Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A

Title:Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A

 Morning Prayer, Sept. 6, 2020 – Season of Creation I (full size gallery)

We had 21 people begin the Season of Creation outside at 10am.

From the sermon, “The goal in worship then is to deepen our understanding of God as Creator, to celebrate God’s role as Creator, and to examine and deepen and widen our own relationships with God, creation, and with one another. How are we impacting creation which God said was “good.”?

“We are blessed to be gathering outside in this Season of Creation. In this season we enter in heart, mind and spirit into the great love that God has for us and for all that God has made, so that the depth of God’s love and life giving creativity surrounding us can inspire us to deepen our own love for this earth and its creatures. We are interconnected with one another and interconnected with God, and we are also interconnected to all of God’s creation. After all, we ourselves are a part of that creation.

“In today’s reading from Ezekiel, the Lord has appointed Ezekiel as a sentinel to the House of Israel, to warn them of the ways in which they have turned away from God and sinned. God wants the people to stay connected to God and also to one another. Creation is one of God’s sentinels to us. Creation warns us when we human beings have gone astray. What goes on in creation reminds us to turn away from the harmful habits we have developed that keep us from fully loving the earth and also from fully loving one another. Creation speaks to us and warns us when our interconnectedness is at risk, putting creation and all of us in danger.

The Confession of sin spoke of our need to repent:

“God our Creator and Healer,
We confess that we have sinned:
We have used creation, not cherished it;
We have lived selfishly and have not cared for the balance of life;
We have been greedy, not sharing earth’s gifts;
And our footprints are heavy, not gentle.
Forgive us the damage that disturbs our planet.
Grant us the grace to live for the world’s healing and for our own.
Bless the seasons of the year; may they be restored to your design.

From the sermon, “As part of our interconnectedness with God’s good creation, our responsibility as Christians is to know how the things we do can contribute to climate change and then to work on how to change the things we do for the good of the earth, and ultimately for the welling being of the human family itself. The climate is speaking to us as a sentinel, reminding us that God desires us to turn from the ways that hurt creation and one another, and to live

The Bible speaks of a God who is not passive or distant, but active and involved since God was the creator. We can see that in another sermon illustration.

Again from the sermon – “Creation itself will help. What would happen if only one oak tree were planted in a play area in Gilpin (Richmond) that has no shade? That one tree, planted strategically near a building, would reduce the energy used inside the building. The tree would lower the temperature of the play area, inviting people out to socialize and to cool off in its shade because of the water evaporating through its leaves– both the air and the surface temperatures around the tree would be cooler. And the tree’s leaves would remove some pollutants from the air—dust, ozone, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants. And not only that, but that one oak tree would support hundreds of species of moths and butterflies, more than any other native species of tree—and those moths would in turn attract birds, and its acorns would attract squirrels or any of the over one hundred species in this country that feast on acorns —many, many species benefiting from that one oak tree.”

The lectionary specificially dealt with the issue of conflict and reconciliation in the church community. "So how do we do we hold one another accountable for the good of one another & the community?"

"That’s why Jesus says simply to go to the other person who has sinned against you when the two of you are alone and to talk it over."Unfortunately, not all conversations of this sort bring reconciliation, and so Jesus goes on to say that then it’s time to call in reinforcements—not to banish the sinner, but to offer yet another opportunity for reconciliation to occur. 

The example of reconciliation can be seen in Desmond Tutu’s book "Book of Forgiving" describing the work of the Truth and Reonciliation Committee which allowed victim and transgressor to meet together working toward reconciliation, though without requiring remorse. 

Sometimes reconcilation doesn’t work. The Ezekiel reading goes through this possibility.

"Sometimes, though, reconciliation just isn’t possible, as today’s passage from Ezekiel reminds us.  It’s up to us to remember that God is in the midst of us, not to take us out, but to help us find the way to eternal life, starting right now. This is God’s work. Let go and let God."

Coffee hour was sponsored by Andrea and  Cookie and provided welcome nourishment- barbecue, beans, fruit and assorted desserts. 

Canon Lance Ousley from the Diocese of Olympia interprets the scriptures this week:

"There is a difference between a task and ministry. A task is about checking an action off a to-do list and ministry is about developing the relationship within the action. Our readings this week emphasize the stewardship of relationships that honor God and God’s relationship with all people.

"The reading from Ezekiel places strong accountability on those who are called to be God’s messengers of living in right relationship with the world. Not only is there a message to the messenger but the word is clear that God will not stand for evil to be perpetrated on people and creation. And as Christians we are called to proclaim God’s gospel message in both word and deed stewarding right relationships in the world.

"Here in chapter 13 of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes what it looks like to steward our relationships with one another and with God. He references the Ten Commandments and that they are summed up in the living in relationship with your neighbor in love as we love ourself. Selfless love is the fulfillment of the law. And it is stewardship of our relationships in response to God’s love for us and all people.

