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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Pentecost 14 Proper 18A RCL September 10, 2017

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

In our opening reading from the Book of Exodus, we find the instructions for what has come to be called the Passover. For centuries, our Jewish brothers and sisters have celebrated this feast of their escape from slavery into freedom.

Herbert O’Driscoll reminds us that, because our Lord was crucified and rose from death at the time of the Passover, our Holy Eucharist is associated with that feast. At the time of the Fraction, the celebrant breaks the bread, and we sing, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.”

When we break the bread, this symbolizes the brokenness in our lives, in our communities, in our nations,  and in the world. At the same time, we rejoice in the fact that our Lord has taken all that brokenness,  including the brokenness of death, and made it into the wholeness of new life. We celebrate our own Passover from slavery to sin into the freedom of life in Christ.

In our reading from the Book of Romans, Paul, who is a Pharisee, a scholar of the Law, tells us that great truth—that love is the sum total of the Law. He writes, “The commandments are summed up in this word,  Love your neighbor as yourself. “

Paul tells us that the night is gone and the day is here, and he calls us to “put on the armor of light.” He actually calls us to dress ourselves in Christ, to clothe ourselves in the love and grace of our Lord, and to do only those things which are in harmony with love of God and others.

In our gospel, we recall that a bit earlier, the apostles have asked Jesus who is the greatest and he has taken a child in his arms and called us to become as humble and open and trusting as little children. Following that, Jesus has told the parable of the lost sheep, reminding us that everyone is precious to him, even those whom we might consider to be “lost.” To our Lord, no one is lost or beyond hope.  As further context, following this passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times we must forgive and our Lord answers, “seventy-seven times.”The point is that we should not count the times we forgive each other as we try to live together in community.

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives us a short course in conflict resolution. If someone in our faith community has hurt us, we should talk with them privately. We hope they will acknowledge that they have hurt us, ask our forgiveness, and change their behavior.  If that does not happen, we take one or two others along with us and make another attempt. This means that we are asking the prayers and wisdom and help of others in the community in order to resolve the conflict. If the person refuses to listen to even two or three members of the community then the issue is shared with the whole church.

At this point, we recall that, in the early Church, at the peace, any people who were not reconciled would come before the bishop, who was always the celebrant in the very early Church. Right in front of the whole congregation the bishop would help the people to reconcile. Then the bishop would extend the peace. When the celebrant says, “The peace of the Lord be always with you,” and we answer, “And also with you,” that is the remnant in our service of the early process of reconciliation. The community would not move ahead into the Eucharistic Prayer until they were all reconciled with each other.

Scholars tell us that we need to look at the the next part of this passage with great care.  Jesus would not say that we should excommunicate people or shun people. These are words added later, by an editor. Jesus was criticized for associating with Gentiles and tax collectors. He loved these people. He even called a tax collector, Matthew, to be one of the apostles. So he would not say that we should treat people as Gentiles and tax collectors.

At the end of our passage for today, Jesus says, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them.” When we are gathered in his name, this means that we are gathered with a clear sense that, in his view, no one is “lost,” or beyond the pale. Everyone is worthy of respect. Our baptismal vows call us to “respect the dignity of every human being,” and we are called to forgive countless times. When we gather in his name, we are centered and focused in his love.

Once again, I must emphasize that this gospel does not apply to situations of abuse or domestic violence. These provisions apply to life in community where everyone is considered precious and equal. In situations of abuse or violence, we must do all we can to help victims get to a place of safety.

God cared deeply about God’s people enslaved in Egypt and called Moses to lead them to freedom. God with us, Emmanuel, God walking the face of the earth, died and rose again to lead us to freedom through life in him. Paul, a Pharisee who had devoted his life to the law, has been transformed in Christ and tells us that love is at the center of everything. Our Lord calls us to resolve any conflicts and to practice the ministry of reconciliation so that we can keep the community of faith strong and ready to respond to any need.

Love is at the center of everything. Amen.

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