Watching for the morning of September 7
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 18 / Lectionary 23
We are on dangerous ground, this Sunday. Jesus is talking about sins. We don’t like people talking about our sins.
We have trouble getting this right in our time and place. We tend think about sins as personal acts or failings. We speak of sins as if they were disconnected from the larger human community. If I drive too fast I get a ticket for violating the law, the written rule; I do not imagine that I have betrayed or dishonored others.
Adultery is not a personal moral failing; it is a rupture in the human community. Gossip is not a guilty pleasure; it is a poisoning of the social fabric. Sins involve others. It rends the network of relationships that give life its strength and goodness.
So what is to be done when there is some rupture in the human community? Revenge is the classic answer. I make it right by harming you the way you harmed me. I balance the equation. And the fear of revenge restrains us. On an international scale we called it Mutually Assured Destruction. It may keep an outward peace, but it is not the peace of God. It is not the kingdom. It is not the way of life.
Jesus chooses the way of reconciliation.
And he teaches us to do the same.
The Prayer for September 7, 2014
you call us to walk as children of the light
and set before us the command to love one another.
Turn us back when we stray and lead us in your pathways
that, clothed in Christ, we might bear your grace to the world;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for September 7, 2014
First Reading: Ezekiel 33:1-11
“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.” – God compares the prophet to a watchman against hostile enemies and charges him not to remain silent when God has given him a message of warning for the nation.
Psalmody: Psalm 119:33-40
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.” – Another segment of this magisterial psalm celebrating the gift of God’s Law/Teaching.
Second Reading: Romans 13:8-14
“the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” – Paul urges his hearers to live the life to which they have been called in Christ where love (the solidarity of regarding others as members of your own family/kin) is the heart of God’s commands.
Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
“If another member of the church sins against you…” – Following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the declaration that God does not want any to be lost, Jesus instructs is followers on seeking reconciliation in the community.