“Jesus is present when two persons make peace”

A sermon/reflection for The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

The readings for this Sunday are those of Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday:

  • Ezekiel 33.7-11

  • Psalm 119. 33-40

  • Romans 13. 8-14

  • Matthew 18.15-20

You might like to use the link below to find the above readings and click on any of the reading above that you wish to use:

http://www.katapi.org.uk/CommonWorship/CWLectionarySelV.php

Collect of the day 

Let us first spend a few moments in silence to centre ourselves,
to gather ourselves in our souls,
to come before the Lord just as we are with our joys and sorrows,
our hopes and our fears, our loves and our pains.
Let us just focus our minds and hearts on Jesus
who is the answer for every problem.
Let us pray that the Spirit will work through our lives
to bring Christ to the world.

Silence is kept

Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through Jesus Christ who was lifted up on the cross.
We know that you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord and Saviour.

Amen.

Prayer before the Sermon

Loving Heavenly Father,
we thank you for the words you have given us today.
We know they are words of life and salvation.
Open our hearts Father,
touch our souls,
forgive us our sins especially our lack of faith,
help us to respond to your word.
May we know that you are our Lord and Saviour
who promises us the power from on high,
your Holy Spirit.
May we experience in our hearts
your love and your presence always.

Amen.

 

Homily

Jesus is present when two persons make peace

Introduction

The Word of God is “living and active, far sharper than a double edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joins and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. (Hebrews 4.12)

1. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” that  Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped  his government to set up in South Africa after the horrors of the apartheid era, has been one of the incredible success stories of national healing and reconciliation in modern national histories. In this commission,  the oppressor and the oppressed, the criminal and the victim confessed their sins to one another and asked pardon. It was the forum where former enemies looked at each other in the eye and spoke the truth to one another…..their tears…the tears of the oppressor and the oppressed washed away the sins of the offender and the anger and hatred of the oppressed. What was achieved in South Africa is a shining model for the whole world.

There is the story of an old black woman whose son was killed by the police of the apartheid regime met the officer who had pulled the trigger and killed her son. They spoke to each other and narrated the circumstances of the horror that happened. The old woman told the white police officer, “I’ll forgive you on one condition that you take the place of my son whom you shot and killed!” It is said that the white police officer has taken the black woman as a mother since then! Reconciliation requires you meet your brother or sister.

2. Let us look at today’s gospel and see what Jesus is telling us.

First, in verse 15 Jesus says : “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” [1]

Jesus is very clear. It is a step by step approach. It is absolutely vital to encounter each other. There is need of facing up to a conflict. It is the need to speak the truth with love. When it works, often, reconciliation creates a closer bond than you had in the first place.

Second, in verse 16 Jesus says : “But if he/she will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

 This is the second step if the first step ends up in failure. But if it doesn’t work, and if after thought and prayer you are still convinced there is a wrong to be settled, take one or two others with you. They are your witnesses that you’re not just making it up (the quotation about needing ‘two or three’ comes from the OT law about evidence).

Third, in verse 17 Jesus says : “If he/she refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector”.

The church which probably Jesus himself envisaged in his time were the little groups or cells of his followers meeting together, praying the special prayer he gave them, reminding one another of his teaching and trying to live it out (Particularly his emphasis on forgiveness and remission of debt). That would be the group that is told of any confrontation that remained unresolved.

Of course, the hardest part is if still someone refuses to yield and be reconciled, (Paul wrestles with the same problem in 1 Corinthians 5), when real evil in involved, refusal to face it means a necessary break of fellowship since reconciliation can only come after the problem has been faced.

3. The Golden Verses: Reconciliation and Peace-making and Jesus’ promises

These are golden verses. Jesus is teaching us some golden truths. He is telling us that you make your own heaven both here as well as up above.

Verse 18 : “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

What we do here has a reflective resonance in heaven. There is a heavenly dimension to our act of reconciliation. But the promise is there! We aren’t left on our own as we struggle to become the sort of communities, families and churches that Jesus is describing. God’s presence is with us; our actions on earth have an extra, hidden dimension, the heavenly counterpart of what we do here. And, when we pray together in Christian fellowship, we are therefore assured of being heard and answered.  This is a promise that is central to Christian life. It is a promise of his presence but also a warning – that he will see and know the innermost truth of everyone’s heart.

Verse 19 : “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (We are also reminded of Jesus’ words : “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25.40))

Agreement on earth about any matter that you want to ask, it will be done in heaven. Prayers will bear fruit. “Why isn’t God answering my prayers?” Why do I feel dry in my prayer life? Why don’t I feel God’s presence?” How can he answer your prayer or how can you feel his presence until you untie that resentment, that vengeful feeling, that lack of forgiveness, that hatred, that negative feeling, that hard heartedness?

4. Verse 20 : The beautiful climax!

“Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”

It is significant that Jesus says those words, containing that great promise of his presence, in the context and ambit of reconciliation, not just worship. God is there if you are honest and humble to forgive and reconcile. God is present when you make peace with your brother or sister. Reconciliation and peace making is central to our Christian way of life. It is not for nothing that Jesus says : “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5. 9)

The Word of God has the supreme answer for our problems. Sometimes, we tend to forget that and spend thousands of pounds on doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and so on. (Any doctors or psychologists present, don’t get offended!) The word of God that we have heard today is one of those most exceptional and most relevant of verses that not only touches our lives but also gives us clear directions as how to solve our  conflicts and live a real ‘Christian’ and ‘God-centred’ life.

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5.9).

When we reconcile conflicts and make peace with one another, we truly behave like sons and daughters of God. There is  hope for our wounded world!

Notes:

STM, Homily, 16th Sunday after Trinity, Romans 13. 8-14; Mt 18. 15-20. St JB, Kirdford. cfr. also : Tim Wright, Matthew for Everyone, SPCK, 2002, pp 33-37.

[1] Verses 15, 16,17 quotations slightly adapted

[ST Mattapally, Rector, Springline Parish]

Prayer

A Prayer you can say now:

Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the Son of God.
Thank you for becoming one of us.
Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.
Thank you for rising from the dead
to give me hope and the gift of eternal life.
I repent of my sins
and invite you into heart and life
as my Lord and Saviour.
Please grant me your Holy Spirit
so that I may know you, love you
and follow you every day of my life.

Amen.

in our thoughts and prayers

 

Prayers/Intercessions for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity can be found here.