"In our gospel reading this week Jesus addresses how we steward our relationships in the midst of conflict. Jesus instructs us to reconciliation in a process that honors each party and is rooted in mutual respect. This is the way of the Church, how we steward our relationships. And even when a conflict is unresolved due to one objecting to the communal perspective, that one still is to be treated with love and respect due all people. Remember Jesus frequently ate with tax collectors and healed Gentiles in need. Jesus does not say that holdout is to be an anathema. Aher in community that he is there with them. Jesus’ word here about binding and loosing on earth exemplifies how the Church’s actions are to be reflective of the heavenly love that flows from God. And further, Jesus reminds his followers that when they gather in community that he is there with them. Therefore, the Church is to represent Christ in relation to the world, stewarding God’s love with all people and creation."

Commentary from David Lose:

“A few things struck me this time around. First, the attention Matthew gives to Jesus’ instructions about resolving disputes or, more acutely, the impact of our poor behavior, may reflect that, well, Matthew’s community was struggling with disputes and the impact and consequences of poor behavior. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that before. Perhaps because I have usually heard these verses referenced as a universal approach to conflict resolution and less as reflecting Matthew’s concern for the struggles of his folks. But, as we know from experience, conflict can hurt. When members of our community show little regard for others, everyone suffers. So why not share a story or memory of Jesus where he offers counsel about how to resolve conflict and address poor behavior.

“Second, this whole chapter is about the vulnerable. Jesus starts by placing a child in the midst of disciples arguing about greatness and invites them to redefine their assumptions and criteria. Moreover, beyond redefining greatness along the lines of humility rather than power, Jesus also implores them to welcome those who are vulnerable like a child saying that when they do so, they are welcoming him (1-5). The next section is about avoiding at all costs harming “these little ones” – not specified but again likely referring to the vulnerable members of the community (note that it’s “these little ones who believe in me”), stressing hyperbolically that it would be better to lose a member of one’s physical body than harm vulnerable members of the communal body. Sin, in Matthew’s (and Judaism’s) view is not an individual affair. Our poor choices affect and infect the larger body. And Matthew exercises particular care with regard to the children, the little ones, the vulnerable (6-9). Then comes Matthew’s version of the lost sheep – and let’s admit that most of us probably forgot Matthew also offers this metaphor! – pointing out God’s concern not to lose any of the community, even those who have gone astray (10-14).

“Third, this is a pretty intense process for resolving conflict. But whereas I used to read that as a peculiarly Matthean legalism – “first you have to do this, then you have to do that…” – I now see it as the lengths to which we should go to try to reconnect with someone who has “gone astray” or even those who have “sinned against you.” When it comes to ruptures in the community, you don’t give up. Or least you try everything you can think of before letting one be bound to the consequences of their sin.

“Fourth, conversation is interestingly central here. First you go to talk to the one who has fallen short. Then you bring one or two more to talk. Then the larger community gets into the discussion, all in the hopes that the one who has gone astray will engage in the conversation, listen, and return (15-17). Goodness, but after reading about all this, I began to wonder if maybe the straying member, the one who has sinned, is actually one of the “little ones” that has gone astray and needs our best efforts and care? (And in case we’re not sure that it really, really matters that we keep trying, the very next passage is when Jesus tells Peter that it’s not enough to forgive one seven times, as according to the law, but seventy-seven times! [21-22]!)

“Fifth and finally, all of this has shifted how I think of the last words of Jesus in this scene. Rather than read v.19 as a magical formula – “if you can just get a certain number of people to agree and pray, God will do it” – perhaps instead it’s the more proximate promise that the outcome of reconciliation is nothing short of incredible potential and possibility. When we heal our divisions and come together, God is powerfully at work and nothing is impossible. Moreover, Jesus promises that when we are about this work – that is, when we come together as a community to address our differences, resolve our disputes, seek to end conflict, and repair relationships – he is there. Always. Supporting, encouraging, blessing our efforts. We are not alone and that’s why we don’t give up.

“All of this strikes me as remarkably timely as we deal with a pandemic, economic upheaval, racial injustice and cries for reform, and a polarized political landscape. The heart of this passage is about Christian community – what it is, how it suffers, how to address hurt, what a healed community can do. And so we might, Dear Partner, use this occasion to ask our folks what kind of community we are going to be. Can we look at those around us and believe and affirm that even those who disagree with us on important issues are nevertheless followers of Jesus? Can we imagine that the goal of our community is to nurture relationships inside and outside our congregation? Can we commit to going to great lengths – even of tolerating those who disagree with us about who should be our next president! – to engage each other in conversation, hoping that we listen to one another?

“What if we ask our congregation these questions this Sunday, Dear Partner? What if we invite them not to read each other’s actions through the lens of partisan commitments but actively commit to seeing one another as “little ones” who deserve our care and compassion? What if we strive to be less assertive and more humble, recognizing that we are more likely to find Jesus amid acts of humility than assertiveness? What if we assess our words, our actions, and how we spend our time according to the simple but huge question, “does this build up the body of Christ and nurture Christian relationships or not?” What if we help prod, stretch, and encourage our communal imagination as those called to tend the relationships of the larger community, striving to advocate and care for the vulnerable, be agents of reconciliation, actively encourage civil conversation, and be a place of welcome and forgiveness?