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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sermon from September 7

September 6/7, 2014
Proper 18C

Binding & Releasing on Earth & in Heaven
Matthew 18:

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Matthew 18:18
    Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In “Mending Wall” a poem by Robert Frost, this man wonders out loud, why he and his neighbor must work so to keep a fence up dividing their two properties.  He says,
There where it is we do not need the wall: 
He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 
People like to have fences or some sort of dividing lines, so they can say to themselves and to their neighbors, “This is my space that’s your space. These are my things those are your things. This is my business that’s your business.”
Why do people want fences? In part, because of greed. From little on up we’ve had a notion of what’s mine. And we’ve fought to keep it. Privacy is another reason. We want to have some space and some time when we can just relax without worrying what others are doing.
Now of course there’s nothing wrong with having some time and some space and some possessions that we keep to ourselves. The Christian faith has nothing to say against personal property. Actually, God himself sets a sort of hedge around your possessions to protect them. He warns others with the 7th commandment, “you shall not steal” thereby telling all the rest of us to respect your stuff.
    Furthermore, we all should have some privacy. There are some things that you have to do in private. For instance, most of us can sleep better if there is a wall between us and the rest of the world.
    But here’s the concern with walls and fences, sometimes it’s tempting to hide behind our walls. It’s easier to be a hermit than to be a friend. It’s more comfortable to stay in seclusion and serve ourselves than to step out of our comfort zone and serve our neighbor.
    You see you have all kind of walls that you try to hide behind. If you are constantly afraid that others might not approve of you, you will hide behind a wall of pretense, pretending to be someone you’re not. If you’ve been disappointed by people before, you’ll be tempted to act like there’s  a wall between you and others and you keep them from getting close to you.
    God confronted Cain, and said to him, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain said, “What!? Am I my brother’s keeper?” He tried to play off this notion that Abel was entitled to his privacy, his business was his own business, when really God knew that Cain had horribly sinned by murdering his brother.
    It’s tempting to repeat those words, “What!? Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s none of my business if he needs a hand, if she needs a friend, if they need what I can give. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” becomes an excuse not to care.
    Jesus encouraged his followers over and over again to pull down these kinds of walls. He held up the example of the Good Samaritan who took up the suffering, beaten victim, and cared for him, unlike the priest and the Levite who walked by, pretending to not even notice.
    Jesus said, go the extra mile. “if your neighbor asks for the shirt off your back, give him your cloak as well.”
    All this falls under the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” which is second only to that greatest commandment. “Love God.”
    And if there is anyone who has the right to put up walls and fences, it’s God.  Because of humanity’s sin, God barred the gate to paradise.  He assigned cherubim to guard the wall.
     He says to the unrighteous you can’t enter into my kingdom, you can’t put your hands on my treasures. I’m staying in here and you are staying out there.
     That’s what His justice demands He say. His justice builds walls. But His nature is rather that of grace, and so He assigned Jesus to come into this world to save sinners. And to build bridges.
     That’s what Jesus did He builds bridges where there were once walls. By His death and resurrection He has made it so that your sin is atoned for and you can be welcomed into your Father’s kingdom and share in all His inheritance.
     Jesus continues to build bridges now giving you His word, giving you His sacraments so that you would believe in Him and have that access into the Father’s good graces.
     Jesus builds bridges by appointing Pastors to preach His word rightly.  In the Old Testament reading today from Ezekiel, God gave a very stern strict warning to the prophet.  Ezekiel 33:8
    If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

Tough words for the prophet. But very good words for the people who would hear his preaching. It was for their sake that God wanted His message to be conveyed accurately and clearly. It’s a life and death matter. Eternal life and death.
            And so in our day, God calls pastors for your sake that you would hear His word and put confidence in it. Woe to those preachers who would stray off from God’s word and into their own imaginations and their own fun and fantasy.
            So, it’s about time I get to the assigned text for today:  Jesus says, Matthew 18:15
    "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
By nature, when we are sinned against, our first reaction is either fight or flight.
            Fight—that is to strike back with angry thoughts and curses, spiteful, hateful words or even actions which are violent or destructive.
            Flight—that is to go hide behind the wall, to just be done with that person.
Jesus tells you, build bridges not walls. Jesus turns you around from the natural reactions. Not fight, not flight. But He says, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
            If someone sins against you, especially someone who is a Christian, Jesus wants you to step out of your comfortable zone and step up to talk it through with the other person. “Go”, He says, “have that blessed conversation that leads to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”
            Say, “you know, there is something that is bothering me. Something between you and me. I’d like to talk about it. I’d like to see what we can do together to resolve this.”
            And this is a very humble attitude you have as you begin this talk. You have to be humble enough to realize that your idea of the solution might not work. You may need to bring two or three others into the conversation who can help you resolve it. Not two or three who will just take your side, no matter what, but others who can mediate and who also want to have peace.
“If your brother sins against you”, Jesus says. Which sins? You can’t go through this all the time. Most sins you gotta just overlook. Don’t get hung up on the little stuff.
Proverbs 19:11
    Good sense makes one slow to anger,
        and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
But when you can overlook something, get to work to address it, to find ways of fixing it. In this way you put the gospel of Jesus to work and the gospel of Jesus is simply this, “Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.”
Jesus invites you into this gospel with His great promises:      Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This gospel of repentance and forgiveness is heavenly stuff.  Live that every day. Amen.


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