Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Jesus calls us to follow him
and he gives us some of the instructions about how we can do that.
Deny ourselves of ourselves and be prepared to sacrifice.

He then tells us about the other side of the deal.
We do our bit, and he does his.

If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray,
does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

Of course we are the sheep Jesus is speaking of.
Those who have denied themselves, and taken up their cross and followed him.

But sometimes we get it wrong.
We fall into sin, or to get it closer, we miss the mark.
We get it wrong.
We fall into ways of being that aren’t about loving God or our neighbour.
We fall into ways that aren’t about denying ourselves or carrying our crosses.
We start to see power as something to use and abuse
and we start to see some as ‘the other.’
We fall into the ways of the world and leave behind the ways of the kingdom.

We become the sheep that has gone astray.

does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

We may lose our way, but God does not want to lose us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

None of this is to say that we can do what ever we want and everything be fine.

We can get great comfort from all this.

Even when we get it wrong,
God will come after us, give us clip around the ear,
then give us a big hug.

And if he finds it, truly I tell you,
he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 

God rejoices in finding us.
Like the prodigal son, he rejoices, in the one who was lost being found.

God will go to extreme lengths to find those who are lost,
and I can speak from my own experience that he searched long and hard.
I was lost and was found, and I thank him everyday for not giving up.

So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Then Jesus explains to us how we should sort out our differences.
This can seem somewhat jarring after the beauty of the shepherd image.

He outlines a three step process.
If member of the church sins against you, the first step is to sort it out one on one.
Don’t involve anyone else, the two of you sort it out.
Most problems will be sorted out at this point.

However if that doesn’t work,
take someone else from the church with you as a witness.
This is basic mediation.
By taking someone else along,
both sides of the story are heard by someone not involved.
This should sort out most issues,
and only needs to be used in those that aren’t sorted out one on one.

Now if it doesn’t get sorted with mediation, it becomes a big deal.
The whole church gets involved.

Can you imagine the seriousness of the issue if it gets to this point?
We are dealing with issues of abuse, theft, serious stuff.
This is not for a personal slight or difference of opinion.
This is serious.

It is made even more serious that in the event of the person not listening to even the church:
let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector
They are to be removed from the church.
This is no small thing. This not to be done lightly.

The seriousness of this is made clearer when we think back to the lengths that God will go to find one that has gone astray.

If God goes to such lengths, are we not also to avoid losing someone?

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

That should let us know how serious it would be to removed someone from the church.
If we loose someone from the church, we loose them from heaven.
By excluding someone from the church, we exclude them from God.

That is definitely not something we should ever be comfortable in doing,
and it really makes the seriousness of what we do here real.
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.’
Jesus tells us of his presence where two or more are together.
He is with us when we gather.
If we exclude someone, we effectively take them out of God’s presence.

The image Jesus gave us of the shepherd who will go to any length to find the lost should be enough to tell us of how important we are to God.
Here Jesus reminds us of the importance of not losing anyone.
He is telling us the lengths we should go to not lose anyone from the church.

The shepherd rejoices in finding what went astray.
We too should rejoice in not losing anyone.

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