Last week we spoke of fences as metaphors for the law and the commandments. Depending on ones perspective, fences can be seen as obstacles to be overcome, especially when we perceive them as proscribing our behavior – telling our willful selves what we can’t do. Alternatively, they can be seen as protective – even life-giving – when we see them as prescriptions for how to live in harmony with one another and God. The choice of how we see fences is left to us, but that choice may tell us much about the health of our relationships with our Creator and with our neighbors.
Today’s lessons elaborate a bit more about the reach of these fences. In essence, today’s lessons caution us to not make the boundaries of our fences too small, lest we exhaust the grassland and begin to believe we don’t have enough to share.
The reading from Leviticus reports a conversation between the Lord and Moses. I emphasize the choice of the name “Lord” because this identity should be central to our own identity. The Lord is Yahweh, the great I am, the source of all that is, the Creator. Our very existence is grounded in this identity. All that we have and all that we are has its beginning and ending in this identity.
In this conversation with Moses, the Lord is describing an expansive and generous attitude about the land. The conversation begins with the instruction, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” How often do we look at ourselves through this lens? This is an invitation to acknowledge the root of our being and to live expansively and generously with whatever gift we have received because of this heritage.
As the Lord begins to set the fence posts for what this heritage looks like, the Lord begins by describing an expansive and generous perspective – share what you have with poor and the alien. At each turn, with each example, the Lord reminds us, “I am the Lord.” This is an indirect reminder that we are the Lord’s children and heritage, this is our DNA, so act like it.
This lesson concludes with the admonition, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself:” this is our DNA, this is our heritage; to love our neighbors as ourselves.
As individuals, as a congregation, as a convocation, as a diocese, and as a denomination, we stand at an inflection point where we are confronted with this question of identity. Who are we? Whose are we? What are we called to be? How are we to live?
Would that our DNA and heritage, working quietly within us, were enough to guide us in overcoming “the wisdom of this world.” But this wisdom, which is foolishness to the Lord, is pervasive and persuasive; and it encourages us think narrowly, to pull the fence lines in, to shrink our sense of identity, and to exclude – even those who are our sisters and brothers in the Lord – our own DNA and heritage.
Jesus so understands this inclination – this resistance to the Lord’s desire – that he speaks plainly to our inclination and tells us to redirect it. Rather than resist the Lord’s desire, resist the wisdom of the world – the desire to retaliate – resist by giving of yourself. Rather than hate, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
In other words re-set the fence posts of your identity – move them out; live and love expansively, even as it exposes you to suffering. This is the way our Savior Jesus Christ lives, and this is the way he prescribes for us a disciples; after all this is our heritage, our DNA, this is our identity: we are the Lord’s.
 Leviticus 19:2
 Ibid., v. 18
 1 Corinthians 3:19
 Matthew 5:44