February 23, 2014
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany (Ordinary Time)

Love beyond Boundaries

Scriptures

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18; Psalm 119:33–40; 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23;
Matthew 5:38–48/5:40–50 IV;
Doctrine and Covenants Section 161:2

Service Suggestions

For additional ideas and worship service samples see www.CofChrist.org/worship.


Prelude

Welcome, Sharing, and Caring

Become a people of the Temple—those who see violence but proclaim peace, who feel conflict yet extend the hand of reconciliation, who encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.

Fulfill the purposes of the Temple by making its ministries manifest in your hearts. It was built from your sacrifices and searching over many generations. Let it stand as a towering symbol of a people who knew injustice and strife on the frontier and who now seek the peace of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:2

Call to Worship

One: We gather this morning in the name of Christ our Lord,

Many: The one who reveals God’s love for all humanity and all of creation.

One: We look to Jesus to extend the hand of reconciliation,

Many: The one who shows us how to live in ways that transform the world.

One: We answer the call of Jesus,

Many: The one who invites us to serve and love as he does. Let us worship the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gathering Hymn of Peace

“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”—CCS*
OR “O God of Love, Grant Us Your Peace”—CCS
OR “Center of Peace”—SP 1
OR “Gather Us In”—CCS

Light the peace candle during the hymn.

Prayer for Peace

Response

Scripture Reading

Matthew 5:38–48

Ask seven people of various ages to read from their seats in the congregation. Print the reading in the bulletin or project so all may see and hear. Listen to the passage and allow the Spirit to highlight a word, phrase, or verse for you. What feelings or memories are invoked? What is the response God is asking of you from this passage?

Reader 1: 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.

Reader 2: But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Reader 3: Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Reader 4: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Reader 5: So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Reader 6: For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Reader 7: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Focus Moment

Going the Extra Mile

Before the story pour heavy cream into a clear jar until it is half full. Allow children to take turns shaking it while you read the story. It will take about 10 minutes to make butter which is longer than the story and explanation will take. After the story, have the children gather with you in the back of the sanctuary to continue making the butter. Let them sample it with bread or crackers.

Read “Two Frogs in the Milk” (see story at end of this worship outline)

In Matthew we are told that soldiers were allowed to ask regular citizens to carry their packs, but only for a mile. However, this was not a small task for people who worked to feed their families day by day. Walking a mile with a heavy pack and then back again would mean missing a day of work, and therefore that day’s food for the family. Offering to go a second mile publicly exposes the unjust hardship of being forced to go even one mile, but does so in a way that seems compliant while at the same time brings shame and ridicule on the ones doing the forcing. If we have a chance to help someone in need, we can be generous and give more than is expected of us. That is being like Jesus.

After the story, explain to the children the benefits of going the extra mile.

OR Use a scripture-based focus moment from the Disciple Formation Guide at www.CofChrist.org/dfg.

Hymn

“To Live at Peace with Others”—SP 17
OR “Gentle God, When We Are Driven”—CCS

Message

Based on Matthew 5:38–48

Ministry of Music

“O Breath of Life”—CCS
OR “O God beyond All Praising”—CCS

Silent Confession

Provide one minute for congregants to offer silent prayers of confession.

Disciples’ Generous Response

As part of the Disciples’ Generous Response, we ask you to integrate the message of “giving to your true capacity” and “sharing equally” to fund the World Church Mission Initiatives and your local and mission center ministries. Generosity templates are provided to keep the church in touch with how contributions to mission tithes are moving Christ’s mission forward. Please use the templates to build a dynamic Disciples’ Generous Response for your worship service. Visit www.CofChrist.org/generositystories to print a template, or contact your pastor, congregational financial officer, or worship coordinator for a template. You can also find additional material to assist with the congregation’s understanding of A Disciple’s Generous Response at www.CofChrist.org/generosity.

Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes

Hymn of Sending Forth

“Bring Forth the Kingdom”—CCS
OR “Lord Jesus, of You I Will Sing”—CCS

Sending Forth

We have sung the songs of faith. We have heard the challenges of scripture. Let us go now, continuing our sacred journey in an attitude of service and grace. Let us love our enemies and pray for those who do us harm. Let us care for those who are evil as well as for those who are good, knowing how to set boundaries. And the presence of our God goes with us. Amen.

