVES ALL PEOPLE EQUALLY and that EVERY PERSON was created in God’s Holy Image not just those folks on TV religious shows or those who like to condemn others from their pulpits. Then who will tell the truth about Jesus Christ?

Today, there will be 40 race drivers attempting to win the DAYTONA 500. A simple car race but if the pit crews went home before the race then those out on the speedway wouldn’t go very far.

We need to be focused in this Holy Season on how we can better serve God … how we can bring others to God … how we can connect more closely to God’s love through Jesus Christ and how we can strive to insure that our ongoing life walk is with Jesus.

Molly will sing these words in a few moments, “Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name … not because of who I am nor of what I have done but because of who YOU are” … GOD’s love. Jesus’ clear teaching … are you ready to rock the boat by showing the world that you have declared for the rest of your life that YOU ARE GOD’s … and you shall have no fear because you are wrapped up in God’s love. Let’s ROCK THE BOAT together church and change the world for Christ!

YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID … GOD LOVES EVERYONE … that includes you so return that love by living for Christ through your actions.


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