First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon – February 24th, 2019

Sermon – by Pastor Greg Briggs

Prayer and Introduction

  1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
  2. “Slap A Pastor Sunday!” Or “What you give is what you get”
  1. Refresher from last Sunday
    1. Today’s reading is a continuation of the sermon on the plain. Last week it started with Luke’s blessings and woes, or “honored are” and “how shameless”
    2. Particular emphasis on last beatitude and last woe
      1. Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. 23 Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
      2. How terrible for you when all speak well of you. Their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
  • Particular important to today’s reading, which often gets lost as the scripture is broken up
  1. Important to remember this set of teachings as a continuous whole, not separate weekly fragments
    1. Third part of the sermon on the plain that we won’t touch on –
    2. The whole thing is well worth reading and pondering on your own Luke 6:17-49
  2. “The portion you give is the portion you will receive in turn”
    1. The first part of the reading usually draws us all in, so I don’t want to lose track of the rest
    2. You don’t gain anything from loving your loved ones, because you aren’t expending anything
    3. Or if you only act expecting to get paid back in the end, there’s no honor in that
    4. Mutual assistance is the basis of any community. I give, I get
      1. Honor is caring for those that can’t benefit you
      2. “If you want to know what a person is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
    5. Slight paradox, the portion you give is the portion you receive, and we should give without expecting anything in return
      1. Don’t expect anything in return from the person you are giving to. Your return comes from elsewhere.
      2. Some think of this as rewards in the afterlife, or the prosperity Gospel says this is where you will gain wealth from other places.
  • I think of it as we will be transformed within ourselves, if we are open to it
  1. Love your enemies
    1. Three words, lifetime of practice
      1. Bless those that curse you. Why are they cursing you? Because you are following Jesus’ teachings
      2. The Message’s interpretation “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable.
  • Luke 2: 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.
  1. Revealed innermost thoughts – truth is too close for comfort
  2. Honorable to help people get closer to the truth, though they may not like it, and indeed, may lash out.
  1. Slap the pastor time – Jesus’ 3rd way
    1. Turn the other cheek
      1. So often we assume our responses are surrender or violence, and read that into the scriptures. So, what is transgressive looks to be passive or weak
      2. Jesus shows us a different way. “Lovingly asserting our blessedness”
    2. Theology of Walter Wink – anti-Apartheid Christian minister, classic text is “the Powers That Be”
      1. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
      2. our enemies aren’t the people who oppose us, but the structures that have brought us into opposition
    3. Wink and turn the other cheek <get a volunteer>
      1. Matthew 5: 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
        1. Importance of Honor, status, and inferiority in Roman times. Oh, and right handedness
        2. All backed up by Roman Law. Read “Engaging the Powers” if you want to know more
      2. So, facing each other, how would a person using their right hand, strike another’s right cheek? Backhand
        1. Sign of superior over inferior –
        2. There are severe penalties in Roman for an inferior to backhand a superior
  • So, now, turn the other cheek. How would a person using their right hand, strike another’s left cheek? Forehand slap
    1. Sign of equals. And here’s the thing. For a supposed superior person to foreslap an inferior is to mark them as an equal. Also brings great dishonor, but to the person of superior status
  1. Not passivity, but asserting equality
  2. AND, hopefully, through they act, helping the other, the “enemy” see one’s equality
    1. Just like lunch counter sit ins, sitting on the front of the bus, and marches in the Civil Rights era
  3. Same with If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either.”
    1. What superiors are and aren’t allowed to ask of inferiors as codified in Roman Law. Coat and shirt would leave a person naked, and bring shame and legal accusation of theft upon the person who took the clothing
    2. Another one from Matthew ”If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Roman soldiers could make anyone carry their pack for one mile. But more than that, and it’s a crime and a sign of dishonor
  4. Practicing the third way
    1. Remember, “The portion you give is the portion you will receive in turn”
    2. Loving enemies – golden rule
      1. Don’t become your enemies
    3. Living this way, often learn an even more unsettling, but deeper truth
      1. Your enemies are God’s children too
      2. And often, the most despicable ones are the ones that are the most hurt themselves
    4. The opposite of “there but for the Grace of God, go I”
      1. “There, because of the grace of God, go I”
    5. Build up in practice and awareness your skill in loving your enemies
  5. Need to know there is a third way
    1. Not just big picture enemies, but everyday antagonisms too
    2. No one size fits all answer for every situation
      1. Jesus’ examples aren’t the only places this applies. He started with examples, then moved to wider vision


  1. Homeless
    1. Should I give or should I not?
    2. You can always give a sign of their humanity
      1. “Lovingly assert their blessedness” and see that they are also “lovingly asserting their blessedness\or worthiness to be loved.” Even if it makes you uncomfortable how
        1. Don’t ignore them. Find the confidence and strength in yourself to engage further than you have been comfortable before
        2. Can’t control their responses, but in my experience, for every person that only sees you as a walking ATM, there are 10 who are more deeply needing to be seen.
      2. Work to free one’s self from the “what if’s”
        1. That’s a reflection of your inner worries more than about them
        2. One friend, kept count on her daily walk, and gave $1 to local homeless advocacy group each time she was asked
        3. Another would offer to buy food or personal items they need
        4. Another made sure they knew what resources were available to them, and listened if they had problems with these groups
        5. Another, just gave, because they felt that trying to control someone else diminished their humanity.
      3. Or maybe it’s the person or people in your life who make chronic bad choices and mistakes
        1. Loving them, doesn’t mean that you only give them what they ask for and when
        2. Sometimes, it’s giving, sometimes it’s not giving in love
  • Love is not codependency
  1. Love yourself, too
  2. Keep growing in your practice of love
    1. “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” ― Cornel West
    2. As Walter Wink reminds us, our struggles are not against individuals, but the powers, principalities, and structures of evil
  3. Spiritual discipline of Jesus’ Third Way
    1. “The portion you give is the portion you will receive in turn.”
    2. You will receive great rewards, but don’t expect them from the person you are loving


Luke 6:27-38 Common English Bible (CEB)

Behaving as God’s children

27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.

32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

37 “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

Click on the link below to enjoy the audio version of this Sermon.