Sunday, September 17, 2017

Commissioning of Lay Readers and Lay Hospital Visitors at All Saints' Cathedral, Sept. 17th 2017

Existing Lay Readers were re-licensed and new Lay Readers received their initial licenses at a great service at All Saints' Cathedral Sunday night. 

From our parish, Brian Popp and Doug MacNeill were relicensed, and Sylvia Jayakaran and Doug Schindel received their licenses for the first time. Brian Popp and Sylvia Jayakaran were able to be at the service.

Here are The Lay Readers and Lay Hospital Visitors after the service with Bishop Jane.

Bishop Jane and The Rev. Tim Chesterton with Brian Popp and Sylvia Jayakaran.

Unlimited Forgiveness (a sermon on Matthew 18:21-35)

Today’s gospel follows hard on the heels of last week’s; Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (v.21). Probably what’s in view here is a situation where we’ve gone through the process Jesus outlined in last week’s story; we’ve confronted our sister or brother, they’ve admitted their guilt and asked our forgiveness. What then?

Before we dive into the story in detail I want to get a couple of definitions out of the way. First, who’s in view here? Our NRSV pew bibles say, ‘Another member of the church’; the Greek says ‘my brother’, but the NRSV wants to avoid gender-specific language like ‘brother’ and ‘he’. Unfortunately, it opts for an institutional metaphor rather than a family one; it would have done better to say “If my brother or sister sins against me”. Early Christians called each other ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ and treated the disciple community as a family. It’s a member of that family who is in view here.

The second item of definition is what we mean by the word ‘Forgive’. So many times I hear people say, “I just can’t forgive him for what he did to me”. When I start to ask them questions about what they mean by that, what it boils down to is this: “I can’t make the pain go away”. They’ve tried, and they think they’ve done it, but the next day they think about what was done to them and the pain and anger and resentment come bubbling back.

But this isn’t what Jesus is talking about. In the Bible, forgiveness is not about our emotions. We think it is, because in verse 35 Jesus tells us we have to forgive our sister or brother ‘from our heart’. Nowadays ‘the heart’ is a metaphor for the emotions, but that wasn’t the case in Bible times. When the Bible talks about the emotions it talks about the ‘bowels’; in the King James Version the word ‘compassion’ is sometimes translated as ‘having bowels of mercy for someone’. The ‘heart’ is often a metaphor for the choices, the will - the decisions we make about how we are going to act in our lives.

Forgiveness is not first of all about healing. Forgiveness is a decision not to take revenge on the other person for what they’ve done to us, but to act in a loving way toward them, whether we feel like it or not. This is not an act of hypocrisy, because we aren’t pretending to like them. It’s an act of obedience to Jesus.

What does it look like? Well, Paul spells it out for us in Romans: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink” (Romans 12:17, 20). This is what forgiveness is; it’s a decision not to take revenge but to continue to act in a loving and caring way toward the one who has hurt us – to be a blessing to them, and not a curse – whether we feel like it or not.

So Peter’s question is “How many times should I forgive? As many as seven?” I’m sure he thought he was being very generous. After all, the most common human response to attack is escalation. “You burn my house down, and I’ll burn your village down in response”; each party resolves to hit back so hard that the other party will not be able to hit them again. But over and over again, the other party comes back with an even more devastating response, which of course requires an even more devastating response, and so on, and so on.

Give Peter credit - he was suggesting a reversal of this policy. My brother or sister sins against me, we’ve gone through the process outlined in the previous verses, the offender has repented and asked for forgiveness, and I’ve given it to them. But then a week later, they do the same thing. So I grit my teeth, confront them with it again, they readily admit their guilt and say, “You’re right, I’m sorry, and I’m determined never to do it again, please forgive me”. So we grant them the requested forgiveness, and then a couple of days later they do it again. Now we’ve reached the seventh time and the anger in our soul is rising to boiling point. Surely seven times is enough; any reasonable person would agree.

