Sermon text: Luke 6: 27-38
Monday morning I walked, bleary-eyed, into my bathroom and stepped directly into a puddle of water. Talk about a bad way to wake up! Upon examination, I discovered that the water on the floor was coming from the vanity, under the sink. The cold-water supply line had spring a small leak. Water was dripping everywhere.
Into the basement I went, looking for my toolbox. When I got there, I had the sudden and unpleasant realization that half of the tools I was used to left with my ex-wife in our divorce. That was fair, they were hers in the first place, but we didn’t have a lot of tools to begin with! So when I was looking for something simple, like a 3/8 crescent wrench, or a ½ inch crescent wrench, or an adjustable wrench, or groove joint pliers…I was out of luck. Three times I went searching for a tool. Three times I came up empty and had to trudge over to the church to borrow some tools out of our sexton’s closet.
In the end the supply lines were replaced, the water mopped up, no damage was done, and life went back to normal. However, the event did lead me to take an inventory of my poor toolbox. Right now, I have something like six and a half socket wrench attachments, nine screw drivers that are quite vintage and rusty, a chisel, 432 Ikea Allen wrenches, and this, THIS is my hammer! Clearly, I am not Bob Villa, nor am I Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, nor am I my girlfriend who has a miter saw and an air compressor and gadgets and an honest-to-God hammer.
The problem, as I see it, is that with a limited toolbox I have a very limited ability to build or repair just about anything. If I want to construct something simple, say a wooden box, I’m going to have to buy and borrow some tools, because currently I’m empty handed. It’s time to use some of my birthday cash and do what man was made to do: buy tools.
I think about my toolbox situation as I look at this Gospel lesson today, because as Jesus gives this Sermon on the Plain I see him outfitting the crowd with a toolbox to build the Kingdom of God. If the Kingdom is at hand, if a different reality is just around the corner for how we live and interact with each other, what tools has God put in our hands to build it into a reality? What functions as our hammer and our wrench and our screwdriver? What do we have for pliers and levels?
Here’s the instruments needed as Jesus teaches:
Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you.
Pray for those who abuse you.
Offer the other cheek.
Do not withhold your coat.
Give to everyone who begs.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
That’s a full kit of tools that comes straight from the forge of God with a lifetime warranty. Sure, it will take a boatload of skill and effort to use these things correctly, but the Kingdom of God is not built in one day.
Often times, as a pastor and preacher of God’s Word, I refrain from giving lists of instructions during a sermon. I truly believe that we generally need reminded of who we are as God’s people more so than we need step-by-step instructions of what we should do or how we should act. The thought being, remind the people of who they are, and whose they are, and they will do the rest.
But here, Jesus is certainly taking the opposite approach. It’s hard to find a more nuts and bolts approach than this list he gives. This is a list that won’t just make us better people, but it will make us construction workers of God’s will in the world. How can God not be served when we follow this list? Without getting into the historical and contextual weeds of this Gospel, Jesus is simply saying to us:
And show mercy.
These are the power tools of faith in action. That’s not only a list that will improve our morals and ethics, that will make us better people, but a list that will help build the vision of what God wants for the world.
When we use these gifts, we are building the Kingdom. When we do these things, we are modeling who God is, what God has done for us, and what God wants for us. When we act in these ways we display God’s character. With these tools we demolish the powers that make up this broken world and we construct a better, God-centered, grace-centered way.
As construction workers of the Kingdom of God we love, bless, do, pray, offer, endure, give, lend, and show mercy not to build ourselves up, not to earn divine merit or a notion of salvation, or even to have a better, nicer world. We use these tools because when we are active Jesus is building the Kingdom of God through us. We’re constructing the model home in a new development, showcasing the possibilities of what life with God looks like.
That’s what we can build together. Jesus isn’t giving us a rulebook or a list for how to be nicer people. He’s giving us blueprints for the Kingdom.
And, what’s more, Jesus is outfitting everyone with these tools, not simply a select few. He gives these words to the community, as a body, as a church. We all, collectively, get to love and pray and build up.
I think it’s important that Jesus gave these directions to everyone, as a community, because this project is too big to take on alone. It’s really hard to love our enemies on our own, to bless those who curse us on our own. That’s why we don’t try it alone. We don’t go through life alone. Instead, we work and minister together, we trust in our shared wisdom and abilities. And together God’s Kingdom will take shape.
Do it, because that’s the type of love and care we first received from God. These are the tools Jesus used with us. This is how we will tear down the ugly, corrupt structures of our world and build God’s vision. So, good people of God. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go! AMEN