Tony E Dillon-Hansen
A Meditation upon Romans 12: 9-18, Psalm 105, Exodus 3:14, and Matthew 16:
This passage is among my favorite from the epistles because it echoes much of Matthew 5. There is guidance and hopeful idealism - which is useful today amidst social unrest, storm recovery, racial injustice, political division, and this long-overdue visitor called a pandemic.
Lets start with a story
A contemptuous outlaw was thrashing about a small village.
This outlaw came upon a house of a master.
He had heard of stories about the master and wanted to test this legendary skill.
He came to the gate of the master's house. The master was tending his garden.
The outlaw called out to him boasting that he could beat him and crush him with a single strike.
He taunted the master and cried ignorance and bogus skill.
"Challenge me if you can, and show me your best technique."
At this, the master turned to the outlaw, bowed to him, and walked into the house.
The outlaw became furious at this and ranted the legends of the master were untrue and undeserving.
The outlaw raved the master knew nothing of great technique and worthy skills.
A short moment later, the master reappeared.
This time, he had with him a tray.
Upon the tray was a pot of tea and cups.
The master sat near a table and began to pour two cups.
He then gestured the outlaw to drink with him.
The outlaw, caught off guard, then bowed to the master and shared some tea.
Romans 12 is about hospitality and love – not just cute rhetorical words, but genuine love. This, my friends, is the “sweet nectar” of faithful living. (KC commentator, Mitch Holtus, would say when Chiefs would score touchdowns.)
Amid struggles and questions of purpose, Romans reminds us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer” where we must first let love be genuine.
Where does that start, you ask?
It starts with you. When we read, “Let Love be genuine” hear “let love be you.” Be present with love. When we peel off our own layers of social and personal pretense, we may uncover the vulnerable, broken child of God made with divine love within us – a child full of hope, potential, wonder, worry and yes love.
Further, “love one another with mutual affection” means, we may recognize this in others. Then, we see each other as children of God, made with love, with their own vulnerability and brokenness.
For some people “unaccustomed to courage
exiles in delight
… in shells of loneliness…”
For some people beaten down by the system, an abusive person or even themselves, this is difficult because we create walls or hide in substances from pain and suffering where unwinding that onion (of self) is more than tearful - but shattering and scary. Really, we were hiding the love within.
We don’t have to accept lies, deliberate distortions, or systemic chains. With God’s love in us, we can transform and tear down walls. When love arrives and when we recognize the love within us, along comes hope and courage - revealing beautiful and powerful results.
Thus, let love be you and share that love, as Paul says.
We share through contributing and extending hospitality. We recognize that we share gifts and learn from each other. Then, we find hope together because we let go of pretense, judgment and anger. We are present together and paying attention to the moment. We find peace together because we find harmony through hospitality.
With hospitality, we build a stronger community of love together. You won’t have time for negativity, lies or vengeance because we are a little busy doing Christ’s work building each other.
As well, hospitality extends to the lowly, the homeless, the forgotten and the immigrant because as Genesis reminds us, our people were once immigrants persecuted in exile.
We acknowledge and welcome people where they are, as Christ did, because they too are children of God. There is no need to “claim to be wiser” or more than we are. We know we are imperfectly, distinctly beautiful people. Thus, our genuine love helps to shape ourselves and to build a beautiful community with love, hope, peace and harmony.
Be genuine and compassionate in speech, mind, hearing, and heart. Witness the potential and the love working within us and around us – even enemies. In fact, bless them too – not flippantly.
We have blessings with us, but the “sweet nectar” means we are good sports too. Love is given to us and for us to give.
When we succeed with our blessings, we don’t put others down. Besides, maybe authentic blessing is what opponents need as much as we need it - that space for forgiveness in ourselves. We let God work and share a drink.
When we let love and hospitality work, we acknowledge the homeless person asking for a meal, the black woman weeping over her child, the queer person’s struggle for identity, the native American praying to keep water clean, a good cop trying to do the right thing, or the veteran seeking peace from scars of war. In these moments, in our vulnerability, we can be bold because love and compassion is our strength.
Listen with compassion and understanding (rather than quickly conjuring responses) because we don’t have to agree. Let go of negativity, judgment, anger, vice and vengeance and let God work. Give hospitality to people and their concerns. Let God work.
Paul says to “take thought for what is noble” and live peaceably as we can. When we do, we may expand to the possible – to our Creator.
Feed your enemies and offer drink. These are ways to “overcome evil with good.” This may be hard sometimes (I know), but with God’s help, things are possible.
Thus, we can return to the self. We can focus upon our breath, our prayers, and our blessings. We listen for possible. Remember you too are a child of God - You are expressions of that divine love.
“Love strikes away chains of fear” and helps us be brave. We want freedom from “histories of pain”, worries, and injustices. Love will set us free.
With genuine love as “all we are”, together, we can be free from suffering. No injustice or pandemic can beat it.
That, my friends, is the sweet nectar.
We witness the divine gifts and “wondrous works” when we are free in love.
Thanks be to God.