September 6, 2020
As we peruse the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, there are many sections that sound like me may be reading a script from Game of Thrones or a similar story that may come out of the Medieval Era. This highlights the fact that as humanity, we have always had that desire to conquer and claim. For instance, the Babylonians and Egyptians did everything in their power to conquer the Jewish people and bar them from their land and/or hold them in slavery.
It is no wonder that as we look back through history and the stories of conquering in the Bible, that humanity has always tried to fulfill that desire. Much of it stems back through history as one tribe has tried to conquer other tribes. Jesus brings a message of hope and grace that has the intention to end this mentality. Yet, we are still a broken people awaiting the Kindom of heaven here on earth.
We have been far from upholding the ideals of Christ as we reach out to or fail to reach out to our sisters and brothers that we deem different from ourselves, yet are seen the same in the eyes of God. It is poignant as we look at our relationship with the Indigenous peoples of America. The first settlers from Europe used their concept of Doctrine of Discovery to take the land that they had newly discovered and conquer the people already living on it. Unfortunately, the Bible was quite often used for justification of their actions.
That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our gospel lesson for today from Matthew speaks strongly to our need as humanity to be reconciled with one another. Jesus encourages us to confront each other in a healthy manner and not through the premise of conquering or proving that we are right.
Jesus shares with the disciples the parable of the lost sheep immediately preceding our lesson for this morning. The point that Jesus is attempting to make is that everyone matters. That one lost sheep is just as important as the 99 that are safe on the mountain. It is that one lost sheep that Jesus is concerned with at this moment.
He then turns to how we live into that relationship with one another. Living into that relationship and creating community involves confronting one another. Jesus encourages it. Jesus encourages us to bring our conflicts to conversation and dialogue and not sweep them under the rug. He discusses the steps and who is involved in each step along the way. To be reconciled with one another is part of Jesus’ mission. We look to the relationship of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as an example of the relationship we are called into with our sisters and brothers. The relationship of the Trinity has been referred to as a divine dance. To dance requires give and take and some grace does not hurt. Jesus provides plenty of grace for us.
What does it mean to be reconciled? First, as Jesus tells the disciples this morning, it is to listen to one another. This is where we seem to be falling short as humanity. Yes, there are many different ideas out in the world as to why things are happening regarding race relations, the Coronavirus, and politics. Yet, we have left little room for conversation as we pick the ground we want to stand on, and come hell or high water, we are not going to budge from it. To be reconciled as people of God and a nation, listening needs to happen and we need to stop polarizing every topic imaginable. This divisiveness has split friends and families. Jesus holds us accountable to learn to listen and be reconciled with one another.
It is difficult to admit the error of one’s way. And yet, this is what Jesus is calling us to do when we enter conflict with one another and sit down to listen. We are not all correct, all the time. We are human. We are broken. We are going to stumble and fall. It is Jesus’ invitation for us to be reconciled with not only God, but also with our sisters and brothers. Jesus does not tell us we must agree with one another, but to be restored to right relationship. It does no one good to hold grudges.
Reconciliation at work is a beautiful thing. I recently heard of Reconciliation Canada, which is an Indigenous-led organization, began in September 2012 with a bold vision to promote reconciliation by engaging Canadians in dialogue that revitalizes the relationships between Indigenous peoples and all Canadians in order to build vibrant, resilient and sustainable communities. Through various initiatives, they have shown a commitment to humanity by seeking diverse perspectives and experiences to build resilience.
This is the community that Jesus encourages the church in the world to be. It is a community that nurtures honest dialogue in the face of behavior that harms others. It fulfills Jesus’ mission of restoration, re-creation, and transformation of all people. It is in reconciliation that we learn to love our neighbors and in the words of Paul, “…any other commandment is summed up in this word, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore, love is its fulfilling of the law.”
For what or whom, is Jesus calling you to be reconciled today? Where will you carry the gospel in your words and actions?