Jesus’ response to Peter is to tell the parable of the unforgiving slave. ‘Slaves’ in those days often had a lot of responsibility and it is quite possible, for instance, that the minister of finance of a country would in fact be a king’s slave. Somehow this slave has gotten himself into enormous debt to his master the king. Ten thousand talents was a lot of money. A talent was more than fifteen year’s wages for a day labourer; we are talking about a sum of money that would have taken a day labourer 150,000 years to pay off. It was approximately a thousand times the annual tax revenue of the provinces of Judea, Samaria, Galilee and Idumaea put together. Jesus is trying to paint a true picture of the position in which you and I stand before the King of all the universe, the creator of all.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but every day, in many different ways, I break it: I make myself the centre of my universe, and I see others as simply supporting characters in my story. In other words, I make myself the idol that I worship, rather than worshipping the one true God. I love other idols too – money and the things it can buy, my own selfish ease, the good opinion of others. And I don’t love my neighbour as myself; I would far rather live an easy life and come home to rest and relaxation than put myself out to help someone else. I live in luxury while the majority of the world lives in grinding poverty. I walk past beggars on the street on a regular basis, and not only do I not give them a handout, but I don’t take the time to find better and more effective ways of helping them either.

Or think of what Jesus has to say in the Sermon on the Mount. I regularly commit spiritual murder against my brother or sister by nursing anger and hatred against them. I commit adultery by looking upon women with lust on a regular basis. I’m not always conscientious about keeping my word. I don’t reach out and love my enemies. And so on, and so on. It’s overwhelming, and paralyzing, to think of the number of times, in an ordinary day, in which I sin.

Except that it isn’t. Most of the time I don’t even think about it. I just take it for granted that God will forgive me. And, according to the parable, that’s exactly what happens. “And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt” (v. 27). Did you notice, by the way, that the master didn’t give the slave what he asked for. The slave begged “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything”. In other words, he asked for more time to pay off the debt.

Think about this for a minute. How could the slave possibly repay a debt the value of 150,000 years wages for a labourer? It’s a ridiculous idea, and the master knew it. So instead of answering his prayer, the master did what the slave had not asked – he forgave him the whole debt.

What does this mean for us today? So often, we’re so in love with the illusion of our own respectability that we just can’t contemplate putting ourselves into the position where we’re debtors to grace forever. And so, when we come to God and ask for his forgiveness, I wonder if what we’re really asking is, “Lord, please give me more time, and I really, really will change!”

Except that it doesn’t work. How many times have I told God one day in my prayers that I repent of a particular sin, only to go back the next day and do the very same thing again, with my eyes wide open, knowing exactly what I’m doing? We humans have an incredible capacity to mess things up! The reality is that change is very hard, almost as hard as paying off a ten thousand talent debt. Yes, change is possible by the help of the Holy Spirit – but it isn’t going to be finished by the time I kick the bucket!

But this is the wonder of the Christian gospel: God doesn’t answer my prayer! He doesn’t give me more time to pay off the debt, because he knows that for the rest of my life I will never be able to pay it all off. Some of it, yes, but not all of it. And so I ask God to forgive me, over and over and over again.

And I expect him to do it. I can never remember, in all my life, praying to God a prayer like this: “God, I think I’ve probably used up all my get out of jail free cards on this one. If you forgive me again, you’re just going to be reinforcing my bad behaviour. If I were you, I wouldn’t forgive this time”. I have never prayed a prayer like that! Have you? No - every day, up to seventy times seven and beyond, I ask God to forgive me – and I expect he will. And given the fact that he continues to give me the gift of his presence, his love, and his help on a daily basis, that prayer seems to have been answered. That’s what ‘grace’ means: love that we don’t deserve, and that we don’t have to deserve – God just showers it on us as a free gift, because it’s his nature to do that. Grace is at the heart of the Christian gospel.

Very well – what does that mean for how we treat one another? The story goes on to deal with a situation where the same slave, who had been forgiven such an enormous sum, refused to forgive a paltry little debt owed him by a fellow-slave. A hundred denarii was a tiny sum in comparison to the ten thousand talents; it was still substantial, about three or four months’ wages, but nothing in comparison to the astronomical debt the first slave had been forgiven.

Jesus’ point is obvious. ‘Yes, you certainly have a case against your brother or sister; the offences they have committed against you are real. However, when you stack that list up against the list of offences you have committed – and continue to commit – against God every day, it’s not hard to see which list is longer”.

