It’s the loveliest time of year in New Orleans. Warm days, cool nights, abundant sunshine. Not yet very humid. Every year around this time I say the same thing, “I don’t know why anyone would live anywhere else in the world.” My backyard garden is full of tomatoes and herbs; the lemon tree is heavy with blossoms; the very air smells sweet. The choices are many:
I love it all.
And I have allergies. So I spend this time of year taking antihistamines, fighting headaches and stuffed ears and red eyes and runny noses. I can feel pretty miserable! This past Sunday my ears were so stopped up I couldn’t hear myself speak. This year I’ve also taken a few COVID tests, hoping that what I have is my normal allergies and not something contagious. So far, so good!
Of course, last week in New Orleans there were tornadoes, and there is a chance for more tomorrow. Even this prettiest of seasons includes challenges.
In 2015, I spent some time in Israel, seeing the place traditionally thought to be where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Lovely hillside, gentle slope, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Matthew doesn’t tell us what the weather was like that day, but I imagine it was pretty nice for the crowd to remain through 3 chapters of teaching. Right in the middle of this day of fine preaching and hill-sitting, Jesus says this,
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
This past Sunday, we prayed for the families of the teens, and the teens themselves, who carjacked a local woman last week, leading to her death. It was one of you who spoke that prayer, reminding us that following Jesus is demanding. I confess that I don’t like praying for people who senselessly killed someone and sent shockwaves of fear though our community. I don’t like praying for Putin as he continues to wage war in Ukraine.
But that’s what it means to follow Jesus. We pray for all of God’s people, even the ones who betray and deny all that is good. It doesn’t mean that their behavior is acceptable; it means that we acknowledge them as follow children of God, and trust God to do the judging.
And always, we give thanks that God does not judge us based on what we deserve.
Grace and peace,