Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost SermonHere is a draft of the sermon I delivered last Sunday. Here it is Thursday already. Wow, where did this week go???
Readings: Romans 13: 8-14; Matthew 18: 15-20
I want to spend some time talking about Paul's letter to the Romans. First lets look at the ten commandments. What are they? They are listed on p. 847-848 of the Book of Common Prayer.
- I am the Lord, your God.
- Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
- Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
- Honor thy father and thy mother.
- Thou shall not kill/murder†.
- Thou shall not commit adultery.
- Thou shall not steal††.
- Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor's wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).
In Paul's letter he is addressing commandments 5-10. When you look at those last six commandments you see that it is all about how you treat other people. Honor your parents, don't kill or commit adultery, steal, lie about a neighbor, or covet anything belonging to someone else. Of course Jesus takes it one step further. He says you have to not just do those bad things, when you truly love your neighbor, even thinking those things should not cross your mind.
So, we are told to love not only those easy to love like all of you but we have at least be kind to the fellow who cuts us off in traffic. That’s the hard part.
The Gospel reading from Matthew tells us something about the humanity of the early Christians and how Jesus wants us to deal with them. Apparently, it was not all peace and love among those early followers of Christ. Jesus gives a little in-service on how to deal with difficult people. He doesn't say to go to them in a public place and yell and scream and denounce them. He says to have a private conversation with the person. It reminds me of the old saying, “criticize in private, praise in public”.
Jesus also gives a step two and step three. And finally he says if the person still won't change, treat him like a tax collector or a Gentile. Is he saying don't have anything to do with these people? I don't think so. Remember how he treated Zacchaeus. Short little tax collector Zaccheus climbs up in a tree so that he can see Jesus as he walks by and Jesus sees him, tells him to come down out of the tree because he plans on staying with Zacchaeus that night. Remember that the apostle Mathew was also a former tax collector.
And what about gentiles. That is us you know! Jewish law discouraged Jews from having dealings with them but this didn't stop Jesus. I remember especially the story of Jesus healing the gentile woman's daughter when she said “even the scraps are thrown to the dogs.
What is Jesus saying when he tells us how to treat people who sin against us? I think he is saying to not give up on them. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad many years ago. I was talking to him on the phone and I was expressing my frustration over something one of my sons had done. I really don't remember what it was my son had done but I will never forget the advise my father gave me. He said, “Fred, don't give up on him. You never give up on your children.”
Jesus taught by example how to treat tax collectors and Gentiles. He never gave up on them. When Zaccheus changed his ways, Jesus honored him by staying at his house. When Gentiles showed their faith Jesus healed them.
Jesus never gave up on people and we should do the same. I am convinced Jesus has not given up on me.