September 4, 2011

Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 18:15-20 When Jesus walked through the towns and villages of Galilee, he taught and healed and helped the people that he met. And he had a consistent message wherever he went: “Repent,” he said to all the people, “because the Kingdom of God has come near.” And when Paul took up Jesus’ mission, he said pretty much the same thing. In today’s passage from Romans, Paul uses the metaphor of night and day. He points out how much changed when Jesus came into the world like a light shining into the darkness. The change that has come upon the world was as swift and as unstoppable as the sun rising in the morning. And the Christians have got to realize that the night is over, and “wake up!” Paul describes this time that we live in as that wonderful time when the darkness of night has dissipated, and the day is near. It’s the in-between time… between the dark night before Christ, and the full brightness of the kingdom of God. And it’s time, Paul says, for Christians to start living like it’s day time, like the kingdom of God is here. “Let us live honourably as in the day,” Paul writes, “not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” This short list of sins is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. But notice that the sins he mentions are primarily night time behaviours in the literal sense that they … Read more »

September 7, 2014

Matthew 18:15-20 “Resolving Conflict” This morning’s Gospel text may be one of the most practical and applicable passages in the whole Bible. It’s not a complicated parable with many layers of meaning. It’s not an apocalyptic saying with mysterious symbolic language. It’s not a poem, or a prophecy, or even a commandment from long ago that makes us work hard to figure out how to apply it to our contemporary lives. This morning’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew is instead a very practical set of instructions from Jesus for what to do when conflict arises. You see, Jesus’ disciples and the people they met along their missionary journeys experienced conflict. There’s even a Gospel story about Jesus’ disciples arguing with one another as they went along the road – arguing with each other about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus’ first disciples got into conflict sometimes, and even Jesus got into conflict. I imagine that most of the time Jesus probably kept his cool when conflict arose – when the Pharisees tried to trick him or test him, when his disciples didn’t understand him or even tried to oppose him. There’s even one story in which Jesus does get angry and he shows it – he drives the money changers out of the temple, knocking over their tables, sending birds and coins scattering, and people running at the sound of his authoritative voice. But you, good Christian people, you don’t experience conflict, do you? You always get … Read more »

September 14, 2014

Matthew 18:21-35 “As We Forgive” Way back in Matthew chapter six, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. He encourages them to pray honestly and sincerely, telling them not to be concerned with using many words, and not to pray just to be seen praying by others. And then Jesus teaches them the prayer we still use every Sunday in our worship. He says, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” And Jesus goes on to explain, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” How often we pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask for God’s forgiveness of our sins! How often those words slip easily across our lips, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”! But how very rarely do we pause to consider the implications of that prayer! We know and trust that God’s forgiveness of our sins goes well beyond our deserving, but we may not often think about what we promise in that prayer, that we also will forgive. We won’t just forgive good-intentioned people who meant us no … Read more »

July 17, 2016

Listen to this Sermon Colossians 3:12-17 Psalm 103:1-14 Matthew 18:21-35 “The Fruit of the Spirit is PATIENCE” Preaching on the Fruit of the Spirit this summer is turning out to be an interesting adventure. Instead of being tied to the lectionary readings, I have been set free to explore a different theme each Sunday… always beginning with some pondering about which Scripture passages to select that will speak to that theme most appropriately. On the subject of PATIENCE, the fourth fruit of the Spirit, I began by just exploring the definitions. I found that phrase that I shared with the children this morning – “waiting without complaining,” and I found much more. The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 about the Fruit of the Spirit is μακροθυμία (macrothumia) which can be translated either as “patience” or “long-suffering.” Just that alternate translation highlights something about what patience is all about, doesn’t it? Long-suffering. How about this definition? “The quality of being willing to bear adversities, calm endurance of misfortune.” Or how about this one? “Patience requires endurance, constancy, steadfastness, and perseverance; especially as shown in bearing troubles.” As I read more, I found that many commentators wanted to separate out different kinds of patience – patience with the circumstances of life (like the patience of someone stuck in traffic, or more seriously, living with a chronic illness); patience with God (like the patience of someone waiting for an answer to prayer, or waiting for some direction in life); or patience with … Read more »

September 10, 2017

Matthew 18:15-20 Romans 13:8-14 “Where two or three are gathered” Where two or three are gathered together, there is the likelihood of at least two or three different perspectives, opinions, or preferences. And where two or three are gathered together, there is the potential for conflict. Although it would be nice to say that whenever we gather in the name of Christ, we discover unity, and make peace, and live and serve harmoniously together, the reality is that even in the church, we don’t always get along that well. Yes, I’ve heard about some of the conflicts that have flared up in this Christian community over the years. Some of them have been resolved or let go of, and some forgiving and even some forgetting has long ago taken place. And there are others that still plague us in our relationships, stirring up feelings of frustration, hurt, or anger, and continue to hamper our relationships as co-workers in the gospel and brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve also heard about some of the conflicts that plagued other Christian congregations to which some of you used to belong. You came to this church seeking peace and rest from the struggle, and a caring community where you could share happily in service and fellowship. And I have my own experiences of conflict in the church as well. Sometimes I’ve witnessed it, and worked as a pastor to help bring resolution. Sometimes I’ve been right in the middle of it – as the … Read more »

September 17, 2017

Exodus 14:19-31 Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 Matthew 18:21-35 “Beyond Perfect Forgiveness” It was lovely to begin our Tuesday morning Bible Study this week. I appreciated the opportunity, early in the week, to get together with a group of faithful and thoughtful Christians to explore and discuss the Gospel text assigned for this morning’s service. Biblical interpretation and application to our lives is often better when we do it in dialogue both with the wider Christian community through commentaries and reflections of other pastors and theologians, as well as with real live people who are a part of our own community of faith. (If any of you would like to join us, know that you are always welcome on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 am.) Anyway, in our study on Tuesday we talked about Peter’s question to Jesus about how often we should forgive another member of the Christian community who sins against us. Of course, this text comes just after the one we talked about last Sunday about how to work out conflict that arises in the church from time to time. That text encouraged us to do everything that we can to work things out with someone who has hurt us – first, going to speak to them about it alone, then with a couple of witnesses if needed, and finally asking the church to intercede for us. And if even that doesn’t work, we should never ever give up on that person, but keep on reaching out in love with … Read more »