(Continuing to present both Tracks of the Lectionary)
For many, this gospel lesson is one of the most difficult. And examine closely how we are to “reconcile.” Certainly not on Facebook. The instruction is clear—do not air difficulties with others in a public forum; instead, approach privarly those with whom you disagree. If you cannot find resolution, then bring a few others into the discussion. If that doesn’t work, then bring the church in. Note that it is the church as the last resort. Why the church? Likely because those in the church are like-minded. Above all, Jesus asks us to come to terms with those with whom we disagree, that is to reconcile. Post your thoughts on our website.
Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
From sermon4kids.com: “Jesus did not call us to be his disciples to make other people pay for their sins by hurting them back. Instead, he told us to do what he did — love them and forgive them. Sometimes that is very hard to do, but we can do it if we ask Jesus to help us.”
Scripture: September 6, 2020—Ezekiel 33:7-11 (image); Psalm 119:33-40 (image); Romans 13:8-14 (image); and Matthew 18:15-20 (image). Illuminating the scripture, an image and audio journey. Track 1 lesson and psalm are Exodus 12:1-14 (image) and Psalm 149 (image). From the editor: Click on “image” following each appointed scripture for an illumination of that passage.
Collect: Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reflection: The passage from Matthew (18:15–20) is concerned with church discipline in a time of conflict. The focus, however, is not on punishment or blame, but on listening and talking through what has divided or offended so that forgiveness and reconciliation may be accomplished. Does your church have a prescribed way of working through difficulty and division? Has there been a time in your congregation’s life or in your own life when conflict or an offense caused breaks in relationship? How might this reading from Matthew have helped that situation? How does the commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves inform our handling of disagreement and division? [from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion]
Saint Focus: I urge you to read a bit about Nikolai Grundtvig, a principal figure in Danish theology in the 19th Century. As a young man, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father, a pastor, fell ill and asked his son to deliver a sermon. Turns out, the sermon caused such an uproar that Grundtvig was censured. No matter, he went on to become a pastor himself. When yet another sermon caused an uproar, Grundtvig called it quits and began writing hymn texts, many of which have survived in the Lutheran church. More importantly (to this author) is Grundtvig’s support of public school for all, leading to his recognition as valuable to Danish social consciousness! The link below gives a little more detail [from several sources. Click the link to see which calendar was used].
This week, the saints under consideration were:
- 4; Paul Jones, Bishop, 1941; AND Albert Schweitzer, Theologian & Humanitarian, 1965
- 5; [Katharina Zell], Church Reformer & Writer, 1562; AND Gregorio Aglipay, Priest, 1940
- 6; [Hannah More], Religious Writer & Philanthropist, 1833
- 7; [Kassiani], Poet & Hymnographer, 865; AND Elie Naud, Catechist, 1722
- 8; [Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary]; AND Søren Kierkegaard, Philosopher, 1855; AND Nikolai Grundtvig, Bishop and Hymnwriter, 1872
- 9; Constance and her Companions, Martyrs, 1878
Eye Candy: “Into the night” (2014), acrylic by Rande Cook; “Never again” (~250), acrylic by Willy Karekezi (part of Rawandan Reconciliation project); “Burning bush” (2009), long exposure photograph by artist earsaregood
God taught me a truth, that I learned in five days. But it came as I knelt, and pondered, and prayed.
Misjudged, upset, and wounded, I stayed. For my friend said things, that would not lay.
They stood in my mind and the pain increased. He tried to offer solace, it gave no release.
Imposing expectations, and misplaced demands. I thought,”he must change, to receive my hand!”
The days then passed, I continued in prayer. To seek comfort from hurt, now too hard to bear.
Through reconciliation, I soon sought relief. Realizing more prayer, would heal my grief.
And then when humility, finally obliged. Tears washed out, the hidden mote deep inside.
My eyes saw clearly, my friend’s good intent. The fault I accused, was now my lament.
“Forgive me my friend, for I have sinned. The error I saw in thee, I discovered within.”
And my friend with his hands, outstretched to me. Gave me the peace, that let me be free!
© R. Lyle Johnson
Contemporary Parables: “The Green Mile” (1999), the story of an incarcerated gentle giant; “O brother, where art thou” (2000), bluegrass version of Homer’s Odyssey; “The Straight Story” (1999), story of man who wants to reconcile with his brother
image is “Statue of Reconciliation” by Josephina de Vasconcellos, donated to Coventry Cathedral by Richard Branson on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995
Jesus instructs his disciples to forego ill-will and embrace reconciliation with our enemies. This is particularly hard to do when we put up barriers between us and others or even when we wear masks (as we are having to do today). Here’s a poem “We wear the mask”. Think about someone you’re having a disagreement with. How do you hide yourself from that person? How do they hide themselves from you? In what ways are reconciliation difficult? (excerpted from “Messy discipleship”, Stewardship of Life website.
If you wish, share your thoughts on our website.
We now reach a section of Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus teaches about God’s way of dealing with humanity: namely, forgiveness. Today’s reading is primarily concerned with the Church’s role as the agent of forgiveness. Even when a member of the Church is unrepentant, the Church is not to give up on that person easily. We are to make every effort to move the sinner to repent and accept the forgiveness of God, which Jesus has commissioned the Church to offer.
Track 1. The story of Moses and the Exodus continues today. God and the Egyptian king have been in a struggle. Now comes the final test. We hear the instructions to the Israelites about the meal that will protect them from Egypt’s final plague and prepare them to set forth on their journey to freedom. This became the Passover meal of the Jews, the precursor of the Eucharistic meal.
Track 2. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is commissioned to warn the people of the need to repent. The central message is that God has no desire to condemn; God’s deepest desire is to forgive.
Today’s passage from the Epistle to the Romans continues to deal with the characteristics of Christian living. We are to live in good relationships with all people, to respect the laws and authorities of human society, and above all to express love by mutual behavior based on God’s law.
We gather as the People of God, having found in our relationship with God that he is our lover and our savior, not an angry or condemning judge. We find in our lives together as Church that we are not only the recipients of God’s love and forgiveness but also sent into the world as the instruments of that love and forgiveness to all people.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.