the one about being whole...
February 21, 2017, 7:27 AM

Sermon from February 19, 2017

Texts: Matthew 5: 38-48 and Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

So, I want to make a confession. Sometimes I think my father-in-law is a bit crazy. I love him dearly. He’s a great guy. Hard-working. Cares deeply about his family and others. Strong and faithful. Incredibly intelligent. But, all that gets thrown out the window when you go Christmas tree shopping with him. Perhaps you want his help hanging pictures. Maybe it’d be fun to wash the car together.

All of those scenarios can be stressful, simply because everything has to be perfect. Finding the perfect Christmas tree. The picture has to be perfectly centered, aligned with everything else, and absolutely level. The car has to be picture perfect before we’re finished.

I love my father-in-law, but he’s kind of a perfectionist. We all know those types of people. Some of you might be those types of people. Knowing all that, is it any wonder that this part of Jesus’ of the Sermon on the Mount scares us to our core?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.

Perfect. That’s a scary word when you think about it. No errors. No setbacks. Just like the ‘model.’

Isn’t our world centered around this idea of ‘perfection?’ You must fill out this form perfectly so that you won’t be questioned by… the IRS? I.C.E? So you can get into college. Obtain a loan. Buy a house. Adopt a child. Reduce your payment. Pass this test.

It must be perfect.

When we try to be perfect it stresses us out. I must have the perfect interview to get this job. I must dress in the perfect way to get her to notice me. I must write the perfect sermon so they all can hear it. I must act in a perfect way so that God will love me fully.

Isn’t it exhausting?

It’s exhausting and stressful because we are imperfect more than anything else. Where when we are imperfect, we see that as a failure. Not good enough. A waste of ours and others’ time.

Jesus has wrung his disciples and us through the ringer these past few weeks as he’s preached this sermon of teachings. Much of what Jesus has taught throughout this chapter seem wholly impossible to live into a few times, let alone be perfect as God is perfect.

If we must be perfect, I’m here to tell you that we’ve all completely fallen short. Pack-up your bags. Nothing left for us here. Might as well not even try.

But, what if… what if Jesus isn’t using this word ‘perfect’ in the way that we understand ‘perfect’ today?

As I have mentioned these last few weeks, Jesus has been sitting on this mount and speaking with his disciples. The teachings that he has been laying out for them and for us have been incredibly difficult to live into. But, there is still a common theme throughout these teachings and his sermon. I don’t think it leads to ‘perfection,’ but something else.

As I have read, pondered, and prayed over what Jesus has been telling his disciples and us in this Sermon on the Mount, added with the other readings that we have been able to read these past few weeks, and then looking out to how we are called to live in this world, I’m beginning to think that what Jesus is calling for isn’t perfection from us, but more accurately wholeness from us.

Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly Father is whole.

Being whole or being ‘complete’ is what the Greek is probably better translated as here.

Being whole is different than being perfect.

Being whole implies that everything is there; though it may not all fit perfectly there.

Being whole sounds a lot more doable – with Christ’s presence and help – than being perfect.

Being whole reminds me that it isn’t just making sure you are cared for, not just that your loved ones are provided for, but that the community of God is nurtured and cared for as well.

Here’s something that I don’t often say – let’s look at the grace we see in our reading from Leviticus. Much like being ‘perfect’ being told to be ‘holy’ is another one of those scary words for us.

Today, being ‘holy’ seems to imply that you know your bible well, you faithfully attend worship, you are set a part from the craziness of the world. More often than not, being ‘holy’ means you’re somehow better than others because you believe the right thing, or say the right words, or live the right way over what those other people are doing.

Yet, as the Lord tells Moses, being ‘holy’ in God’s eyes looks a lot different.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

So, don’t use up and harvest all your crops. Leave a portion for those who have less to glean from your abundance. Don’t lie or steal from your neighbor. Don’t horde the earnings of others. Don’t side with or side against a person simply because they are poor or rich – know them – completely and fully.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Be holy in the sense that you’re caring for those around you. Being holy means loving others as you love yourself.

What would that look like in your life if you were to live into that sort of holiness? How would we interact with others if we lived that holy life?

Wouldn’t that be a life that was ‘whole’ and ‘complete’? Wouldn’t that be a life that was perfect?

Where we don’t worry about whether we’ve got it – whatever ‘it’ might be – right, but that our neighbor is cared for.

Where we don’t worry if we’ve erred in some way, but we work to make sure that the bellies of those children are full. That they have warm clothing on cold nights. That they know that someone cares and loves them enough to read them a book, to teach them math, to play with them.

Perhaps being ‘whole’ is living our life in such a way that not only do we give financially to those causes and organizations that care for those less fortunate in our community and world, but we offer ourselves and invest our time and lives into them. Volunteering, working together, getting to know those around us.

Perhaps being holy isn’t about living a life seemingly ‘better’ or ‘more correct’ than another, but getting to know that other – no matter who they are. To share in this life together, to care and love as God cares and loves.

Perhaps being ‘whole’ isn’t about getting everything right, but making sure that we are living into the life that Jesus has called us into.

Listen, throughout this life of faith – we’re going to stumble. We’re going to screw up. We’re going to fall more often than we run. We’re going to strive to be perfect in all that we do and end up being imperfect most of the time.

So, don’t strive to be perfect. Live into the wholeness that God has for you. Live into the life of holiness that the Lord calls us into.

That life of wholeness and holy that cares for the community. Fully, thoroughly, and completely – all of it. All of us. All of ‘them.’ Live the holy life for others, all others.

Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly father is whole. Amen.

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