St. Luke's United Methodist Church

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Orlando, FL 32819
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Weekly Update-February 5, 2015

Posted on February 5, 2015 at 7:14 pm in .
Dear St. Lukers:


After Sunday night’s incredible end to the Superbowl, I was thinking about how to connect that (or perhaps one of the commercials) to this week’s update. But then, on Tuesday, ISIS released a video of their burning alive of the captured airman from Jordan. The ongoing brutality of the beheadings and now this barbaric and inhuman act are for me beyond comprehension. In retaliation, the next day, the government of Jordan executed two accused terrorists they had in custody.  Last month Hezbollah in Lebanon attacked Jewish soldiers in retaliation for an Israeli drone strike a week earlier that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. Despite the retaliation, Iran stated that it still had the right “to avenge itself” against Israel.


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And so we come to this Sunday’s Apostles’ Creed focus on Jesus: “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” There is no doubt that the culturally accepted attitude toward violence in Jesus’ time was retaliatory. We tend to regard the “eye for an eye, tooth for tooth” law in Exodus 21:24 as harsh, but actually, it was a limiting of retaliation to the extent of the offense. In other words it was a law restricting “pay back” disproportionate to the original injury. However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39) If I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and my Lord, then I want to live by his teachings. But I have to be honest; my initial reaction to the horrific news of the burning of the airman is to seek to return the evil.


One of the questions we ask new members as they join the church is,  “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” How do we respond as believers? Is the response of a nation different? Standing for “evening the score” makes me feel better as a citizen of the world, but it does not make me feel better as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Conversely, “turning the other cheek” doesn’t seem to have the moral power of resistance to evil. I don’t offer this in order to provide for you any definitive answer; rather I want to be transparent about the challenge being a believer presents.


Jesus himself endured what many would claim was the most horrific execution of his time: crucifixion; and yet while bleeding and suffocating to death, he said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Perhaps they didn’t know that they were killing the Son of God, but they surely knew that they were torturing a man whose “crime” was only a theological affront to his opponents.


The death of Jesus was a significant issue in the early centuries of the Christian faith. It defined his humanity perhaps even more so than his birth. That is evident in the clauses of the Creed.  In preparation for the messages this weekend in worship, consider this text: Colossians 1:15-23. Read Paul’s words in the context of first century Roman violence and 21st century inexplicable inhumanity. That’s what Pastor Corey and I will be doing this week.


And pray for peace, for everyone everywhere whose lives are threatened and even ended by evil.


With a seeking faith, an ardent hope, and a yearning to love,

Bill
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