September 7, 2008 XVII after Pentecost (RCL Proper 18A) Ex. 12: 1-14; Rom. 13: 8-14; Mt. 18: 15-20
The three lessons this morning all have to do with themes of identity and community--who we are, what brings us together--as we would see that concept through the lens of concern about the special community that is God’s people, the Chosen, the community of faith that for us is the Church.
In Exodus the story of the Passover of God, as judgment falls on the sin of the Egyptians and as the ancient narrative gives the description of what is to be the sacrament first of the People of Israel, the Passover Lamb that becomes the means of deliverance and the sign of identity—and then of what is to reach a fulfillment in the sacramental, Eucharistic imagery of the Cross—Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us, the sign of his blood the shield against every danger and force of evil and destruction, the sign of his blood even as we approach the Holy Table this morning the continuing pledge of deliverance and the fullness of our identity in his promise, under the sign of his cross, to be healed, to be reconciled, to be lifted up into life everlasting.
And Jesus in Matthew—and what impresses me in this story is the loving care and attention that come into play when there is conflict or discord in the community. Nobody gets cut off, kicked out, pushed aside. When something goes wrong, you try and try and try again, until it gets made right. And there is no such thing as a private dispute. No dispute is truly private. If the relationship of any two members is threatened, than we are all threatened. Because we are one body, because we need each other.
In the context of this then as well, Paul to the Romans—owe no one anything, be debt-free, so that you will be free to fulfill the duty and privilege of love. That love, overflowing from the abundance of our hearts, will complete in us all the duties of the law. And this with a sense of the freedom that comes from knowing with certainty that he is present with us, which is how we come to fulfill our own sense of identity. To know who we are. That the night is nearly over, that we are standing here in the first light of the dawn of the day of his power and the completion of his love. Why would we have our minds on lesser things, as this day is dawning? Why follow the path of darkness, of self-indulgence, of greed, mean-spiritedness; why follow indeed the path of shame and degradation, when the sun is rising, and the new day opens before us in Spirit and Truth, and we are given the opportunity to be all for him, and he for us? Wake up, instead, to the light of this day, and be ready, with eagerness. And “dress for success.” Put on not the ordinary dress of this world that is passing away—“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
All of which, it seems to me, is something of a prophetic word and even a word of warning for us as a church, as a wider body. No one able to say, ever, “I have no need of you.” Though you hear that a lot lately, seems to me. When one breaks, all break. But if a word of warning, also a word to help us see and celebrate moments when we seem to come close enough to getting things right. Such a wonderful word for us where we are, who we are, this Round Up Sunday. With thanks to our Choir—and some new faces and voices this year, and welcome to you, as you enjoy I hope the first week of rehearsal together upstairs in our renovated Choir Room. And with the new year in the Church School and Youth Group and Adult Bible Study and Coffee and Conversation, and the last day of the summer book sale, and the kids back in school and all of us moving into the schedules of the fall season. And as we will move from this place of celebration into the churchyard for a continued celebration with food and fun and yo-yo’s and juggling, which sounds really interesting to me. A blessing, actually, all of it, in the midst of some hard times.
Nothing is to be taken for granted. This precious gift of God, all of this that is our life together, the life of his Son our savior coming to a new life in and through us, Christ our Passover, here and now. Both an awesome gift and an awesome responsibility. To become ourselves what he is, growing into his likeness, food and drink for a dying world, the Bread of Heaven, the Cup of Salvation.