We are now in the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany means a new revelation or idea.  We might say, “The light dawns.”  When our first son put on a suit to take a young lady in a fancy dress to the Senior Banquet, we suddenly realized in a new way that he had grown up.  He went to boarding school in Africa and so we did not have the everyday experience of watching him grow.  When he put on a real suit and she in a fancy dress, we gasped.  Of course, we might look at Newton, discovering the law of gravity when the apple fell.  During the season of Epiphany we look at this babe of Christmas who grew up and was baptized by John the Baptist.  A voice from heaven said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”  What?  Son of God?  Something new has happened within Judaism.

         True, the Romans believed in gods that had children with humans but not Judaism.  During Epiphany our Sunday sermons will look at the Sermon on the Mount, that has been dubbed Jesus’ “State of the Union Address” where he lays out his beliefs about how life in “the kingdom of God” works.  The sermon texts will go from Matthew 4 to Matthew 6.  Our daily devotions will continue from where they leave off to check out this “new guy on the block.”  Is he God Incarnate?

“38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

 (Matthew 5:38-42)”

Our world works with an underlying “tit for tat” principle.  If I commit a crime, I can expect to be fined or jailed.  If I am caught cheating on an exam, I can expect to fail.  Was the “election stolen” is a new mantra right now.  We are struggling also because the mass shootings especially at schools, robbing us of the lives of others, has no punishment that can bring back life.  We struggle with appeasing our desire for revenge.

         We also say “quid pro quo” or “trade-off” and “you don’t get something for nothing.”  Jesus presents a revolutionary new worldview where there is no tit-for-tat, no revenge for wrongs, but where evil is met with good.  He seems to be saying that “love” is stronger than “hate.”  Good will conquer evil!  Generosity and putting the others needs before your own is the best way of life to make life work.  Truly? We ask.  Mostly we do not take these verses seriously but we do know that forgiveness may be the only way to end the hatred and revenge cycle. 

         Perhaps there is an old grievance you have been carrying around in your memory.  Forgiveness is hard.  Sometimes writing it down and then burning it helps.  Sometimes writing it down and putting it in a box for Jesus to take care of helps.  Other times we do what we know is right even when we don’t feel like it and discover we feel better despite our feelings. 

         Let’s not head into 2023 with old grievances that weigh us down and that cast shadows on the present.  May we be more generous and willing to share with those in need.  Lord, help us be kinder in 2023!

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