Eleventh Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 204

9th January 2016 0 By Derek Buckthorpe

Holy Communion 10.00am

11th Sunday after Trinity

4th September 2011

Bible References :

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Prayer to start

 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

AMEN

Introduction

 

A priest was preparing a dying man for his long day’s journey into the night

 

Whispering firmly in his ear, he said ‘ Denounce the devil!  Let him know how little you think of his evil! – confess your sins!’ –

 

The dying man said nothing.

 

The priest repeated his words  – still the dying man said nothing

 

The priest asked, ‘Why do you refuse to admit your sin and denounce the devil!’

 

The dying man said, “Until I know where  am going – I don’t think I should be aggravating anybody” –

 

Admitting our mistakes and denouncing our sinful ways – is something that  many of us find difficult to do –

 

When faced with saying sorry and owning up to our faults – most of us prefer to ‘hedge our bets’ – ‘keep our heads down’ – wait for things to subside –

 

Even in the most fragile of circumstances  – we prefer to pretend that there isn’t a problem – and carry on as normal –

 

Not admitting our sins to ourselves and to those we have wronged  – can cause real hardship – real division – in a community – in a family –  in the church – and coping with the consequences can result in a lot of anxiety for everyone involved –

 

Point 1        Bringing about reconciliation

 

In our Gospel reading Jesus gives us some guidelines on how we can mend the rifts and divisions that can occur  – as a result of our lack of openness –

 

He recommends we take a three step approach to reconciliation and only give up on the relationship if at the end of this – the problem has not been faced

 

‘If another member of the church sins against you’ says Jesus -‘go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone’

 

In other words go and talk to the person one-to-one   in the hope that the truth of the situation will come out – and there will be a better understanding of the events and of the actions that have been taken –

 

to do this takes courage –  and humility – we need to p0aray to God for strength and grace – we are not to judge – but show where the mistake has occurred and encourage repentance  – the other person may well respond with counter- accusation and there may be some truths which we will need to recognize –

 

But if it works – then its fantastic  – you’ve gained a brother or a sister’ says Jesus – and that really is what it can feel like – the reconciliation can create a much closer bond – than was there before.

 

But – if it doesn’t work – and if after thought and prayer we are still convinced there is a wrong to be settled – then Jesus says we should next take one or two others along with us  – ‘so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses’

 

In a family or church disagreement this might be other family members.

 

It is of course is a reality check on our own judgment – as well as on the judgment of the person we are approaching – so we need to choose people who are prepared to tell us some uncomfortable truths if needed – and if we are in the right and the person refuses to see it – then they are our witnesses that we are not just making it up –

 

the third step, says Jesus, is to ‘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 or tax-collector’

 

telling it to the church – in Jesus’ time  means telling it to a small Christian assembly who meet together in prayer and take it upon themselves to try and understand and live out Jesus’ teaching – today we would look for a sympathetic ear from our Rector or one of his officers –

 

this is a step where it goes beyond our inner circle – but with the help and support of the church – it may get the problem resolved

 

Point 2        Choosing Love & forgiveness

 

All this sounds pretty tough – but mending broken relationships is tough work

 

Reconciliation is a huge issue today – we see the result of not doing it in our newspapers and on our televisions:  Suicide bombs, campaigns of terror – heavy handed repression by occupying forces – that’s on the large scale – and on the smaller scale – broken marriages, shattered families – feuds between neighbours – divided churches –

 

Many pretend there isn’t a problem – they prefer to paper over the cracks – carry on as if everything is normal –

 

The ultimate is to ignore the other person or group and pretend they don’t exist

 

Many Christians take the paper-over-the-cracks option believing that this is what forgiveness means – pretending that everything is alright –  that the person hasn’t really done anything wrong –

 

but if we feel real evil has been done – then it must be confronted –

 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying ‘ it didn’t really happen’  or ‘it doesn’t really matter’ – forgiveness is when it did happen – and it did matter – and we are ready to deal with it and end up loving and accepting one another again afterwards –

 

Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of the importance of love in all of this –

 

All the commandments are summed up in the words – ‘love your neighbour as yourself’

 

‘Love does no wrong to a neighbour therefore love is the fulfilling of the law ‘

 

We are commanded to live as Citizen’s of heaven – and respond to God’s mercy and love in a way that will do its best for our neighbour.

 

Breaking the commandments –  showing a bad temper, jealousy, night time reveling and drunkenness are not the marks of a Christian –

 

We are to copy the self giving love of Jesus Christ – live lives that show love to others and that are attractive to the surrounding community –

 

Paul encourages us to put on ‘the armour of light’ – ‘to put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ in everything we do – and say –

 

God promises much for those who choose to follow the ways of Jesus Christ – He died for our sins so that we can receive the gift of salvation and eternal life –

 

He also promises to be there – in our meetings and exchanges as we try to work things out – and  will see and know the truth of everyone’s heart –

 

Engaging in reconciliation will be costly  –  but with Jesus – it will always be done in real hope – with joy waiting around the corner for those who persevere.

 

Ending

 

Dis agreements can arise with friends, in the family and in the church – through lack of honesty –  and openness to one another and to God –

 

Mending rifts and restoring relationships with God and with each other is what Jesus was sent in our world to do

 

He came to save the lost and restore us to His Kingdom –

 

We need to trust Him – and follow His ways

 

if we do that – then we know the way that we will go – the way of the peace maker –  the way of Jesus Christ –

 

Prayer

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit-AMEN