Our September 6 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk.
The September 13 worship service will be held in our church sanctuary with members and friends in attendance. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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September 6 Sermon
Ezekiel 33:7-11 | Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14 | Matthew 18:15-20
Right Order, Maintaining Order – all the lessons today, within society and within the Church.
Ezekiel. The duty, job of the prophet is to give warning to the wicked, or as the text says, “to act as a sentinel or sentry/guard/messenger for God.” And the righteousness of the prophet himself is tied to his performance. If he doesn’t give a warning, then the wicked will die in their iniquity, but the fault will rest upon the prophet. He has a communal as well as religious responsibility to warn those who are out of line. Sounds like hard words, but it is the job of the prophet. He isn’t called to belittle the wicked and their deeds, nor to act out in righteous indignation out of a personal sense of superiority. He is called rather to correct an iniquity.
If he does give the warning (does his job), and the wicked still don’t turn or repent, they will still die in their iniquity, but now the prophet isn’t held responsible too. He’s off the hook. The ball is now in the court of the wicked. Well, I tried. The call of a prophet is then a call to action, not just standing back and watching, but to step in and try to stop iniquity. Actually not just prophets, but all of us are called to do this. No one can be neutral when it comes to good vs. evil.
Unfortunately, most people don’t want to step in and tell someone else that they are out of line; afraid of hurting someone’s feelings (the modern downfall of the Church in general). How can a person correct a mistake if they don’t know that they are making one? If we know that someone is heading for disaster, and we do nothing to prevent it, issue no warnings doesn’t that makes us culpable as well? That’s why we proclaim God’s Law. It gives knowledge of our sins. As Psalm 119 says, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.” Need to be taught and told. But, we don’t stop there. We also proclaim God’s Gospel for it asserts forgiveness to those who have faith.
A good example of this may be seen in the Romans lesson today. Paul is using both the Law and the Gospel. Although he quotes from the Law, “Thou shalt not…” he is also calling us to live according to the love of Christ. “For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Christ loved us, and died for us, fulfilled the Law for us. We are called to follow, in his example, through love, to live in God’s light and to live honorably with moral and ethical ways. Does living morally and ethically assure our salvation? No. But, our morals and ethics reflect the one in whom we have faith. We live in the light of God’s love poured out upon us through Jesus Christ. Love assures good order, and diminishes the need for Law.
The Matthew lesson, Order in the Church: The “Discipline of Members” (As it is often called in congregational constitutions, and it is in all congregational constitutions.) Or some prefer to call it the “Excommunication Text” (sorry, it isn’t), it is really set up to maintain order, and repair broken relationships, and it is a communal responsibility. Its intention is repentance, forgiveness and restoration. That is the goal. It is one of the most misunderstood texts in the New Testament. And historically, it has been grossly abused.
There are steps to the procedure to fix a communal or relational problem when there is one. Like the prophets we need to tell someone if they are out of line, alone, privately. Try to work it out. Have you spoken to ______ about this? BTW, usually the answer to this one is, “No.” Actually, I should say the answer to this one is always, “No.” Then do so. See if it can be resolved simply and privately. If that doesn’t work, then take some witnesses along to sway the argument; to supply evidence. It’s a weight of evidence sort of thing. If need be, we are told, with the whole congregation. If they repent, “gain a brother/sister,” relationship is restored, and order. That is the point of the exercise! If not relationship remains broken, but hope and pray for a change.
If a person is really out of line, and this has all been gone through, without repentance, then there is what we call “excommunication.” Some people want to jump straight to that one. It is the last resort. And this is another misunderstood act to many people. There must always be the hope that the person will repent, turn around, be received back and restored. In other words, it is not just a “get out and don’t come back”. Historically, some people have seen it as the Bum’s Rush out the doors. Wrong. The whole point is to restore to wholeness the community which is based on Christ and his love.
This lesson is really an example, and extension, of the Power of the Keys, the Church’s power to bind and loose in heaven and on earth, which Christ announced to Peter in the lesson a couple of weeks ago. It is the power of Christ’s presence among us. We are all called to be prophets and apostles, to proclaim the power of Christ, to bind and loose, Law and Gospel, to condemn sin, and to pronounce God’s love and forgiveness to those who believe. We are called to follow Christ, in word and deed, help restore creation, maintain order in proclamation and in life, and bear God’s light to a dark world, remembering always that, “wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, he is there in the midst of them.” For it is Christ who binds us together, and heals and restores us as well, to God and to each other.