From the Desktop of the Pastor – Week of the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Well, I’m back from holidays! And goodness did it go fast. While we didn’t do much in that whole first week, the weather was great. The second week we were able to go up to Whistler for a couple days and do a lot of stuff outdoors. When we got back we also took advantage of the weather and did as much as we could outside. Looks like we did so just in time too, considering how the sky looked yesterday and how gloomy it is out there now.

And so back to the grind. Back to work, back to school next week (however that will look), and back to navigating this pandemic that seems to have gotten worse in BC while I was on holidays (I’m sure there is no direct correlation). This means more active thinking about safety practices, more intentional hygiene practices, and more breaking apart fights… because the more our kids are stuck with each other, the more they seem to fight.

Which makes sense, of course, as that is what happens to any group of people who are stuck together for too long. Tempers flare, patience wears thin, and everyone gets annoyed (or annoying) and conflict ensues. And I know this will happen with the little tots because it has already been happening for months, but at least in the summer weather they can go outside and get more space between each other.

However, fight as they may, I am always impressed with how quickly they reconcile. The usual scenario is that I find one of them crying or upset, I talk to as many of them that need to be talked to, and I would say a joke or something goofy and they go back to playing as though nothing has happened.

Ah, to be that young and innocent again, and so easy to forgive and easily forgiven. Heavenly, really.

Here are the readings for next week:
Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

This passage out of Matthew is a familiar one, especially for any of you who have worked on any ELCIC congregation constitution and bylaws as this is the passage that is used as the guideline for disciplining a member who has wronged another. It seems straightforward enough: 1) if there is conflict, then try to resolve it, 2) if that doesn’t work, bring reinforcements to prove your point, 3) if that doesn’t work, then take it to the church, and then 4) when all that fails then treat them like a Gentile and/or tax collector. That is, an outsider, a traitor, one who is generally unliked and avoided under the threat of being unclean otherwise.

And truth be told, I don’t really like this passage serving as our guideline for discipline, because it feels like it can be misused to kick someone out of the church and say, “well, the bible told us to do it.” I have never experienced that happening to myself or in any congregation that I have been involved in, but I have heard from some classmates that it has happened. It just feels like giving some people an “out” to excommunicate a member isn’t something that you’d want to include.

That is, until we read it a bit more carefully. And the surrounding context.

If you notice in our own bylaws at Grace Lutheran, we included the 2 verses following this passage, which include Jesus’ suggestion to forgive 7 times 70 or whatever other incomprehensible number. And when we look at this compared to the Romans passage, we’ll see that this passage isn’t teaching us how we can legally kick someone out and make it look like their own fault, but it teaching us a way to deal with conflict in love, and how even in the end if the conflict isn’t resolved, we can all still reconcile.

This isn’t a lesson on how to biblically exclude, but it is a gift of loving community and relationship.

Of course, it isn’t easy to just forgive and forget like how my kids do, but we can actively continue to love. We can intentionally try to understand. We can forgive and continually welcome in the name of Christ, who is present among us when we gather.

Yes, this is a gift of divine grace. A promise of loving forgiveness. A way of community living and relationship that displays for us Christ among us full of mercy, joy, and peace.

Have a great week, everyone!

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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