Why would the slave refuse to forgive in this way, after he himself had been forgiven so much? I suspect that he did what I do so often – he kept these two items in two hermetically sealed compartments in his soul. Compartment number one reads: “God has forgiven me more than I can possibly imagine, and he continues to forgive me day by day. I must never forget that”. Compartment number two reads, “That SOB sitting two pews in front of me is going out of his way to hurt me. He does it on a regular basis. It’s time for him to get what he deserves!”

Whoa! Wait a minute! “What he deserves?” If we’re going to move back into the realm of what people deserve, we’ve left the gospel behind, because the gospel tells us that God doesn’t give us what we deserve – he gives us what we need. If we want to move back into the realm of what we deserve, we’ve moved back from the gospel to the law. And that has terrifying implications for us.

What are the consequences of not forgiving? Look at what Jesus says in verses 34-35:
“And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart”.

Remember, we’re not talking about the healing of hurts here; we’re not talking about feeling good toward the offender. We’re talking about Jesus’ command to love our enemies in action, to be a blessing to them. Jesus doesn’t specify what form the love should take in a given situation. He doesn’t say, for instance, that a woman being abused by her husband should remain in a situation where her life and safety are in danger. What he does say is that revenge is not an option. ‘An eye for an eye’ is not an option. Love may be a struggle, but it is the command of Jesus.

I want to say that if you struggle with this, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. God knows that the person who says “I know I should forgive, and I’m doing my best, but there are days when I find it very hard” is in a very different spiritual position from the person who says “That SOB has it coming to him; he knew exactly what he was doing to me, and I will never, ever forgive him, no matter what the Gospel says. I want revenge, and it’s my right”. The first person is trying hard to do what Jesus commands, and often failing. The second person is refusing even to try. Those are two entirely different attitudes.

Remember the Lord’s Prayer? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. It is only because of God’s forgiveness that I can have any hope of eternal life. Day by day I’m in debt to God’s amazing grace. May God help all of us to love others as Jesus loved us, and to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven, just as we expect God to forgive us.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Changes in the basement

We've been doing a bit of moving around this week.

This space that used to be the administrative assistant's workspace at the back of the basement is now the nursery space.

This space that used to be the nursery is now the administrative assistant's office. As you can see, she likes it!

Upcoming events Sept 18th to Sept 24th, 2017

Upcoming Events September 18th to September 24th, 2017

September 18th, 2017
Office is closed
September 19th, 2017
2:00pm Surprise the World book study @ church  
7:30pm Surprise the World book study @ church
September 20th, 2017
7:15pm Vestry meeting @ church      
September 21st, 2017
8:00am Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies @ Bogani CafĂ©
September 22nd, 2017
7:00pm Small Group Planning meeting @ church
September 24th, 2017 (Pentecost 15)
9:00am  Holy Communion
10:30am  Holy Communion and Sunday School

Sept. 17th 7:00 p.mLay Reader Licensing Service with sung Evensong at All Saints' Cathedral. New lay readers will receive their licenses and continuing lay-readers will be re-licensed. From our parish, Sylvia Jayakaran and Doug Schindel will be licensed, and Brian Popp and Doug MacNeill (who is back in Edmonton) will be relicensed. Please support them with your prayers and, if you are able, with your presence.

Melanie is looking for some volunteers to help out with re-doing the blue songbooks on Wednesday Sept 20th @ 10:30am. Please let her know if you can help. A HUGE thanks to everyone who helped with cleaning and moving things around in the basement this past week.

Sept. 29th and 30th: 65th Synod of the Diocese of Edmonton. Lay and clergy delegates will gather from across the Diocese to take counsel together for the renewal and mission of the Church. Please pray for delegates from our parish: Tim Chesterton, Sarah Doyle, Sylvia Jayakaran and Brian Popp, and also for Ellis Jayakaran who will be attending as a youth delegate.

Our new dividers for the nursery area downstairs were donated by Impact Office Services, so please remember to share their name with anyone you know who may need to do an office move:

Winnifred Stewart: Empties to Winn Project
Please feel free to bring some or all of your empty bottles (juice, milk, cans, and other beverage containers) and drop them in our bags. Please support Winnifred Stewart by making provision for this project! Next pick up should be October 12th, 2017.  Thank you!

All women of the Parish are invited to attend the Whitemud Regional ACW Meeting on Saturday October 14th, 2017. For more information, please see notice on bulletin board at the bottom of the stairs.