*See the full list of CCS hymn titles and numbers at www.CofChrist.org/hymnal/hymn-list.asp


Two Frogs in the Milk

This is the story of two frogs. One day, while searching for food, the frogs accidently jumped into a bucket of milk. They couldn’t get out, as the sides were too slippery, so they were just swimming around and around.

The first frog said to the second frog, “Brother Frog, there’s no use paddling any longer. We’re just going to drown, so we might as well give up.” The second frog replied, “Hold on, Brother, keep paddling. Somebody will get us out.” So they continued paddling for hours.

After a while, the first frog said, “Brother Frog, there’s no use. I’m becoming very tired now. I’m just going to stop paddling and drown. It’s Sunday and nobody’s working. We’re hopeless. There’s no possible way out of here.” But the second frog said, “Keep trying. Keep paddling. Something will happen, keep paddling.” Another couple of hours passed.

The first frog said, “I can’t go on any longer. There’s no sense in doing it because we’re going to drown anyway. What’s the use?” And the first frog stopped. He gave up. And he quit struggling in the milk. But the second frog was determined and kept on paddling.

Ten minutes later, the second frog felt something solid beneath his feet. To his astonishment, he saw that he was resting on a lump of butter which he had churned by his continuous paddling! The successful little frog leaped out of the milk pail to freedom.

—“Two Frogs in Trouble,” by Natalie Hale
from fable told by Paramahansa Yogananda, adapted


Exploring the Scripture

Matthew 5:38–48

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaims to his disciples a way of life aimed at establishing God’s reign on Earth. Followers of Jesus, mostly from the lowest strata of society, are subject to oppressing forces, both from powerful Jews and Roman occupiers. Jewish tradition as found in the law (Deuteronomy 19:15–21) prescribed capital retaliation to eradicate evil, purify society, and become holy before God. Jesus, however, fulfilling both the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) presents an alternative view, one of nonviolent resistance to oppression.

Jesus states a general principle: do not resist (antistenai) an evildoer. This can best be interpreted as “do not return evil with evil.” The word antistenai is mostly used in a military context such as the Roman occupation. Looking at the first-century context makes us understand it should not be seen as a call to be passive and submissive or to condone the actions of the Roman oppressors. Rather, it calls us to also love our enemy and use alternate ways to address persecution that hinders the reign of God. Not long before Matthew was written an unsuccessful Jewish revolt had taken place. The zealots took the road of violence, but Matthew shows violence is not the way of the kingdom.

A hit on the right cheek was given to subordinates with a backhand stroke of the right hand as the left hand was only used for unclean tasks. A hit on the left cheek, would require an open palm only used to approach an equal. Turning the other cheek would not lead to another blow as it would turn the oppressed into an equal.

Indebtedness was rampant in Jesus’ time. Due to high taxation, Jewish tax collectors and large landowners who collaborated with Rome became richer and peasants became poorer. Jewish law (Exodus 22:25–27) provided that garments could be seized from a debtor as pawn under the condition that the outer garment had to be returned by night so people had something to sleep under. Requesting the chiton (undergarment) and to also be given the himation (outer garment) would bring the requestor trouble. He not only had to bring back the outer garment every night, but he and all around him would see the debtor naked, something shameful in Jewish tradition (see Genesis 9:20–27). The offer would be refused and put the requestor to shame. In a figurative way the Jewish people were being plundered and through taxes robbed naked.

Roman military code made it possible for soldiers to coerce subjects to carry their baggage. However, soldiers could do this only for one mile. Again Jesus calls for a positive act in response to what was being done. Go the other mile and show them you cannot be oppressed.

The final words remind us again of higher righteousness and call us to be like God as God loves without distinction.

Central Ideas
  1. Retaliating evil with evil will not bring forth the reign of God.
  2. Jesus does not preach submission but teaches us to find nonviolent ways to nurture the kingdom of God.
  3. We have to find peaceful, loving ways to change the minds and actions of our “enemies” who oppress people.
Questions for the Speaker
  1. Have you ever overcome the fear or anger you had for someone?
  2. Are there people in society who used to declare evil but no longer do? What happened?
  3. What oppression is still in society and how does it need to be addressed?