Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13:8-14Matthew 18: 15 – 20
Becoming reconciled, Preached by The Rev. Will Carter
Doing what today's gospel requires is difficult. My great-great grandparents in Tennessee were “churched” many years ago. They were expelled from their Baptist church. They had sponsored a dance for their daughter who had just returned from New York. Their solution was to start their own church. The church is still doing well today but perhaps this is the reason for so many denominations and churches. It may seem easier to separate from someone who offends you then to become reconciled. The church can miss the point of the Gospel when we separate from each other. We miss the opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing as reconcilers. We miss the focus of Jesus call and His love.
Our daughter, Shara, is a perfect example. When she was two, she and her brother were having a fight and she came running to her mother. “Punish Jason,” she pleaded. Her mother, in her wisdom, told her instead, “Go tell your brother that Jesus loves him and so do you.” Shara darted off and said, "Mother said „Jesus will get you and so will I.‟" we can reframe reconciliation in the guise of vindication.
Many times, when others wrong us, we want to settle the score rather than become reconciled with them because it is difficult to become reconciled. Many times it seems easier to turn our backs on the offender and walk away. “Weren’t we right?” we might ask or “They should say that they were sorry to me.” Reconciling is an act of Faith which requires our vulnerability.
Many may see reconciliation as an official duty of the priest at the absolution and miss our individual duty. As Episcopalians we do make acts of reconciliation with God and each other at the Eucharist each week. We confess our sins and ask to be reconciled to God. After the General Confession (The Prayer Book also provides an order for reconciliation of the penitent.) The Priest gives absolution on behalf of God in Christ but this does not relieve individuals from being reconcilers. The peace which follows the confession is meant to symbolically allow us become reconciled with each other before coming to the altar for Holy Eucharist. This follows Matthew’s “binding and loosening of sins” on earth. What about our duty to deal with each other to affect personal and corporate reconciliation?
The church has experienced internal difficulties ever since its birth. In Paul’s letters and Acts we hear of strife between members and against the community. In I Chorinthians 1:10 Chloe’s people complain to Paul about church rancor. In Acts there are complaints about unequal distribution of bread to the widows of the Jews and Greeks.
In this week’s Ecrozier Bishop Benhase wrote of an incident during the passing of the peace at a Roman Catholic Church in Southern California when basketball star, Kobe Bryant grabbed a man’s cell phone. He hurt the man’s wrist in the process. Bryant seemed to be concerned that the man was trying to take pictures of him and his family during the Eucharist. It turned out, it seems, that no pictures were found on the man’s cell phone. Laying aside the issue of guilt and fault in this case, of both Bryant and the man in question, didn’t each miss the meaning of the Peace? 9/4/2011D 2
Reggie McNeil in his book, “Missional Renaissance” comments that the mission of the church is to be a blessing to our families, communities and the world. If we are caught in disruptive relationships and there is no harmony, how can we be blessed or can we be a blessing to our families or communities? How can we model reconciliation and reintegration into the community of Christ?
The steps are simple but to take them is difficult. For instance going to the one who sinned against you can be monumentally difficult. They may reject you out of hand and become permanently alienated from you. This possibility increases as you bring two or three witnesses with you who have recognized the offense. When you arrive at having the church consider the offense, things can become especially difficult.
We need to be reconciled because God created us to be at one with him and in harmony with our brothers and sisters. When we experience life that is in disharmony then the tempo of life is disrupted. Recently I had a grandfather clock cleaned and adjusted and it seemed to run fine for a while. Then without warning it just stopped. I would try to restart it and each time it would run for a short while then stop again. When I contacted the “clock man”, he said “It may be out of tempo.” When we are not in harmony with each other, our lives may have become "out of tempo". "Out of tempo" lives will require continually energy to restart life. The “clock man” readjusted the tempo and now the clock runs perfectly. Today's gospel is about getting a lives back into tempo by addressing disharmony and reestablishing harmony.
Has someone wronged you? Are there people you try to avoid? Individuals could be within the community, the church or at work. Why not take a first step to seek them out and attempt to reestablish harmony by expressing your feelings and perception about being in an un-harmonious relationship. By taking this first step you should have started a journey which may model for others coming into a relationship.
Consider the tempo of your life as you go through the next week recognizing that the Gospel today is not about "Jesus‟ going to get you" but about Jesus desiring you to be reconciler and to be reconciled.