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Thursday, February 16, 2017

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Today we find ourselves about a third of the way into Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The sermon began with the Beatitudes, those lovely petitions about blessedness. Surely the crowd gathered around Jesus--the poor, the meek, the hungry--found solace in those poetic blessings from God. But now Jesus is preaching about retaliation, or rather, lack thereof. He dares to tell his followers to love their enemies, and even to pray for them. Surely by now members of the crowd are looking for a way out, an exit strategy to get far away from this itinerant preacher and his impossible calls.

I would have run. I still do. Because otherwise I'd have to love that political leader or that relative or members of that church. But just as I am ready to start running, I remember that Jesus' call--painfully uncomfortable as it is--may be the most desperately needed action of our day: loving especially those we deem cringe-worthy.

Jesus, sometimes your call to love my enemies seems impossible. Perhaps it is. Give me strength to try. Teach me how to pray for those who hurt me and oppress others. Make me a witness of your counter-cultural love. Only by your grace may I fulfill this call. Amen.

Christine Hallenbeck Ask, '15
Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Matthew 5:38-48 (NRSV)

38 "You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43 "You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 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.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.