Scripture Romans 12:9-21 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.” Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.” Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good. Image Credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Reflection Throughout history, we see the strength and beauty of courageous, genuine unconditional love, changing the perspective of vengeful, reactive and cruel societies and diminishing injustice and evil ways, through renewing them to equitable, just and safe communities. We also see the waves of hate, disrespect, ignorance and arrogance crashing through the harmony and peace in God’s realm. It is at every moment, in every situation that we are called to be God’s people, from within ourselves, with family and friends and through wider community. Let our love be genuine, a continuous inner strength that we passionately carry in all that we think, do and be. Harmony is fragile, and one discordant act changes the peace it brings. Let us not be overcome by malevolence, or add ‘burning coals’ to the oppressed. Hold fast to what is good, with our constant companioning God.
Prayer of Confession Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. When people attack and ridicule us, and we feel diminished and ashamed, with irritation and hurt, we respond too quickly with words and anger, Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. When cruel and damaging situations change our lives and we burn with injustice and unresolved opportunities, it is too easy to hold malice and anger in our hearts, and look for times for a retribution in hate, rather than a resolution in unconditional love. Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. It is easier to join the throng of people rather than stand apart. Too often we remain quiet , passive and fearful in times of injustice, where we could work to bring your world of peace. Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. We feel awkward and uncertain in what to do or say, with people who are weeping or in deep distress. When we have not experienced their pain, we forget that it does not mean it is real and happening to them. Our awkwardness and lack of insight too easily takes over, and we remain emotionally short-sighted, silent and apart. Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. It is easier to hold on to what we think is right, and refute change, rather than consider carefully challenging new ideas and differing perspectives, even when this is at the detriment of other people or your wider world. Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. In our comfortable house and warming clothes for which we have worked hard, we do not so easily see other’s anxiety and stress or recall the lack of opportunity for many people. Jesus, friend, We seek your strength. We forget you speak through the whole body of Christ, And we are a part, not the whole. Compassionate Jesus, we seek your strength. Grow in our hearts the understanding of genuine love, For we do not always see our way of being and living as your people. Words of Assurance When genuine love is in your heart, compassion, peace, hospitality, understanding, and right living come to you through the gifts of the Spirit. We seek the Way of Christ and the Breath of God’s Spirit bringing winds of change into our lives.
Benediction Let us hear the words of St Paul again: ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.’ So, let us go into the world with a spirit of peace, with the strength of certainty and the perseverance of living as God’s people. God’s wisdom is spoken in our hearts, Stirring in our souls, clarifying our thinking And teaching us to live in a better way. With the love of God, Creator, Advocate and Redeemer, we, beloved, rejoice in God’s Word. Let our love be genuine!