It is my fond hope that we might take from these scriptures some clarity on the ever-pressing question of how we should live in this time.
But in case your brain froze at the shocking command to ‘Hate your family’, a pause for a word from some experts:
Of this passage in Luke, Biblical scholar Luke Johson wrote that the Greek miseō does correctly translate to hate; It is the Greek opposite of agape, or love. Importantly, he also notes that those terms are “not expressions of emotions, but of attitudes and ways of acting; one’s effective attitude toward the Reign of God. ” Translating from the Biblical languages, Catholic writers of the Jerusalem Bible note that miseo is “an emphatic way of expressing a total detachment in Hebrew ”. So continue to love your family, cherish your life – not so much your possessions. all mindful that our Creator has a prior claim.
Deuteronomy 30 is a liturgical address following 3 sermons that recap the history of the Israelites. It calls this disheartened and faltering people to renew their fidelity to the covenant with the Holy One who brought them out of slavery in Egypt.
The Hebrews were still grieving the land they’d lost, and found it hard to trust in the future. To this people the author proclaims “YES! your future is still with the Holy One. So each day, choose again to live by the law that binds us; a people renewed in faith may be ready to meet the promise.”
Fear and grief accompany every age,and now ours. The Talmud instructs us: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
So we too must choose to follow Life, not freeze, overwhelmed. While our efforts may often seem futile, our diligent and hopeful practice makes the option for Life in every arena more graceful. They help our shared efforts build both hope and community. Community alone is capable of building power for broader change.
Deuteronomy’s message echoes in Paul’s tender letter to his friend Philemon, with whom he had bonded over the Gospel of Jesus. A wealthy man, he taught the Way of Jesus in his home, likely with a number of slaves serving him. About 40% of the population was enslaved at that time; Onesimus was one who got away, possibly carrying some small bit of that wealth.
In this letter, Paul commends Philemon for the growth of his faith and of his house church, Then pushes him to do more, in short: “Choose to take it to the next level, friend! Include Onesimus – my right hand – in your church – in fact,your home, your family! Choose to see and respect him as a fellow disciple with dignity and worth,
He who ran from you in shame, I give to you as an equal, to be embraced.”
If ever you are longing for reconciliation, or praying for an embracing justice, this letter is a beautiful meditation to return to.
In Luke 14 we hear Jesus admonish those who would follow him not to allow any other obligation supersede that of the Reign of God. From an early age he modeled this well. He did not “hate” his parents by arguing to stay longer in Jerusalem; he was so fully engrossed in discussions of the Scriptures that he never noticed they’d left. Detached from all else.
Jesus taught us all that neither family nor friends can be our whole world, nor work or nation can be our whole identity. There must be room for us to extend ourselves to those without the protection of family, and those seeking to grow in faith.
Paul did not assume he alone could build up the faith of Onesimus, he gave up his cherished helper and companion so that he – and Philemon- could mutually grow in hospitality and witness.
Today, in this Benedictine Eucharistic circle, our hospitality and witness must be clear and bold too. Sixteen years ago we chose to step outside the local diocese: choosing to be welcoming and inclusive of all who come, to be open and discern members’ gifts across varied ministries, and to care for this piece of the earth. In recent years our listening seems to further call us to join in solidarity with those who cry for justice outside our walls, choosing yet more of life. Who we are together is as precious to God as the faith within each of our hearts. As for the Hebrews, it is for those who follow Jesus: we are made a people of God, learning and practicing together the ways of God’s own home..
For this reason I am grateful for each of you who chose to join this worship today, -whether we can see you or not! Whatever it is you bring to this table, it is a gift, not a burden. Your story, your struggles and your hopes help make our prayer true, and our community whole, by the grace of God.
Let us pray:
For those who because of depression, despair or addiction struggle to choose life, and for those who love them, let us pray…
For those living amid war and repression, with hunger and with fear, let us pray for their safety and for a just peace…..
For children and young adults in this time of uncertainty, that they find grounding in their homes and schools, prosper in their studies and friendships, and know joy, let us pray…
For teachers in schools throughout our state and nation, that they have the strength and support they need to meet the many needs of their students, and to maintain health and equanimity through the year, we pray…
For what else shall we pray?
For these and all the prayers written in our Book of Intentions, we pray.
Holy One, Source of all life, drawing us to you, we ask that you hear and accept these prayers from our lips and on our hearts, in the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.
The Peace of Christ.