“Love for Orlando” (June 13, 2016: Monday of the Fourth Week after Pentecost–Proper 6C)

This sermon was preached in the Chapel of the Apostles at the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee during the Noonday Eucharist for the Advanced Degrees Program on Monday, June 13, 2016.

Collect: Keep, O Lord, Your household the Church in Your steadfast faith and love, that through Your grace we may proclaim Your truth with boldness, and minister Your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Readings: I Kings 21.1-16; Psalm 5.1-6; Matthew 5.38-42

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.”—Matthew 5.39[1]

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 All of us have surely heard by now of the terrible news coming out of Orlando, where, at around 2:00am yesterday morning at the Pulse Club, 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire, killing 50 innocent people and injuring 53 more, bringing about the worst domestic terror attack in American history, second only to 9/11.  It was a heartbreaking day for our country.  To quote the President

“As Americans, we grieve the brutal murder—a horrific massacre—of dozens of innocent people…We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city…This was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.”[2]

Although events such as these, especially when they directly affect us, make us grieve and feel outrage—all reasonably legitimate feelings to have—it is important that we keep tabs on our reactions.  The people killed in Orlando were people’s sons, daughters, siblings, parents, and close friends savagely taken away from them for no legitimate reason.  It is perfectly reasonable to see how those left behind could harbor deep anger and resentment for their loved ones’ killer, wanting to really “show” him how much hurt he has caused.  But if we are not too careful, then our grief and outrage could themselves turn into acts of hate and violence.  And what good would that do?  We would be responding to hate with more hate.  Instead of working to make things better, we would be aiding in making things worse.

This is why Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are both well timed and important for us to consider.  Jesus says to us

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”

And although we did not hear this, Jesus says further on in Matthew 5

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”[3]

Instead of repaying violence with violence, Jesus commands that we repay violence with love.  He commands us not to hate our enemies, but to actually love and pray for them.  I can only imagine the perplexity of emotion for our Orlando brothers and sisters being told this, that they are to love Mr. Mateen, the gunman that took their loved ones, their friends away from them and pray for him.  This is extremely hard to do.  None of us, nor anybody we know or even heard of, can keep these commands perfectly.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to love perfectly as Jesus does.

But that does not mean that we should not, at least, try.  As Louis Armstrong once said, “What a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give [love] a chance.”  Jesus is the reason that we should give love a chance.  Why that is is because the life and love that Jesus lived and gave was perfect and the grace He offers is available to me, to you, to everyone else, and yes, even to Omar Mateen.  Because of who Jesus is and what He has done, LOVE has won!  RESURRECTION has won!  GOOD, not evil, has won!  Jesus is the real deal.  He has proven Himself to be the One who we can completely trust.  Let us go with Him!  By submitting ourselves to the will of Jesus, the more our thoughts, words, and actions will, through time, turn from hate and violence to love and forgiveness.  The less tempted we will become to repay violence with violence.  The better able we will be to show love to, sincerely pray for, and offer forgiveness to our offender.  Because of Jesus, we can say with confidence to our grieving friends in Orlando, as well as to Mr. Mateen, “LOVE wins!  RESURRECTION wins!  GOOD, not evil, wins!”

Again, though, in the midst of much emotional pain and anguish, this is extremely hard to do.  Jesus knows how hard it is for us and, because of grace, does not hold our imperfection against us

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”[4]

Jesus says to us, “I know that you are trying.  Don’t give up!  Try again!”  Imagine how extremely better things could be “if only [all of us gave love] a chance.  Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with all of us.

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New American Bible (Revised Edition), Copyright ã2012 by HarperCollins Publishers.

[2] “President Obama on the Tragic Shooting in Orlando,” The White House (www.whitehouse.gov), accessed June 12, 2016.

[3] Matthew 5.44-45

[4] Romans 8.1 (NRSV)

Published by Brandt Montgomery

I am a Priest and boarding school chaplain in the Episcopal Church (USA).

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