The Kids Travel Company from Vanguard College will be back on Saturday October 28th from 9am to 2pm to host another fun event for the children. Please mark your calendars and watch for more information and a sign up sheet as the date gets closer.

Please check out our monthly announcement sheet for more upcoming events. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table at the back of the church.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Roster for September 2017

September 3rd, 2017 (Pentecost 13)
Coffee between services
Greeter/Sidespeople: T. Cromarty / T. Wittkopf
Counter: E. McFall / T. Cromarty
Reader: T. Cromarty
(Exodus 3: 1-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, Romans 12:9-21)
Lay Administrants: S. Jayakaran
Intercessor: S. Jayakaran
Lay Reader: S. Jayakaran (Matthew 16:21-28)
Altar Guild (green): M. Lobreau / L. Pyra
Prayer Team: n/a
Kitchen: - 9:45 am: J. Johnston
Music: W. Pyra
Altar Server: A. Jayakaran

September 10th, 2017 (Pentecost 14)
Greeter/Sidespeople: J. Durance / D. Legere
Counter: J. Durance / B. Popp
Reader: N. Gutteridge
(Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14)
Lay Administrants: C. Aasen / T. Wittkopf
Intercessor: C. Aasen
Lay Reader: B. Popp (Matthew 18:15-20)
Altar Guild: (green): P. Major / J. Johnston
Prayer Team: M. Chesterton / L. Sanderson
Sunday School (School Age): K. Durance
Sunday School (Preschool): M. Eriksen
Kitchen: K. Kilgour
Music: E. Thompson
Altar Server: G. Durance

September 17th, 2017 (Pentecost 15)
Greeter/Sidespeople: L. Schindel / B. Cavey
Counter: B. Cavey / C. Aasen
Reader: S. Fraser
(Exodus 14:19-31, Psalm 114, Romans 14:1-12)
Lay Administrants: M. Rys / C. Aasen
Intercessor: M. Rys
Lay Assistant: T. Cromarty (Matthew 18:21-35)
Altar Guild (green): M. Woytkiw / L. Schindel
Prayer Team: M. Chesterton / L. Sanderson
Sunday School (School Age): M. Aasen
Sunday School (Preschool): T. Laffin
Kitchen: F. Chester
Altar Server: n/a

September 24th, 2017 (Pentecost 16)
Greeter/Sidespeople: Aasens
Counter: C. Aasen / S. Doyle
Reader: D. Sanderson
(Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, Philippians 1:21-30)
Lay Administrants: M. Rys / T. Wittkopf
Intercessor: T. Chesterton
Lay Reader: (Matthew 20:1-16)
Altar Guild (green): M. Lobreau / T. Wittkopf & B. Cavey
Prayer Team: n/a
Sunday School (School Age): M. Rys
Sunday School (Preschool): D. Legere
Kitchen: Goodwins
Music: M. Chesterton

Altar Server: n/a

Sunday, September 10, 2017

'If Your Brother or Sister Sins Against You...' (a sermon on Matthew 18:15-20)

I want to begin my sermon this morning by saying that I don’t like conflict and I don’t handle it well.

If someone does something or says something that hurts me, the last thing I want to do is go and talk to them about it. I’d much rather go and complain to someone else about it! I’d much rather blacken the other person’s name to my friends and family members. I’d much rather start a little gossip campaign against them. It’s so much easier to talk about the person who has hurt me with people I like, rather than going to talk to the person face to face.

I know I’m not alone in this. Very few of us do a good job of handling conflict. Some of us blow up, lose our temper at the other person, and vent our spleen on them. Some of us clam up: we hold it all inside, probably making ourselves sick in the process, especially if this is our habitual response to conflict. Some of us spread the poison around, talking to everyone else except the person in question. But very, very few of us actually follow Jesus’ instructions set out for us in today’s gospel reading.

Why is that? Well, I can think of a few reasons in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned.

There are some cultural barriers between this text and our modern twenty-first century world. One of them is the existence of something called ‘personal privacy’. This didn’t exist in the ancient world. Most families lived in small houses in close proximity to each other; private life was impossible. No one ever said anything like “That’s none of your business”, because everyone’s behaviour effected everyone else. Extended families were intimately involved in every detail of each other’s lives.

