Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pentecost 13, 2014: Trust God

Lectionary: Exodus 12:1-14 ; Psalm 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

We began our worship together with this phrase: Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts… Today is a special day in the life of the Church of the Redeemer and the Word of God given to us today carries a special message which is perfect for us to hear today.

Let’s begin with the reading from Exodus. Why is God so specific in the instructions to the Israelites? Obedience. God is calling the people to obedience, which means to hear and respond.

God is saying: ‘Will you trust me, just trust me, even if you don’t know why I’m asking all of these things? Will you trust me, and keep trusting me over and over – no matter what you see or experience. Trust me to always be with you, to always take care of you. Then gather together as a community and remember this. Celebrate it. Celebrate the relationship we have – a relationship where I care for you and you trust me to do it.

Then the psalmist calls us to sing, rejoice, dance, and play – to give thanks to God in the congregation, which means in church, and rejoice in the relationship we have with God. Monk and theologian Thomas Merton once said: “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything [God] has given us – and [God] has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of [God’s] love, every moment of existence is a grace…”

Then in the letter to the Romans, Paul tells us to love, love, love, love, love. Live honorably in the light of the love of God in Christ which is in you. If you trust in God for all you need then you no longer have to steal someone else’s spouse in order to feel loveable, or drown your pain and emptiness in lcohol or drugs, or overindulge in things that can’t satisfy the hunger you know is within you.

Wake up, Paul says. Wake up and remember the relationship you have with God. The freedom you seek isn’t freedom from rules. It’s the freedom to rest in the peace of God’s steadfast love and care. So, live together in peace, he says. Stop quarreling.

Then in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us how to live as a community committed to reconciliation, because sometimes, living in a community of faith is going to be hard. People who are used to being selfish or controlling or downright abusive out of their fear or insecurity, may choose not change when that behavior is challenged.

When a person sins against you, Jesus says, and refuses to be reconciled even after you have spoken to them; even after you have brought witnesses to support you; and even after the church community affirms their experience of the sin; then, let that one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. That is, cast them out from the community and have no contact with them.

Jesus uses this moment to remind his followers of his previous teaching on binding and loosing. We can bind or loose, but if we are doing that from our own strength, our own understanding, then we are the proud whom God resists because it is our will, not God’s will, we are manifesting.

The verbs for "bind" and "loose" are in the perfect tense in Greek which would translate literally as: what we bind on earth is that which is already bound in heaven; and what we loose on earth is that which is already loosed in heaven. Author and theologian Leon Morris says, “The point is not that Jesus is giving the church the right to impose its judgment on heaven, but that God is giving the church the ability (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to discern judgments that God has already put in place in the heavenly realm. (Morris, Leon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1992), 469)

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

That’s why Jesus says that when two of us agree about anything, it will be done because it is the will of God revealing itself to us in community. This isn’t God doing what we ask. It’s us waking up to and discerning God’s will for us. And we do this together.

After our worship service, we will go down to our Parish Hall and discern God’s will for us in this moment of our common life as a community of faith. Having gathered as a community to give our thanks and praise to God and remembering our relationship with God and one another, we go down to this meeting in peace, trusting in God with all our hearts remembering that God is always with us, caring for us and calling us to be faithful.

I close with one final bit of wisdom from our heavenly prayer partner, Thomas Merton (to whom we give thanks for his prayerful wisdom): “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Amen.

Note: Merton quotes from:

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