Wednesday, September 7, 2011


If we are honest we have all done it on more than one occasion.
We have all talked about someone behind their backs or made discouraging remarks about another person when they were not in the room.
I hear it all the time in conversations, “I can’t believe she did that. I would never do that.”
We all have been guilty of spreading rumors or talking out of turn.
I know that whenever I do it I almost immediately feel wrong about it.
And most of the time it comes back to get me.
Not only in our personal relationships but throughout the history of Christendom this has been a problem.
How many times after a council meeting do people go out in the parking lot and begin to talk about other people, or the pastor?
It is the amazing thing about Jesus that nothing is too small for him to care about.
Jesus even cares about how we talk about other people when they are not around.
This morning Jesus gives what I have always considered to be practical advice on how we should interact with each other.
"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”
How many problems could we avoid in life if we simply take Jesus advice?

I know in the church we could save ourselves a lot of drama if we stopped making assumptions about people’s motives and simply talked about our differences.
So in part our Gospel for this morning is simply about good advice in dealing with conflict among people church.
I would suggest it is good advice in general and not just in the church.
Most of the time the things that others do to make us angry or upset are not done out of spite or because the other person is bad they happen as a misunderstanding or what one person considers wrong would never occur to another person.

For example, I had a friend in seminary.
She told me about this person she was dating.
Since none of us ever met this person or knew about him I made a bad joke about how he probably lived in Canada. (Wink, wink)
When it was time for our senior year I noticed that she stopped coming over our house for dinner.
I also noticed that some of my other friends had stopped coming around.
I was told by one of my classmates it was because I made that joke that she didn’t want to hang out with me anymore.
I was shocked!
If you know me you know I make jokes.
I mean nothing by them they are just meant to be funny.
This one was not funny.
I think it was sad that this person simply didn’t confront me with her feelings.
I could have apologized.
We could have saved a lot of drama.

Anyway, you get the point.
Jesus advice on handling of our internal problems is a good one.
If you have a problem with someone talk to them about it!

But I am not sure that our Gospel for this morning is merely about good advice Jesus gives when handling our personal disagreements.
I think it is about the imperfection of the church.
Jesus has no disillusionment about the church.
Jesus knows that someone in the church will sin against someone else at some point.
Jesus also knows that it will be our first reaction when someone sins against us to go and talk about it behind their backs with someone else.
Jesus presupposes sin in the church.
I wonder if we are as truthful about what happens here as Jesus.

There is a joke about a man who is rescued after many years on a desert island.

As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, "I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?"

"Well," replies the castaway, "that one there is my house and
that one there is where I go to church."

"And the third one?" asks the skipper.

"Oh, that's the church used go to."
Many people have left a church because they did not like the way someone did something.
Many people have been disillusioned because the Church did not live up to its or their high ideals.
I have met so many people who don’t go to church because they say that the church is filled with hypocrites.
To which I always reply, “Well of course it is there are people in the Church.”

But this morning we see the truth about human relationships.
They are very complex.
They take time, work, and most of all forgiveness.
Jesus has to come up with a very long system for dealing with these disagreements.
First confront the person, if that doesn’t work bring another person, if that doesn’t work bring more people.
What is even more amazing about what Jesus says this morning is that despite all this Jesus would still be in found where his followers gather.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Jesus is among two or three even though he knows it will not be perfect.
Jesus knows that were two or three are gathered there will be a problem.
The Church is not meant to be a place where perfect people come together to make themselves feel superior to the rest of the world.
It is meant to be a place where imperfect people come to worship a perfect God.
There is no such thing as a perfect church only a perfect God.
It is meant to be a place where we struggle with living in a community of people that we don’t always agree with.
I would say that gathering in Church helps us do away with our disillusionment of perfection or high ideals.
The church shatters our false notion that somehow somewhere there is a perfect community out there with perfect people.
The good news is that Jesus is among us and still despite this empowers us to love others.
To loose and bind chains.
How much better is it for us to be able to let go of resentment?
How much better for us to seek reconciliation with each other?
As Joseph Campbell once said, “We sacrifice in a relationship not for the other person but for the relationship”
This morning what we are confronted with in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is this question about our lives.
How will we live with the limited amount of time we all have left?
St. Paul tells the church in Rome, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.”
Paul like many people believed that the end of time was coming soon.
He believed that when Jesus told his followers he was going to return, Jesus meant sooner rather than later.
And because of this Paul often pleaded with people to act like their time on earth was short.
We have become less and less enthralled with this idea, because as time has moved on we see that Jesus has not returned sooner rather than later.
In fact, we often take tomorrow for granted; we simply believe that whatever we leave today we can always do tomorrow.
But if we live like there is no tomorrow we can see that there is simply not enough time to be resentful, petty, or angry.
If we live like there is no tomorrow we live in love.

Relationships mean so much to us in our community because they are the back bone of what we are about.
In a society that teaches us we can have everything our own way it is good that we still have places where we don’t always get our own way and we still have to compromise and learn to live with people of different opinions and world views.

That is why we gather here every week.
It is why we attempt to go out and invite others in.
We do it because we believe that Jesus Christ is present in this place.
We believe in forgiveness of sins.

To me this is good news.
It means that we owe each other nothing except to love one another.
Loving means forgiving each other, and living amongst our own fragilities and complexities.
Jesus was not disillusioned about whom we are or what the church is.
May we learn to disillusion ourselves so that we are open to accepting the forgiveness and presence of Jesus Christ and live our short time on this earth in love.

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