Epiphany 6’23
12 February 2023
I Cor. 3.1-9; Matt. 5.21-37
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

O God of mercy, who loved the world so much that you gave your only Son: Grant that we may so receive this love within our own hearts, and among our brothers and sisters; that we may be empowered to share your reconciling love, and to break down the walls that divide and separate us from our neighbors, through Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

What’s in a name? Often the true meaning of a name can be prophetic of what someone will do or become in life.  Two of my favorites is a man whose last name was Butcher who became a surgeon, and a woman with the last name Tooth, who became a dentist. Devil in Greek is diablo and means to come between or divide.  We see the work of the dark side that surrounds us by constantly splitting us apart by philosophy, politics, and religion. Never in my lifetime have I seen our nation more divided, brother against brother, and sister, Father against sons and daughters, mothers against fathers, and on and on. This coming between, splits us into dichotomies of us vs. them where the enemy doesn’t have to do much because we end up fighting ourselves. It’s the oldest trick in the book and tv shows, movies, novels and plays all use the formula of division, if one person or group can get two other entities fighting each other they can end up defeating them and dominating them.

However, the mission of Christ and his Church is just the opposite, the catechism puts it this way by asking the question: “What is the mission of the Church? Then gives this answer: “the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”[1]

We can find the mission of the Church embedded in the word religion. In Latin, the word ligare means to tie together, so the word re-ligare means to tie back together after they have been separated.  So, religion at its best seeks to reconnect and to reconcile parties who are at odds, rather than furthering the divide.

In order to better understand a passage of scripture, it can be helpful to read the passage that precedes it. Today’s gospel is an example of this. On the heels of Jesus telling his followers that they were to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, he launches into a teaching about the keeping of God’s law, in particular the part of the law dealing with our neighbors, those who live in and around our community. What did Jesus say when he was asked what the two great commandments were? “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourselves.”

In the ancient symbol of our faith the cross we are given clues about what manner life we are to live. When we look at a cross, we clearly see that it is made of two beams, one vertical, and one horizontal. The vertical beam represents our relationship with the God, and the horizontal beam represents our relationship with our neighbors and those with whom we come into contact.  The way of the cross is the way of love and has interconnected our loving God and loving our neighbor. You can’t have one without the other. Again, in today’s gospel Jesus bears this out when he said, “when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5.24)

This passage from the gospel is one of the reasons we have the portion of the liturgy we simply call “The Peace.” I love the way we do the peace here at St. Luke’s, especially before the pandemic and the way we are doing it again, where folks go all over the church hugging necks and shaking hands. Besides being friendly and welcoming its original intent is to show that we are not at odds with each other, that we are reconciled to each other. In our prayer book we find these words just before the confession and the peace: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and make your humble confession to Almighty God…”[2]

It really is all about Love! Amen.






[1] The Book of Common Prayer, p 855

[2] The Book of Common Prayer, p.330