“Love your neighbor as yourself” …“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” (Romans 13)
Today Paul in Romans reminds us of one of my favorite sayings from Jesus: “Keep Awake!” And today, surly we are awakening….(see all readings below)
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus repeats to us: “…Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 18)
Jesus repeats this phrase to us. He has said the same thing in our passage from Matthew two weeks ago. (Matt 16)
Jesus is telling us to be intentional and in relationship – in dialogue with one another about our intensions.
Many of Jesus’ teachings point to unity. At times these parables may seem paradoxical but they are based in an approach of non-duality. How do we see things not as this or that, but both and. With people, there are two perspectives, two unique persons which almost always seems to create a sense of duality.
But here, Jesus’ teaching is not a parable. It is very clear, direct instruction: Find a way to come together in forgiveness. Find a way to remain in relationship through difficult circumstances. He teaches us literally how to be in dialogue with one another. And if a dispute is not resolved through one-on-one discussion, then with help through witness of others, and finally through facilitation or mediation within the larger community.
Unity: Like two oars in a boat -rowing in unison (both and) we move forward….
using one oar ….simply takes us in circles.
We must find a way to break out of this pattern. As Jesus says in three out of the four gospels: “…if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (1)
As persons, this parable applies to us too. Sometimes we feel internally split over a topic or decision… we feel totally divided. We go in circles. Being internally divided throws off our inner compass and undermines our faith in ourselves. We become unconvinced of our convictions. But If we can bring it into our prayer, we may hear that still small voice that is both our own and God working through us in dialogue. The Holy Spirit mediating on our behalf. Remembering our intentionality, what we want to be bound by and what is life-giving should work internally, and also should be what grounds our community relationships.
At other times The Holy Spirit does not have a small still voice – it is more like the burning bush, more like an intense recognition of God calling out to us from a blaze, something we need to turn our attention to: like Kenosha, like Jacob Blake, Rochester, Portland, George Floyd and Breanna; like other atrocities and violence that divide us. The spirit, the advocate moves inside us. The resonance is dramatic: We have work to do.
All of our passages today speak to us about the importance, the responsibility of the community for caring for one another, communicating with one another, and they are, even in this time of crisis incredibly hopeful.
Ezekiel’s passage (Ezekiel 33) is set at the climax of a book in which Israel is described as wicked… and the people have heard chapter after chapter about the impending punishment for their sins.
But unexpectedly God says, I want you to live…
In this passage like in Matthew we are also instructed to communicate with one another; To speak to one another about our iniquities. That we should and must do this “to live.” It is difficult work for everyone involved. Have you ever noticed the similarity between iniquity and inequity? The passage says, “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” The anxiety, the guilt eats at us. But here too in Ezekiel our life-giving God asks us to be in dialogue. God wants us to live. It isn’t easy. It is painful to look at what’s shameful. And it is real. We struggle to wake from our sleep!
Together, beginning next Tuesday we will be reading How to be Antiracist as community. The entire diocese is participating in this book discussion, to help us create a common language to engage in real conversation.
The Author Ibram X. Kendi titled one of his chapters, “Definitions,” because he says, “definitions anchor us in principles.” Creating definitions helps us articulate our intentions.
Our definitions are changing…How we understand our nation is changing… How we understand ourselves…
We are in a serious crisis and we need to reconsider our intentions. One third of NY city’s small businesses have gone under. (3) One quarter of NY residents are food insecure: 2 million people. (4) One in Four young people between the ages of 18-24 in a recent survey said they seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days. (5) Painful. This is all happening while Wall Street booms. Our country’s billionaires’ wealth jumped more than half a trillion during Covid. (6) Is this how we define ourselves and America?
This is not a dualistic discussion. I urge you to recognize that this situation is not about political parties. This is across the board. This is the country we have built for ourselves over many decades of policy-making and definitions designed to benefit the rich rather than build up our communities.
As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to be in this conversation. As Ezekiel says, in order to live, we must speak! Bishop Dietsche refers to it as the Kingdom laboring to be born. “God still has a dream for creation.” 2
“now is the moment…to wake from sleep!”
1 Mark 3, Matt 12, Luke 11
2 Richard Rohr
Sept 6th, 2020 The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
FIRST LESSON Ezekiel 33:7-11
You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
SECOND LESSON Romans 13:8-14
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The Holy Gospel According to Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus said, “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 one. But 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. If 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. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”