7th Sunday after Epiphany

February 23, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 45.3-11, 15 — Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. God has been in charge all along. “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Psalm 37 — Don’t fret because some people get away with evil; commit your way to God, and God will act on your behalf.

1 Corinthians 15. 35-50 — The resurrection body: “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable…. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”

Luke 6.27-38 — Love your enemies. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Preaching Thoughts

       In the old way of seeing God, God was in control of stuff. God actually schemed to get Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt, in preparation for the famine God would bring about a generation later. As Joseph says later (Gen. 50.20): “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good. I don’t think God intended for Joseph to be treated unjustly; I think God’s intent overrules human intents. Even though we choose evil, God can turn a disaster into a miracle.

1 Corinthians
       Paul says there is such a thing as a resurrection body that’s not the same as our physical pre-death body. This opens a question of what exactly the body of the post-Easter Christ is. Paul’s own writing suggests it clearly: the “spiritual body” of the risen Christ is us, the church, the Body of Christ. When people say, “Well, if Jesus was raised physically from the dead, where’s his body?” the answer is right here. It’s us. Jesus was raised not as an individual, but as a community. Paul says a lot about that, like in 1 Cor. 12.
       The unspoken thing about the resurrection body is that for it to live, the first body has to die. As Jesus says in Jn. 12.24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

       The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” means not only to love them as much as you love yourself, but to love them as if they are your self. We don’t live according to the flesh, our “self” defined by and confined to our physical bodies, but we live according to the Spirit: even though we appear in separate bodies we are all one body, in one spirit. (We’re the resurrection body of Christ.) You and your neighbor are part of the same body. To love our neighbor is to love ourselves.
       Here is a clear charge for non-violence and radical compassion. But, as has been noted, non-violent resistance is still resistance. Turning the other cheek, in Jesus’ honor-addicted culture, created a situation that put the aggressor in an awkward position. Carrying a Roman soldier’s burden beyond the allotted mile put him in an awkward spot. Non-violent resistance questions, and possibly de-stabilizes, and maybe even undermines structures of domination. Jesus’ ministry always points in two directions: both healing brokenness and also breaking systems that cause brokenness.
       This is not purely strategic. It’s fundamentally theological and spiritual. Jesus asks us to live this way because God lives this way. God turns the other cheek. God goes the second mile. Much religion, both then and now, is based on the urge to get God’s approval, to “get saved.” But God doesn’t work that way. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” But God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. God loves even God’s enemies. Be merciful, just as God is merciful.
       Wait. So isn’t there any punishment for sin? It sounds like there’s a catch, a little bit of God’s retribution, for “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” I don’t think this means God is mean toward those who are mean , but simply that when we create hurt, we experience it. God won’t judge us or punish us, but God won’t save us from the consequences of our own sin. Still no matter what we do, God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. We receive God’s grace, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, put into our lap.

Call to Worship

Leader: God, you who are love, you create us in love.
All: We are the body of your love.
Christ, love made flesh, you come to us in grace and healing.
We are your Beloved, blessed and embraced.
Holy Spirit, energy of love, your fire alone in us is our life.
We are bearers of your love to this world.
Fill us with your love, fill us to overflowing,
for the sake of the world you love. Amen.

Leader: God of hope, like Joseph we have been sold into slavery.
All:We have been controlled by forces beyond us.
But you have set us free, and given us dignity and grace.
We thank you. With gratitude and awe we worship you.
In our worship we open our hearts to you,
like Joseph’s brothers receiving the bounty of grain.
Fill us with your love, that we may bless and serve others
according to the power you give us.

Leader: God of life, we need you.
Sown in weakness, we come to you.
You love us, bless us, and set us free.
Raised in power, we thank you.
Receive our lives and transform them in your love.
Raised in one spiritual, body, we worship you.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, you who created us in love, and for love, fill us with your love.
Fill us to overflowing with love even for those we oppose or dislike.
Fill us with the self-giving love of Christ.
Give us hearts of peace, not war.
God of love, fill us with your love. Amen.

Gracious God, set us free from our desires to be right, to be safe, to be comfortable. With the love of Christ warm in our hearts, we turn to you to receive your Spirit, the spirit of gentleness and mercy, the spirit of courage and generosity. Bless us, that we may be vessels of your love for our neighbors, even for our enemies, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of grace, as Joseph was sold into slavery, we too suffer forces that bind us and impoverish us. As you raised up Joseph to reign with generosity, set us free, and empower us to forgive and to love and to give freely and boldly. May the seeds of our hearts die and be buried in you, and be raised, rich with the fruit of your love. Amen.

