Thursday, June 28, 2012

Teachers and Teachings We Remember

Teachers and Teachings We Remember
Proper 8B
July 1, 2012
Matthew 5:38-48

Mrs. Jones was a second grade teacher at James Madison Elementary School in Anaheim, California.  Mrs. Jones was an excellent teacher who cared deeply about her students.  One day in class, Mrs. Jones mentioned her home, which was a few miles away from James Madison Elementary School.  Some of the children were shocked! 

"What do you mean, 'home?'  Don't you live here at the school?" they asked.

"Why, no!" said Mrs. Jones.  "I work here at school.  I love being your teacher, but teaching is my job.  I also have a home and a family, just like your moms and dads have a job, a home and a family.  I am your teacher, but I am also a wife, a mother, a neighbor, a citizen and many other things as well.  I have many different roles in my life."

Jesus had many different roles in his life, too, just like Mrs. Jones; just like we all do.  Jesus was a son, a brother, a neighbor, a healer, a preacher and a Savior.  Jesus was also a teacher.  He explained to the people what the Scriptures meant, and taught people about God.  Sometimes Jesus explained the Scripture in ways the people had never heard before, and they were shocked!  For example, the Torah, which is what Jesus' students called their Scripture, the Torah said that if someone hurts you, say punches you in the arm, then you are allowed to punch them in the arm back, but that's all.  People were not allowed to do anything to hurt someone worse than they were hurt.  It's called "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  But Jesus said that if someone hurts you, you're not supposed to hurt back at all!  We call it "turning the other cheek." Here's what Jesus said,

"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' ...40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it... Live generously."  (Eugene Peterson's The Message)

Jesus also taught his followers to not only love their friends, but to love their enemies also.  And he said that if people give you a hard time, don't give them a hard time back, but pray for them.  Jesus knew that God asks all of us to be the very best people we can be--not only good, but better than what is expected. 

There is a lot of discussion in schools and the news media today about bullying. Bullies can be pretty scary and hurtful. Jesus teaches us not to bully them back, but it is also OK to tell a teacher, your mom or dad, a coach or camp counselor when someone is being bullied. Letting the person in charge know what is going on will help both the person under attack and the bully to get the help they need to stop the bad behavior.

These lessons of Jesus' were shocking to his followers 2,000 years ago.  Sometimes they are still pretty hard for us to hear today.  When someone punches us, or calls us a mean name, the first thing most of us want to do is to hurt them back.  But can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone responded to meanness with kindness and generosity?  Jesus imagined such a world and called it The Kingdom of God.

Let's Pray:  Kind and Loving God, Help us to follow the teachings of Jesus, even when the lessons are difficult.  Help us to be the best people we can be, kind and generous.  May your kingdom come.  Amen.

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