Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Epiphany  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:27
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Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today a “cancel-culture” environment has become more common than before, where simple disagreements and differences of opinion makes enemies out of friends. I recognize that I’m painting with a broad-brush, but it seems to me that civility in our society has reach an all-time low.
I just learned on the news the other day that the brand president of Levi-Strauss & Company quit her job after receiving pressure from the company to stop publicly expressing her views regarding COVID-related school closures.
And this isn’t the only topic that strains relationships.
Maybe you had someone accuse you of something you didn’t do; and worse yet, they weren’t content with having a disagreement with you, they actively sought to hurt your reputation.
This experience is very painful, and I know the feeling because it has happened it me. This happened 10-years ago, and it took over seven months before it came to light that the accusation was a complete fabrication.
The natural reaction of our sinful nature is to return the same evil to them. In today’s Gospel, however, Jesus bids us to speak words of blessing, and also words of prayer in which we ask God to help our enemies.
During this Epiphany season—which is quickly coming to an end—Jesus is reorienting the members of His kingdom, because by nature, we have have it backwards. What Jesus began to do in last Sunday’s Gospel reading, He continues this week.
Once again, Jesus shows us a way of life that seems completely upside-down. He tells us to love those who hate us, even mistreat us. To put it another way, Jesus tells us that we need to treat others in the opposite way they deserve.
The way God wants us to deal with others is at the heart of how He deals with us. He does not respond to evil with more evil; instead, with good and love. God treats us the opposite of what we deserve. That is called grace.
Love and do good to your enemies as your Father has been merciful to you; for you can trust that He will right every wrong with great, imperishable reward.
So for the next few minutes we are going to address three things:
And to get there we are going to look at the wonderful story of Joseph from our Old Testament reading.

Love Your Enemies

Joseph in today’s OT reading is child from a large family, and he was his father’s favorite. I know parents shouldn’t have favorites, and if they do, they ought not to make it obvious. But Jacob—Joseph’s father—LOVED his wife Rachel more than the others, and subsequently their offspring, Joseph. Dad loved Joseph so much that he made him a coat of many colors.
His ten older brothers, however, were not impressed. They were downright jealous of Joseph. They contemplated killing him, but thought it better to sell him into slavery into Egypt.
Now that Joseph’s brothers got rid of him, Joe went through several cycles of loss, and experienced all kinds of problems. He was even sold-out by his boss when the boss’ wife made false accusations against him.
He was tossed into prison. But God gave Joseph a gift to interpret dreams, which came in handy, because Pharoah he didn’t understand. Pharoah came to understand from Joseph that seven years of a prosperous bumper crops were going to be followed by seven years of famine.
Pharoah ultimately put Joseph in charge of all things in the country—truly the second in command—and now he is able to plan for an upcoming famine that he foresaw in one of the dreams.
There was no one else like Joseph in Egypt who “has the Spirit of God” (Gen 41:38), Joseph was put in charge of planning for, and administering all the food in preparation for and during the famine.
Gen 41:39-44 “Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Because God has shown you all of this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. You shall be in charge of my house, and all my people will submit to your word. Only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “Look, I have appointed you over the whole land of Egypt.” Pharaoh took his signet ring off of his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand. He dressed Joseph in robes made from the best linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the second best chariot that he had. Men went ahead of him crying out, “Kneel down!” Pharaoh appointed him over the whole land of Egypt. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but in the whole land of Egypt no one will lift up his hand or his foot without your permission.”
Isn’t this great. A wonderful account of how God turned the evil toward Joseph into some good.
The famine did come and it affected the entire area, including Jacob, his brothers, and their homeland. So Jacob (Israel) sent his other sons to Egypt to purchase food. They wound up standing before their brother Joseph, some 20 or so years later, whom they thought for sure by this time is dead.
Joseph soon realizes that his brothers are not the same as they used to be, and he forgives them. He embraces his youngest brother—Benjamin—and all the others as a sign of absolution.
This is a wonderful illustration of what our Lord Jesus commands us to do— Luke 6:27 “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.”
But you and I both know that this is at times easier said than done! And yet, as a new creation in Christ, when bad things happen to us we are called to respond differently than the world and our sinful nature.

