Pentecost 14 – September 10, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20

– Today, let’s take Jesus at his word.

– He says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

– Let’s take this word of Jesus to be good.

– Of course it’s good!… It just doesn’t always feel that way.

– So today, as we invoke Jesus’ name at the beginning; there’s more than two or three of us (not that it’s a required minimum); Jesus says he’s here; let’s take his word for it, Jesus is here!

– That’s good news!  What does it mean? What does it change?

How many of you watched or listened to the news this morning about the progress of hurricane Irma (and Jose’)?

– following so closely on the earthquake and hurricane in Mexico, the hurricane and flooding in Texas, the flooding in South Asia, and the mudslide in Sierra Leone, and the fires…

– and in the continuing political instability and threats…

– and even more in the war and violence that plagues too many people and places in and out of the news and our prayers…

– We can only be afraid for all the people, all those already affected, left in the destructive paths, and those waiting…

– don’t fear and sadness seem all pervasive these days?

– If we take him at his word, Jesus is among us in the concerns and fears of disaster and war that we carry with us this morning;

– and more importantly, Jesus is among those directly affected by these disasters and crises, thank God.

This is no simple word to sooth or solve everything…

– but it does change things, including when it is all we can say;

– Jesus said, “I am there, among them.”

– Jesus, we take you at your word. You are there among them. You are here among us. Thank God.

What’s changed? What does it mean?

– Does it free us from a kind of paralysis of fear?

– that it’s all too much, too overwhelming, for people directly affected, for us and our community, to act, to live, live on…

– can we save all those affected by wars and the disasters… no.

– can we provide help and support as we are able… yes.

– can it change how we care for and support neighbours struggling and facing disasters nearer to us… yes.

Among the millions of refugees… we worked with others to sponsor a family of six, and now four more, one arriving soon.

– as we’ve worked and provided financial support together to help make this happen in the name and Spirit of Jesus,

– as we gather Saturday for a further fundraiser…

– we take Jesus at his word, he is among us…

– and more importantly, we trust Jesus is among those who wait, that we are sponsoring, and among the millions more who wait, seeking a safe home…  Jesus, God, is there among them…

– This is no simple word to sooth or solve everything… but even when it is all we can say, it changes things, changes us

The Exodus story, so centrally defining of our Jewish neighbours, is at its heart a story that “God frees.”

– But it is a story of how one nation’s first born children die while another’s are “passed over” to force that release, as the reverse was true for Hebrew children before and after.

– In a world of continuing conflict and bloodshed on these very lands, we can’t hear this Passover story of “God frees” without acknowledging the continuing need for reconciliation.

– And at the same time, that Jesus was called by the earliest Church, “the Passover Lamb,” whose blood was shed that God would passover the whole world and free all from sin and death, – This is an image that defines us too.

– That Jesus’ blood was shed “by this world;” But in love, God makes Jesus’ death “for this world” is our ultimate hope.

– We take Jesus, God, at God’s word, Jesus is among us… to free and save us all.

Paul speaks to the Romans about the need, even the obligation to love, because of God’s love. And now is the time…

– For “love does no wrong to a neighbour.” Love over hate.

– Jesus be among us that we and the world let love and doing no wrong to our neighbour define our lives and this world now.

The Gospel is Matthew’s “dispute resolution formula.”

– Jesus shares a message with the Church that will come after in his name, acknowledging conflict among us will happen.

– And when it does, we are to make every effort to be gentle and caring, making “regaining” the other and reconciliation, our goal.

– And even the most unrepentant and stubborn should be treated as a “Gentile and a tax collector,” This, in the Gospel written in the name of the tax collector, Matthew – called by Jesus to be an Apostle, meaning not shunning, but always seeking to restore, is Jesus’ word, and to be our way.

– Reconciliation is to be our core business as Jesus’ church.

– And in the midst of conflicts and our and others trying to work them out in love, we take Jesus at his word, Jesus is among us.

Sometimes we can be shocked to experience, even years later, our conflict with others, and be confronted with the need for reconciliation, personally and collectively…

– Jesus’ way and our way, is not walking or running away, not holding on to a grudge, not scorekeeping or seeking payback…

– but Jesus’ way and our way is reconciliation and restoration… and in the midst of it all, Jesus is among us. Right here.

– This is Matthew’s central theme: At the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus is born “Emmanuel,” which means, God with us.

– In the midst of conflict, Jesus says, I’m right there, among you.

– And in the last words of the Gospel, in the great commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

– And Jesus says: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is right in the midst, of our conflicts and wars and tragedies, individual and global, to “regain the world” as he asks us to do. Reconciliation is Jesus’ business, and ours too.

– And in case we think there’s a limit, we can’t forget that before these words comes the story of searching for the one lost lamb among ninety nine more…

– And the words that follow are the call to forgive not seven times but seven times seven and just keep going.

– Jesus is right here, in the midst of everything, the conflicts of our lives and this world, in love, to free all humanity and all creation from brokenness and death.

– There is no limit, no stopping. Jesus is among and in the midst of it all, in everything, and that changes everything, changes us.

This is God’s word today. And we take God/Jesus at their word. God, Jesus is among us, to save us and this world. Amen.