February 12, 2017
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but if there was any other day that I really wanted to focus on another text, it would be today! Luckily, there are two other lessons that have been read, as well as the Psalm. While there is plenty of valuable insights to mine from Paul’s letter and Deuteronomy, I also realize that I am stubborn and know that my aversion to today’s Gospel, means that we should probably sit with it for a little while longer and see what good news it has to say to us.
Much of the gospel lesson seems to be strict instruction from Jesus, even a clarification per se of the Ten Commandments as Moses gave them to the people of Israel. While it was easy to look at the Ten Commandments and follow them, Jesus’ clarification seems to tighten the law a little more. Personally, I am left wondering, how can we expect to live up to this teaching of Jesus in our sin and brokenness.
Let us remember that the Ten Commandments were given to the people as a gift. We can all appreciate the rules and laws within our own lives that we have to follow. This is what a loving parent does for her children. She sets out rules and guidelines, certain expectations, to live by. In these rules, we are able to live into relationship with one another. By being in relationship with one another, we experience the inbreaking of the kingdom of God.
Let’s be honest though. It is not easy to be in relationship all of the time. We each have our own characteristics and personalities. We each have our own little quirks that can irritate the pet peeves of others. Yet, despite this, we need each other. We need to be connected with one another so that we can accomplish wonderful things and make a difference in the community around us. While many of us insist that we are very independent people and do not need anyone’s help, there is still a strong sense of dependency that is part of our beings that require us to work and live together.
In the midst of Jesus’ words concerning anger, adultery, divorce, and making oaths, we find a call to reach out to one another. We are called to reach out to one another in mutual respect and love, so that we may be reconciled to one another. Within this reconciliation, we must first honor the need for forgiveness. Not just an empty forgiveness, a forgiveness that brings us back into right relationship with one another. A forgiveness that welcomes God in so that we can move forward in faith. This forgiveness is the first step towards reconciliation. In Jesus, God is revealed for us and in this we can see God’s desire to be reconciled with all people. As we work towards reconciliation, we are living into God’s intent for humanity, living into loving relationship with one another.
Sometimes we wonder why we do certain things as Lutherans. We wonder why our worship service takes on the shape that it does. We wonder about the various aspects and parts of worship. Each part has a biblical and liturgical component to it. We practice forgiveness and reconciliation every week during our worship service. Were you aware of this?
Every week after our prayers of the people, the peace of Jesus Christ is shared. It is in this sharing of the peace that we have the opportunity to seek out those that we have harmed, or those that have hurt us, and begin our steps to reconciling. We reach out our hand and offer the peace of God. It could be for those things that we know we have done, those things that we are not aware of, or those things that we have left undone. The sharing of the peace is not meant as a time to catch up on the past week. It is a time to be in relationship with one another, reaching out and sharing the peace, just as Jesus would have shared it with his disciples and everyone that he encountered. In that peace is the foundation of our reconciliation with each other and ultimately with God.
It is fitting that we do this before we come to the altar, because at the altar we are all equals. At one time in England, there was a movement to return to the church. It was known as the Oxford Movement. One member of the movement was quoted as saying, “The Holy Eucharist is the only truly democratic moment in life when we are willing to come together to the altar, offer ourselves completely, and receive in return all that we need, not just to survive, but to live, then we have experienced something remarkably different and essential.”
There is no greater time for us to come together and be reconciled with one another. As we do so in the church, let us pray that our message of love and hope spread beyond our communities. In Jesus’ message in Matthew’s gospel, we are reminded that he did not come to abolish the law and prophets, but to fulfill the law. Through him we are witness to the grace of God that is for all people throughout the world.
As you leave here this morning, who is it that you are called to forgive and be reconciled? May all of our single steps of reconciliation lead to the reconciliation of the world.