Follow the Pattern of God’s Love

Obviously, Joseph had the power and authority to have his older brothers arrested and executed for what they had done to him years earlier. Joseph was in a perfect place to get his pound of flesh. After all, because of his older brothers, he was ostracized from his family, spend time as a slave, and was even in prisoned for a time.
We too, want our pound of flesh when bad things happen to us. I don’t know if there is anything more painful than betrayal. When your best friend, whom you loved and trusted implicitly, turns against you, our emotions spurred on my your sinful nature, wants to take over. In the fog of pain, the devil takes advantage of the fact that we’re not seeing clearly and will always point us toward settling the score.
But Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk 6:27). Then He repeats this phrase verse 35 for emphasis. Everything in the middle between verse 27 and 35 illustrates what loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us looks like. And yet, our old sinful nature that does not want to die is right there. We see this at work in the public square today, where people are vilified even if we have a different opinion on a subject.
Jesus even has something to say about judging others, which is ofttimes misinterpreted. People are fond of saying that we should not judge others, which is not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is not endorsing the acceptance of any evil.
Judge not does not mean to look away from what is contrary to God’s Word. Someone is living together outside of marriage, or is engaged in sinful practice, we are called, out of love for them and for their benefit, to point out the error.
Unfortunately today, people are fond of saying, “You’re not supposed to judge!”
The “Golden Rule” is not something we do by nature. In fact, we are very quick to misunderstand and make judgments that are inaccurate, which is the essence of the passage.
Joseph realized that God would not have him plot revenge, because God has always planned to use Joseph in a mighty way. A way in which he would preserve the line in which Christ Jesus would be born.
God has the amazing ability to take the evil we have done, or was done to us, and turns it into something beautiful. Let God work out things His way, instead of us drawing line and plotting to get even.
Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful. The most High God, is kind to the ungrateful and evil, and we are the ungrateful and evil, and the Father has been merciful to us. Jesus took our sin upon Himself, and now God no longer looks at us in the way we truly are. Therefore, we can be sure that

God Will Right Every Wrong

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that our sufferings at the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose,”
Romans 8:35-39 “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Just as it is written: For your sake we are being put to death all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor powerful forces, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You and I are looking forward to an imperishable, glorious resurrection on the Last Day.
2 Cor 4:17-18 “Yes, our momentary, light trouble produces for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond any comparison. We are not focusing on what is seen, but on what is not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
The stuff we are experiencing is temporary; not even a blip on the screen of eternity.
And really, truth be known, God does not deal with us according to our sins and iniquities.
When we are fretting on how God is taking his time in dealing with those who have done us wrong, we must remember we ourselves that we, too, are guilty.
Because of our sin, we deserve God wrath and punishment, but we have received MERCY instead. We were God’s enemies, yet, He sent His one and only Son to become the atoning sacrifice for our sin.
If this life is all there is and there’s nothing to come after we die, then we might as well get everything we can in life, including our pound of flesh.
But, because we have something else to look forward that is even better, then we can put up with everything and anything in this life.
We have an imperishable, glorious resurrection to come. And, we know that God will make right everything that has happened to us here.
There is an old hymn that was actually the appointed hymn of the day. I wrestled with whether I should subject you to it, because it is a fantastic hymn. But, the tune left a lot to be desired. So, allow me to read the first stanza of this grand hymn.
My soul, now praise your Maker! Let all within me bless His name Who makes you full partaker Of mercies more than you dare claim. Forget Him not whose meekness Still bears with all your sin, Who heals your ev'ry weakness, Renews your life within; Whose grace and care are endless And saved you through the past; Who leaves no suff'rer friendless But rights the wronged at last.
Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose,”
Love and do good to your enemies as your Father has been merciful to you; for you can trust that He will right every wrong with great, imperishable reward.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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