Sermon Notes for September 4, 2011

Scriptures for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 18)

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20


  • The OT lesson comes straight out of Holy Week–the Passover story from Exodus. It ties in with the other readings because of its emphasis on Law and procedure.  Would I preach on this text on Labor Day Weekend? Probably not.
  • The Psalm is a good praise Psalm- Cantate Domino.  It compliments the readings for the day just fine.
  • The Roman lesson stands out strong.  In Part 1, Paul expounds on the theme of “love.”  Love as the fulfilment of the Law.  He is repeating the words of Jesus: …and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.  This may seem “old hat” for you, and as I heard one colleague say, “I am tired of preaching love to a bunch of folks that never get it.”  That may be just the point–speaking love is pretty easy, living it is another story. How can we challenge the Church to “love our neighbor”–the whole breadth and depth of meaning of neighbor? Can we put it into concrete and localized terms for our community, for our congregation?  The more specific, the better.
  • Part 2 of  Romans has an eschatological feel to it. Wake from sleep, the day of salvation is nearer than ever… Paul is getting specific here with the congregation in Rome. Living as Children of God means living differently than those that surround them.
  • The Gospel for this Sunday is Jesus’ instruction on how to deal with those who have wronged us–sinned against us.  This is a very specific procedure that I have rarely found to be followed in a congregation–1) deal with the one that offends you, one to one; 2) if that doesn’t work, ask one or two witnesses to assist you in the process; 3) If that doesn’t work, go to the church and bring up the offense; 4) If the offender still does not listen, then let them be as an outsider to the congregation.  It has been my experience that most people never deal with their offender one on one, until long after they have spoken to four or five others, brought it before the church, and then gotten deep into the process of shunning  him/her.  I may exaggerate some, but am I far from the truth, in your experience?  Jesus offers a practical approach for dealing with conflict and Christian discipline in a congregation, the problem being, most of us are not mature enough in the faith to carry it out. The fact is, living a Christian life within a community of faith is not easy and demands some maturity out of us.
  • The closing of the Gospel may be one of the most used verses of the Bible– For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. I have heard this passage used as a justification for propping up small and dying churches, but that is another story.  Within the context of the entire reading, two or three persons gathered in Jesus’ name is a dynamic community–they can help with spiritual discipline and helping brothers and sisters in Christian love; they have the power of “binding and loosing” (this may take a little time to unpack); their intercessions are powerful.  When I hear that closing verse, I always think of Morning Prayer and the prayer of John Chrysostom:
    Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. 
  • Binding and Loosing- there are plenty of resources out there, a Google search yielded over 400,000 entries. Beware of some of what is out there, it is not necessarily exegetical.  I found this excellent article in The Text this WeekBinding and loosing: a paradigm for ethical discernment from the Gospel of Matthew.

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