St. Valentine (Circuit Winkel) (Matthew 5:38-48)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
St. Valentine (Circuit Winkel) + February 14, 2017
Text: Matthew 5:38-48

We know what we’ve heard about Valentine’s Day since we were kids.  It’s about love.  But as with most things of God which the world gets a hold of, it gets turned into a human parody of the real thing.
The legend of St. Valentine is an example of a lot of “fake news” (as they’re calling it lately). It’s based on a story about a martyr with very little detail other than he confessed Christ before the Emperor and was killed for it.  It is also said that he healed his jailer’s daughter, resulting in he and his household believing in the Lord and being saved.  As for valentine notes, romantic love, and buying chocolates, these are all inventions of at least a century later.  But I doubt that Cupid will be standing in the unemployment line any time soon.
If the legend of the healing of St. Valentine’s jailer is true, it’s a beautiful example of what Jesus says in the Gospel, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  That he would show compassion even to those who are about to carry out his death sentence!  What an example to follow!
What an example for pastors to follow!  When I was about to leave for seminary, Pastor Carl Fischer (of blessed memory) sat down with me to impart the single most important lesson he could from his many years of service.  He said, “Love your people.”  That was it, but there’s a lot in those words.  I couldn’t really appreciate that wisdom until after completing seminary and being bestowed with the yoke of the Lord.
Yet those words weren’t just Pastor Fischer’s, gleaned from years of experience.  They were the Lord’s words, and they are the Lord’s words to each of us.
Certainly You, Lord, were an example to us of how to love—bearing shame, punishment, and anguish all for things you didn’t do.  How you prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”[1]  And it’s not even that your example of compassion made them realize the evil of what they were doing!
Yet You did it all out of true love—the kind of love which would sacrifice all for the ungrateful and cold, for even your enemies that never cease their hostility!
But how can we follow Your example, Lord?  It’s too much for lowly sinners, men of dust to achieve.  We don’t have it in us to bear reproach for your name and keep praying for the very people who insult You and walk away from you because of personal preferences or sins they don’t want to leave behind.  We don’t have the patience to wait for them to be converted and see the error of their ways and to apologize.  We would rather surround ourselves with friends and brothers than to seek out those who refuse to even talk to us.
Yet in spite of our weakness, You have made your Son to rise upon us who are evil.  You have declared to us through the mouth of a sinner, “Your sins are forgiven.”  You have displayed that love which transcends heaven and earth even to us.  Though we are unworthy to have you come under our roof, You graciously visit us in this place with your Body and Blood!  You have made us an example—as recipients of Your love.  We have known the example of Your love personally!
You have made us sons of our Father who is in heaven, and You create in us a clean heart and renew in us the joy of Your salvation.[2]  It’s Your love, Lord, not ours.  You put it in our hearts, and daily renew it.  Only through You can we love your people—not as our weak flesh would love, but with that love which has brought even your worst enemies peace and eternal salvation.  Amen.
[1] Luke 23:34
[2] Psalm 51

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