Merciful One, we have received your grace abundantly, in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, placed lovingly in our lap. How can we not thank you? How can we not share that love and mercy and grace with others? We open our hearts to behold your mercy, to be shaped by your grace, and to live in your love, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, you command us to love our neighbors, to love even our enemies. You know how hard this is for us. Open our eyes to your grace, open our hearts to your love, so that we might receive it, in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, placed lovingly in our lap. By your Word, and the presence of Christ, and the power of your Holy Spirit, fill us with your love, that we may be merciful as you re merciful, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Listening prayer

Merciful One,
you have been kind even
to the ungrateful and the wicked.
We have received your grace,
a good measure, pressed down,
shaken together, running over,
placed in our lap.
We give thanks,
and we open ourselves wider
to receive your Spirit,
that we may be merciful
as you are merciful.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, we open ourselves in honesty to God.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love,
to see what is in us that is loving, and what is not loving.

God, we recall those times we have acted in love, and we give thanks.
[silent prayer…]
We recall when we have not acted in love; we call to mind those relationships in which love comes harder for us, and we seek your grace..
[silent prayer…]
God of mercy, in Christ you have shown us your grace.
Forgive us, heal us, and perfect your love in us.
      [Silent prayer … The Word of Grace]


God of mercy, we bear with us our little judgments,
sure that some are better and some more sinful than others.
But we confess we are all under your grace, all forgiven,
for you are kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,
and at times we each are among them.
At times we all have been enemies of your grace;
and yet you love your enemies.
Therefore in humility we confess our sin
and ask your forgiveness,
trusting that we receive your grace, in good measure,
pressed down, shaken together, running over.
Merciful One, may we be merciful as you are merciful.


          (Luke 6.27-38)
Leader: I say to you that listen, Love your enemies.
All: God of grace, give us compassion for those who are hard to love.
Do good to those who hate you, bless those
who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
We pray for those who oppose or mistreat us, for they are deeply wounded.
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.
Give us grace and courage to be nonviolent.
And from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Give us your spirit of generosity
Give to everyone who begs from you;
and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Give us your spirit of forgiveness.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Help us see others as extensions of ourselves, and love them.
Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
We desire only to be loving, not to be right, to be secure, to be victorious.
Be merciful, just as God is merciful.
Give us your spirit of mercy.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged;
do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven;
give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together,
running over, will be put into your lap;
for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
May we love as you have loved us.
We pray in the name and the spirit and the company of Christ. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We love you and entrust ourselves to you, God, Creator of all, you who are Love: wherever there is love, there you are.
         We love you and entrust ourselves to you, Jesus. You are Christ: you embodied God’s love, feeding and healing, extending companionship to the outcast and the “unworthy.” You showed us how to love; and the cost of love; and the power of love. For your love that disturbed power structures you were crucified; but in love you were raised from then dead. For your love is more powerful than anger, fear or violence.
        We love you and entrust ourselves to you, Holy Spirit, for you are the Oneness that unites us with all, neighbor and stranger, friend and enemy. You are the energy of Love that enables us to bless, to serve, to forgive and to extend healing to all people. In the power of your grace, as one Body in you, we devote our lives to love, generosity and justice, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of love, you have loved us perfectly. Fill us and guide us with your Spirit, that we may perfectly love and serve you, and love others—even our enemies—as ourselves. By your grace may be love one another ass you have loved us, and be merciful as you are merciful. We pray in the name and the unity and the companionship of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)
All songs with “Love” tag, especially:

At Your Feet [Original tune]

Jesus, at your feet I bow.
I am yours completely now.
By your mercy show me how
to be loving.

Jesus, Master, you who save,
you have served me as a slave.
This, the perfect gift you gave:
to be loving.

In each hurting one I meet
it is you, O Christ, I greet.
Make my faithfulness complete,
to be loving.

Create us Now [Tune: Gift of Love/ The Water Is Wide]

Creating God, you breathe your Word
and new each day create the world;
your light you sing, your love you give;
you breathe in us, and so we live.

Creating God, you gather grain
from scattered fields, baptized by rain;
raised up in love, from death released,
it brings forth grace that spreads a feast.

Above the meadows of our hearts
your rising sun your love imparts.
Remade in love, raised from the dead,
Make us your wine, your living bread.

