This fortnight’s blog comes from Ruth Dawson, who is a Local Preacher On Note in the Salford Circuit.
This is my first attempt at a blog so I suppose it seems only right that I should write about my first attempt at a ‘mini’ sermon - this sermon was given on 24th February 2019.
I have been one of a team of three worship leaders at Monton Methodist for the past 6 (ish) years. Sunday saw me take the first tentative step towards local preaching. Working with my mentor David we shared the sermon. Apparently, the gospel reading perhaps isn’t the easiest for a first timer... here goes...
Luke 6: 27 – 38 Love for Enemies
It is interesting how this reading starts with the words ‘For those who are listening...’
Perhaps we need to be ready to hear these particular words, or maybe we need to really hear the message between the words.
When preparing for this service and reflecting on these words, I found it difficult on a global level. So much violence & aggression in this world, nations against nations, torturing, children murdering children, genocide...
Even here in our own country, Brexit pitting party against party, even as in the past week, infighting within parties; young children coming home to racist slogans on their front doors here in Salford.
To love these neighbours, I find difficult to unpick...
I then began reflecting on an individual level...
Jesus says it is easy to love those whom love us, those whom perhaps think similarly to us, live in the same cultures or with similar values – mind you anyone living in the Dawson culture may not always think so!
So then, who is my enemy? I know you may find it hard to believe that I could annoy anyone!
I thought back to a much younger me, 11 years old, new school, introverted, quiet, difficult to settle, kept to the shadows.
I was bullied almost from the very first, I used to dive into classroom doorways, or under stairwells to avoid a certain group of girls (and yes girls in my experience can be far more vicious than boys). These were definitely my enemies at that time.
As a younger me, taking my first steps into leading teams, a colleague I was working with taking work as I done as their own undermining my efforts at every opportunity, driving me nuts with frustration, again an enemy.
Currently the parent desperately trying to undermine the swimming committee of which I chair, with constant complaints, even reporting us to the national body when complaints came to nothing.
Though these are just three illustrations, I’m sure we can all think of people or situations where perhaps it would be difficult to ‘love’.
I learnt certainly during my career that it is less painful to try and understand the intention behind the act (or omission), than to hold on to the misguided frustrations of victimisation. Most people are not just ‘out to get us’, most people act with good intentions even when it’s difficult to see.
Perhaps it is this that Jesus was trying to illustrate to those willing to listen...
When we are slapped against the cheek, we offer the other, when our robe is taken we offer our cloak. Maybe the other cheek, being the ability to listen, to understand the slight (or slap), offering the cloak, to offer understanding.
When someone took my work as theirs, was this just because they were lazy, or unable to complete the work due to lack of time, or competing priorities, did I feel undermined or was there an actual act to undermine? Perhaps a conversation around my thoughts and/or feelings, asking how they were, about workloads etc., would have proffered understanding of the intention, moving forward we may have been more productive working together, I could have offered the other cheek.
When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He is talking about stopping the cycle stopping spiralling vengeances. Back to my bullies though I hid, others would have slapped back, to be punched or beaten, and so the violence escalates until family is against family, community against community, country against country.
When we look at the word love, as used in the gospel, the context is not as we would first understand. It is not meant as we would love our children, or each other. The Greek verb which the gospel uses is ‘agapao’ (agapaw) from which the noun ‘agape’ (ah-gah-pay) comes. This refers to a special kind of love. Not the expressed love of lovers nor the close love of friends. It is an attitude of positive regard towards other people, a wish for their wellbeing.
In my reflections, ‘love’ thy enemies is the time to take a step back, reflect/understand the intentions behind the acts or words understand the cultures from which the ‘slur’ comes, and take the time to understand, to prevent further misunderstandings and move forward on a different path.
In this way I can find a way to ‘love’ my enemies.
Remembering it is only the light which can drive out the dark!