And churches were too. The early Christians took it for granted that when you decided to follow Jesus, you were joining a fellowship in which people looked out for each other and helped each other follow Jesus. No one in the early church thought it was unusual or offensive for someone to take a fellow-Christian aside and talk to them about something they were doing that didn’t fit with the teaching of Jesus. That was called ‘admonishing one another’, and it was an accepted part of being a Christian in those days; it’s mentioned in several places in the New Testament.

Also, ‘the church’ in those days wasn’t an institution with large buildings and congregations. Most Christian congregations met in houses, which meant they were small. Most of them weren’t led by full-time professional priests; they were led by teams of elders who earned their living in the normal way and worked together to care for the church in their spare time. A group of maybe twenty people would know each other intimately and would have been through a lot together. So if a group of Christians from the same congregation got together to admonish a couple of people to quit quarrelling and be reconciled with one another, this would carry a lot of weight, but it would also be a much less institutional thing than it might be today.

It’s important for us to recognize these cultural differences. Nowadays we live in a different world. ‘Mind your own business’ has become a non-negotiable; I have a right to decide what I want to do with my life, and no one else has the right to talk to me about it. And people have so much more choice anyway; if they’re excommunicated by their congregation they can easily leave it and join another one.

We can’t just pretend none of this matters. For instance, our church isn’t set up to deal with the sort of procedure Jesus describes here. If a couple of people brought their interpersonal conflict to our wardens and vestry, we wouldn’t have any sort of process in place to deal with it; we just don’t expect that sort of thing to happen.

So how do we put into practice the teaching of Jesus in our very different culture today? Well, let’s take another look at what he has to say.

The first half of verse 15, in our church bibles, quotes Jesus as saying, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault, when the two of you are alone”. I note in passing that this not a very helpful translation of what Matthew actually wrote in Greek. Our NRSV pew Bibles try to avoid using words like ‘brother’ and ‘he’ in order to be inclusive, but what Matthew actually wrote here was “If your brother sins against you”. ‘Member of the church’ sounds far too institutional; we Christians are sisters and brothers to each other, and that’s why conflict is such a huge issue – it splits up the family. So I’m going to use the words ‘brother or sister’, which is how the NIV 2011 translates this passage, rather than ‘church member’.

So what instructions does Jesus give us here? Well, first, Jesus assumes that there will be problems in the church. He says, “If your brother or sister sins against you”, and he gives no indication that he thinks this will be unusual. After all, I’m a sinner and I often fall short of God’s standards; I hurt God and I hurt my fellow human beings by the things that I do. And churches are full of people just like me. So why should we be surprised when there is conflict in the church? We’re not surprised when we find sick people in hospital, so why should we be surprised to find sinners in church? Sins and conflicts will always be present in Christian churches. The question is – how will we handle them?

Second, Jesus says “Go to your brother”, “Go to your sister”. In other words, don’t try to avoid the issue; face straight into it. Don’t speak about your brother or sister to someone else; speak to your brother or sister about what has happened. Why? Because when we complain about someone to a third party, we’re treating them like an enemy and we’re trying to build an alliance against them. An enemy is someone we talk about; a brother or sister in Christ is someone we talk to.

And do it ‘when the two of you are alone’. Why? Because it reduces the temperature. If we’re at a meeting and you ambush me with a complaint I didn’t see coming, I’m going to be on the defensive and I’m going to try to win, because you’re embarrassing me in front of other people. But if we’re alone together and you raise the issue, gently but honestly, it might still be threatening to me but the embarrassment factor is much lower.

This conversation we’re initiating with the other person may go in a direction that surprises us. We start with the objective of being heard, but once a conversation has begun, there may be learning on both sides. The other person may have had no idea what was going on. They may have been completely unintentional in what they did and not be aware that it hurt us at all.
But there may be learning for us too. In this passage Jesus talks about us having something against our brother or sister, but in Matthew 5 it’s the other way around: “So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). This is a two-way thing. In our conversation, we may discover we’ve been misinterpreting what the other person said or did. Or we may discover that they have complaints to make against us as well things we weren’t aware of that we need to recognize and deal with. So already the conversation is a healing thing.