With our dear Christ, we, too, have died,
like seeds once sown and multiplied.
Now raise us up from death anew.
Create us now, dear God, in you.

Drawing Me [Original tune]

Holy One, Mystery, how will you keep drawing me
nearer to the heart within the heart?
Nearer still, falling in, closer to the heart within,
draw me God. I fall into your love.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

Deep in me there’s a voice, there’s a hunger, there’s a choice,
seeking something vital that is you.
By your grace drawing me, may I fall eternally
nearer to my center deep in you.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

God of all Gentleness [Tune: Be Thou My Vision]

God of all gentleness, God of pure love,
you do not watch us from heights far above,
you are no tyrant, but patient and mild,
present with grace in the poor, in the child.

God of all mercy, may we be the ones
bearing your love to your daughters and sons,
not out of pity but humbly, with grace,
for in the poor we see your human face.

God of all justice, give us hearts to care,
hope to free prisoners of fear and despair,
courage to challenge the ways that oppress,
deep love to reach out to heal and to bless.

God of compassion, your Spirit now pour
into us all, for it’s we who are poor,
hungry for justice, for healing and grace,
and for full life for the whole human race.

Love Only [Tune: Be Thou My Vision]

God, may your deep love shine bright in my heart,
may it be always your love I impart.
In ease or conflict, your love be my stay,
as your Beloved, your love to convey.

When people scare me and I feel alone,
help me see they, too, have wounds of their own.
Help me surrender my sword and my shield,
love and love only by your grace to yield.

God, by your Spirit, fill me with your grace, to
love and to heal in each moment and place.
Love and love only, through conflict or strife,
sets us all free and gives healing and life.

Love-Sowing God [Tune: The river Is Wide)]

Love-sowing God, sow love in me.
Sow seeds of grace abundantly.
My soul be soil where love may root and grow
and bear your precious fruit.

Where habit’s feet and wheels have tracked,
my anxious work the soil has packed,
soften my soul with bliss or pain,
so love may enter in again.

My angry thorns, my selfish weeds,
God, clear away, and sow your seeds.
Despite the hungry, wanting bird,
Love, plant in me your living Word.

Love-sowing God, your labors done,
help me to trust the rain and sun,
receive your grace and faithfully
bear forth your love that grows in me.

Make Us Merciful (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Merciful parent, God, prodigal with grace and love,
welcoming children through your pain,
gently receive us all, break down our shame’s dark wall,
that we may never leave again.

Gentle and gracious God, you who love your children,
you take us in though we turn away.
Fold us in your embrace; fill us with peace and grace,
that we may live your gentle way.

God, give us spacious hearts, generous and kind and wide,
no matter what hurtful things folks do.
Help us to love and bless, steadfast in gentleness.
Lord, make us merciful as you.

New Breath (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ, we are baptized into your dying,
and like the sunrise, we are made new,
given new breath, to live every moment,
for out of death comes new life in you

Great Holy Spirit, breathe in us daily,
set free from fear that once bound us in,
free now to love our neighbors with courage,
rising above our death and our sin..

Blessed and forgiven and resurrected,
set free for living by grace alone,
may we live lives of gentle compassion,
with the same light that in Jesus shone.

O Christ, My Way [Tune: The River Is Wide]

O Christ, my truth, my life, my way,
I give my heart to you this day.
I give myself, yes all of me,
that where you are I too may be.

O Christ, my way, the path I take
is love alone, for you love’s sake.
O be my heart, my strength and nerve,
that I may love and bless and serve.

O Christ, my truth, in you I see
the God who dwells in you and me.
But God remains yet far above
until I live in humble love.

O Christ, my life, I give my heart,
for when in you I take my part
and share your love, your work and strife,
I share in full your risen life.

Open My Heart [Tune: Open my eyes]

Open my eyes that I may see everyone ‘round me lovingly,
shedding my labels, habits and fear, see with a heart that’s true and clear.
Patiently, God, may I behold each blessed life as it unfolds.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my ears and let me hear unspoken stories, unshed tears.
Help me to hear with love shining through stories that no one’s listened to.
Tenderly, God, help me to hold what is within each person’s soul.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my heart and grant me love, mercy for those I’m heedless of.
Help me to know each person I face as one you bless with gentle grace
Lovingly, God, please make me more mindful of those whom we ignore.
Open my heart, illumine me, spirit divine.

Set Me Free (to love) [Original tune]

From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free for love.

From what I fear, O Love, set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….

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