More than a sermon

So, I am stepping out in faith, into the wild, blue yonder of the blogosphere. My first entry is little more than some reflections from Richard Donovan, a pastor who helps clergy with ideas and commentary on Sunday scriptures. Dick’s work, to which one must subscribe, often helps me get focused as I prepare my sermons.

Here is part of what he had to say about the lessons from this past Sunday, September 7th, and that very hard teaching of Jesus about resolving conflict in the church. (My sermon on this passage can be found on the “Sermons” link of our website at http://www.allsaintsmd.org).

See you in (real or virtual) church,
Father Mom (Tom Momberg)

“If another member of the church…” We are brothers and sisters –– not just members of the same organization. People value family relationships more highly than relationships with school classmates or members of the Rotary club –– and Jesus calls us to value relationships with Christian brothers and sisters as highly as blood kin –– even if our Christian brothers and sisters are guilty of an offense. A well-known father whose daughter was arrested for drug-possession commented that the family was saddened by the daughter’s choices, but they loved her and would pray for her recovery. That is exactly that kind of love and loyalty to which Jesus calls us when he speaks of Christians as brothers and sisters.

“…sins against you…” If we become aware of sin, whether or not directed against us, we have a responsibility to initiate action and, if possible, to effect a remedy. We are not to gossip or sulk, but to confront.

“…go and point out the fault…” The goal is to regain the offender –– to help the sinner in his/her struggle against sin. That implies a confrontation designed to win the offender back instead of driving him/her farther away. As Paul says, “If anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Greek: praiotes –– gentleness, meekness, humility) (Galatians 6:1). Unless done in a spirit of praiotes, the confrontation is likely to do more harm than good –– to become another occasion for sin. It is not easy to love an offensive person, so this is a situation where we must pray for grace before beginning the intervention. We cannot expect to deal effectively with the offender until we have first invited God to deal with us. Just as we would expect a surgeon to study X-rays in preparation for a difficult surgery, so we have a responsibility to plan this intervention carefully and to invite the Spirit’s help. It will not do to go off half-cocked.

“…when the two of you are alone.” This is the most discreet and least threatening possible intervention. It protects the offender against unnecessary embarrassment, permitting correction before the offense becomes general knowledge. Even if the remedy requires that the offense become more widely known, the offender can be seen as taking corrective action rather than as suffering public exposure. If there is any hope for the offender to retain his/her dignity, this first step makes it possible.

– Dick Donovan, www.sermonwriter.com

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