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EVENING PRAYER for Wednesday after 17 Pentecost
Book of Worship, page 142)
' The way out of this is not to convince ourselves that the world or God really is fair, and that somehow by some calculus people really do get what they deserve. Nor is it to think that everyone who has success has had success at the expense of others. The way out of this is to understand God not as fair, nor as unfair, but as generous. To see him as giving life and salvation not based on our calculation but on his goodness.'
EVENING PRAYER for Wednesday after 15 Pentecost
(Lutheran Book of Worship, page 142)
PRAYER for Wednesday after 15 Pentecost
Book of Worship, page 142)
'Doesn’t our anger always feel good in the moment? Doesn’t it blot out any rational thought, any pause or patience for sober reflection? It always justifies itself. Our anger is always understandable and measured, while someone else’s anger is unreasonable and malevolent. My misdeeds are mistakes, not representative of who I truly am, due to human weakness, while the trespasses of others stem from their evil nature and horrible sin.'
EVENING PRAYER for Wednesday after 14 Pentecost
Book of Worship, page 142)
Sermon – Matthew 18:15-20
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If
another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when
the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that
if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that
every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If
the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the
offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a
Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind
on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be
loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on
earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For
where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
is on his way to Jerusalem, to the cross, and he is already teaching his
disciples about how to live without him. Specifically, he is teaching them
about what they should do when they have disputes in the church which will be
founded on the rock of faith in him.
of course, when we have disputes, we like to take it to a higher authority. We
want a parent, a teacher, or a judge to step in to settle things in our favor.
But in the case of a dispute between disciples, when one disciple sins against
another and there must be resolution, what is to happen?
now, the disciples could simply have gone to Jesus. But that won’t be possible,
for Jesus won’t be around to make a binding decision. But is this really true?
For Jesus says: Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there
is indeed present with us. His death and resurrection do not mean the
withdrawal, but rather the transformation, of his presence. He is present
whenever disciples gather as both the content of conversation and the witness
is the mediator between God and humans. For it is impossible for us to
encounter God face-to-face. We need a mediator, a human being to speak to us
for God and through whom we may speak to God. That is what a priest is – a
mediator, a middleman, a go-between. Jesus, the great High Priest, as the divine
and human one speaks to us on the Father’s behalf and also represents us to God
is one aspect of what being a mediator is. But Jesus is not only the mediator
between us and God, but is also the mediator between individual human beings.
does this mean? It means that I do not encounter another disciple without
Jesus. Jesus is to be both the content of our conversation, no matter what it
is about, but he is also the witness to our conversation. This means that our
conversation must be both truthful and merciful, for Jesus is not only truthful
and merciful, he is Truth and Mercy. And if we believe this it should transform
our relationships, and it should transform our way of dealing with disputes and
offenses in the community.
is easy to understand with our heads, but it is a much longer journey for this
faith to sink down into our hearts. It is easy to believe that Jesus is present
whenever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, but it is so hard to let
that knowledge go deeply into our lives so that it transforms our
we believe this, then when there are disputes between Christians, when one
believer has wronged or offended another, truth and mercy are to unite to bring
healing. The offender is to be confronted with the problem, and offered a
chance, several chances, to repent. The purpose is not to destroy the offender
but to restore fellowship. If possible, the offender’s good reputation is to be
Both mercy and truth are to be used properly, to diagnose the problem and make
unfortunately, the disciples of Jesus have too often looked, not to Christ, but
to the world and its ways, for a model of handling disputes. For truth may be
used not to heal a relationship but to humiliate others, destroy their
reputations, and to point out all their faults publicly.
can also be misused in the Church. Real problems can fester and go ignored.
Those who are being abused, financially, sexually, mentally, and spiritually,
are often made to feel as if their abusers are more important than they are,
especially if the abuser is a pastor or someone important in the Church. The
command to be merciful and forgiving can become a club to silence those who
would bring up uncomfortable truths.
often we see truth used as a cudgel to bash others and mercy used as an excuse
to let wrongdoing continue that we may despair of the Church being anything
more than another human institution. We long for some unimpeachable court to
referee us, so that we may no longer have the responsibility of decision, of
making ourselves vulnerable to each other, of having to speak truth and embrace
mercy. In this case, Jesus is present in the Church, and we may realize this
with our heads, but not in our hearts.
if the Church is God’s people, it is only so because Jesus is present with his
Word, Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. The Church guided by the Spirit of Jesus is
able to hold both truth and mercy together without violating them. The fact
that the Church fails and falls so often in this regard paradoxically proves
her need for her Lord and the wisdom and goodness of his teaching.
perhaps the Church lives by the word of Christ more often than we think she
does, because we will never hear about it when reconciliation happens the way
it should. Repentance and absolution, restoration of community, happen in
secret – between believer and believer, penitent and confessor, in the hearts
of people who desire that Christ be present in their midst.
Rev. Maurice C. Frontz,
Stephen Lutheran Church
It is September again, and that means that our Sunday worship will begin at 10:30 a.m. from now through the end of next May.
Looking forward to worshiping with you this weekend!