Well – sometimes. But of course, the visit won’t always be a success. So the third thing we see is that Jesus lays out a process for dealing with unresolved conflict. If the person doesn’t listen to us the first time, we’re to try again, only this time we’re to ‘take one or two others along’ with us, ‘so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses’ (v.16). They aren’t witnesses to the original offence; they’re witnesses to the conversation going on between us and the person we’re confronting. They give an objective view; perhaps they help us see that things aren’t exactly as we think they are, or perhaps they help persuade the other person of the seriousness of the situation.

If that doesn’t work, Jesus commands us to ‘tell it to the church’; in New Testament times, remember, this would have been a little house church. The congregation gathers together, I can state my case, the other person can respond, and the congregation as a whole can weigh the matter. Jesus assures them that they won’t be doing this alone. In verse 18 he says, “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”, and in verse 20 he goes on, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”. This isn’t just about us, you see: it’s about Jesus and his Body. The New Testament tells us the Church is his Body and each of us a member of it. Our conflicts aren’t just private matters; they damage the Body of Christ and tear it apart. So Jesus is intimately involved in this whole process.

Think of some of the church meetings you’ve been at: ones that deal with buildings and finances, for instance. Imagine the difference it would have made if everyone present would have remembered that where two or three are gathered in his name, Jesus is among them. We’re sitting there in our circle, dealing with our issue, and Jesus is sitting quietly among us, listening, knowing that each person present is a child of God and loved by God. Do you think that would make a difference to the way we do things?

I think it would make two differences. First, it would encourage us to ask for his guidance more. When we’re dealing with a difficult issue, surely we shouldn’t be afraid of stopping the discussion for a few minutes and saying, “Now let’s all wait in silence on the Lord and ask him to give us his perspective on this”. Even with business matters, like a budget or a building plan, we need to do this more often.

But it would also make another difference: I think we would be more gentle with each other. Would we use hurtful and insulting language, or be dismissive and ignore the views of others, if we could see Jesus sitting among us? But surely by faith we know he is sitting with us; that’s exactly what he promises us in this passage. He’s not just with us when we worship and share Holy Communion; he’s here when we meet together to talk things over as well.

Back to our process. The fourth and final step is hard for us to hear: Jesus recognizes that by refusing to listen, the offender has placed themselves outside the Christian community. In verse 17 he says, “if the offender refuses even to listen to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.

That’s a difficult statement, and it’s also ambiguous. Tax collectors and Gentiles weren’t allowed inside the synagogues; Jesus is stating that the offending party has demonstrated their contempt for the Christian community and so should be ejected from it – what later came to be called ‘excommunication’. Excommunication was practiced in all the early Christian communities, and it was common practice through Christian history for a very long time.

So refusal to be reconciled was something Jesus took very seriously, and through the centuries most Christians have taken it seriously too. And yet, when we read his words about Gentiles and tax collectors, we must ask ourselves, ‘How did Jesus himself treat Gentiles and tax collectors?’ He actually spent so much time with them that the religious establishment criticized him for being soft on crime! So while Jesus recognizes that a break has to be made, he still doesn’t see the offender as the enemy. They’re more like a lost sheep, and he’s the good shepherd who will always be going out to find them and bring them home.

Obviously, as I said at the beginning, there are real challenges for us in the modern Anglican church about putting Jesus’ words here into practice. But whatever the specific details, there can be no doubt about the inner spirit of what Jesus is saying here. So what are we going to do about it?

There are some things we can do right now. We can repent of our bad temper, our bitterness and resentment, our gossip and talking about people behind their backs. We can resolve that if we have something against someone our first action will be to go and talk to that person alone, instead of talking to everyone else about them. When someone comes to talk to us in this way, we can resolve to learn to listen carefully rather than getting defensive and denying everything. And we can remember that this passage is immediately followed by one that deals with forgiveness, which ought to tell us what Jesus has in mind when our sister or brother apologizes to us.

So as I draw to a close, let’s ask ourselves, “Are we living by this teaching Jesus has given us?” And if the answer is, “Well, not always”, then let’s pray that God would help us grow a culture of honesty, love, repentance and reconciliation in our church. After all, that’s part of what it means to be the Church - a community of Christians learning to follow Jesus together. May God grant us grace to be reconciled to one another as Jesus has commanded us. Amen.