top of page
St. Matthew.jpg

Hung Out To Dry

Matthew 5:38-48

The Rev. Jon Roberts

20 February


Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Hung Out To Dry

Moses Striking the Rock, Abraham Bloemaert, 1596,
NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art

Are you feeling tired and weak?
Having a hard time turning the other cheek?
Are you wondering how to get by?
Feel taken, and hung out to dry?
If so, find sweet release;
Pray for God's love,
for virtue and for peace.[1]

Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have. Sometimes you've just got to hit the bottom, to appreciate one another.

Ralph and Edna were both patients in a mental hospital. One day while walking past the hospital swimming pool, Ralph suddenly jumped into the deep end. He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there. Edna promptly jumped in to save him. She swam to the bottom and pulled him out. When the Head Nurse became aware of Edna's heroic act, she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital, as she now considered her to be mentally stable. When she went to tell Edna the news she said, "Edna, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you're being discharged, since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of the person you love... I have concluded that your act displays sound mindedness. The bad news is Ralph hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe right after you saved him. I am so sorry to tell you this, but he's dead." Edna replied, "He didn't hang himself, I hung him out to dry... How soon can I go home?"[2]

In the priestly book known as Leviticus, Moses has turned to God in prayer. He's been slapped around by complaints. He's heard the gossip and his leadership has been questioned. He's tired and weak. He's having a hard time turning the other cheek. He surrenders himself to God asking to be released. If you remember the story, Moses never felt he could lead the Israelites out of bondage in the first place. There was always a tendency to feel inadequate. He was probably looking to remain in the pasture lands, loving his wife Zipporah and tending his sheep. Release for him was in the hopes of retired living. God had other plans. God intended to teach people how to be holy. To be set apart. God gave Moses the words to teach them how to love God and to love each other. [3]

We tend to throw around this word 'love' rather carelessly these days. We believe it only happens when people love us the way we want to be loved. It's all about how we feel. God is telling Moses that it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes you've just got to hit the bottom. You've got to be hung out to dry. You leave a little something out there. You refrain from taking away what you would normally share. You refrain from tearing down what you would normally be lifting up. So, they were tired of hiding in the desert.
Moses, therefore, prayed to God. So, they were tired of eating nothing but manna and quail. Moses prayed to God. What's important is that Moses kept open the channel to God in prayer. He listened for His voice. Even when he was angry, he had the good sense not to strike back at those who tore him down. Instead, he turned to something else. Something like a rock and when he struck it, oh, how God's irony was displayed when water gushed forth at the blow. It was a great release. It was God’s way of saying, "I will bring you up again from the deep places of the earth."[4]

But man could not live by bread alone, nor water. Over time, the Israelites saw that their neighbor went only as far as each other. Certainly not their enemies. They would never consider them part of God's salvation. God, knowing they were tired and weak, having trouble turning the other cheek, showed them how to get by. He sent Himself. In the body and flesh he came as Jesus of Nazareth. The good news today is the same he proclaimed to his disciples. "You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth', but I tell you if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;"[5]

Turning the other cheek is to turn to that person another side they have never seen or one they never expected. It is what brings them closer to God rather than driving them away. It is our way of diving into the deep end and swimming to the bottom. This is the perfect love that God requires. It is the sweetness of fortitude, in the midst of danger and pain. It is the sweetness of perseverance, in the midst of failure and opposition. It is the sweetness of charity, in the midst of loving humanity when it is unlovable. This is the love we see in Christ. For he turned the other cheek when he was tortured and spat upon. He was hung out to dry on the cross for our sins. Through a life in prayer to Him do we know such perfect love. Feeling tired and weak? Having a hard time turning the other cheek? Wondering how to get by? Feel taken, and hung out to dry? If so, find sweet release. Pray for God's love, for virtue and peace.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] A story passed along by Mr. Connor Wiggins, parishioner of Good Shepherd.
[3] Leviticus 19:1-18
[4] Ps 71:20
[5] Matthew 5:38-48

Join the Discussion
The category is members only, sign up to join in
bottom of page