The Wonderful Key

Lyrica to buy The Sunday Sermon – February 28, 2016

Continue Reading Scripture:   Visit Website Matthew 5:21-26

The Wonderful Key

I’m going to do something I don’t often do in this moment on Sunday morning.  I’m going to read our scripture lesson before I introduce in any way our sermon thoughts. Listen for the Word of God …

Read Matthew 5:21-26 … The Word of the Lord.

Jesus is teaching.  He is preaching, actually.  This periscope is part of the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew.  He’s preaches the Beatitudes.  He commands us to be salt and light.  He asks us to be even more righteous than the Pharisees.  Now, he begins to show us how to do that.  Jesus’ teaching, his ethic, his “so what of it all,” doesn’t contradict, as much as it transcends Moses.  You have heard it said … do this. But I tell you … go further.  In our lesson this morning:  You have heard it said that you shouldn’t murder anyone. But I tell you, you shouldn’t even be angry with a “brother or sister.”  You shouldn’t insult them in any way – not without dealing with that anger or that insult and reconciling yourself with others.

I dare say, if those who like to take the words of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus so literally were to honestly do so for these six verses, we’d have no one in worship on Sunday morning.  Most of those who insist on biblical inerrancy are pretty angry with someone!  But, I don’t need to condemn others so quickly.  You and I wouldn’t be here many, most, maybe all Sunday, I bet, if we took this teaching wholly to heart.  My bet is that there is someone, somewhere that you are angry with, that you  have insulted or spoken ill of, or yelled at.  Someone, somewhere that you haven’t “reconciled with.”  And yet … we gather …

Pray with me … Amen.

What are we to do when we find ourselves so at odds with the teaching of Jesus, or at least in some disagreement with it, based on our own personal experience?  In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that if we are in conflict with anyone, we are to go and seek restoration and reconciliation with them before we bring our gifts to the alter, before we come here to worship.  That’s tough.  As I said, there may not be many here on any given Sunday!  We must seek restoration and reconciliation before we gather together here.

Now, before I continue, let me tease this out just a bit.  We’re not to do this, to go and be reconciled with all, to make us presentable in the “sanctuary,” so much as we are to do this, to be reconciled with all, in order to make us open to what is presented in the “sanctuary.”  God.  God’s hope and joy and peace and love.

For most of us (dare I suggest all of us?), what is really closest to the heart and soul of our faith is the experience of worship.  More than fellowships, more than mission outreach, more than Sunday school, more even than the hot coffee right before this time, is the experience of worship.  That’s the reason that this activity draws the largest number of people, members and non-members alike.  In this time we experience our  gathering together.  We experience confession and forgiveness.  We experience reconnection with neighbors and renewal of life.  We experience our song, even singing it ourselves.  If you were to scratch anyone of us here right now, you wouldn’t find a love of church tradition or church doctrine as much as you would find a love for church liturgy, a love for the ritual and rites of inclusion, and forgiveness, and sending, alove for worship.

If such is the case, and I whole-heartedly believe it is, then we have to make good use of the power that this hour, our worship time together, can bring to people’s lives. You have to make good use of the power that this time in this place can bring to your life.  And you, we, cannot make full use of this time if we have left our relationships outside of this place in disarray.  I don’t care how justified you think you are in your anger or how warranted you feel your judgements on others are, you are a diminished person, and your experience in this time of worship is diminished, if you are not reconciled with those you accuse and your accusers.

Is it possible to be fully reconciled with all?  I don’t know … Is it a requirement for the full experience that the worship of the Holy offers?  It absolutely is … the Word of the Lord.

On our Lenten journey this year, we are searching for those places in our lives and in our world most in need of the hope, and joy, and peace, and love of God, so that we may transfigure them; to bring the love of God to those places, and so … to life. We began with ourselves two weeks ago and continued last week through Jenna’s admonition to identify the “Herods” in our lives, our fears and worries, and dismiss them.  To get rid of the tyranny of toxic relationships, and terrifying diagnoses, and debilitating anxieties that consume our joy and hope, our peace and love.

This week, we peer into the dark corners of our lives, past and present, where anger and mistrust breed.  Into the unreconciled relationships of our lives, private and corporate, personal and political, so that we may receive as full a blessing as is humanly possible in this all-to-brief time together.  So …

Who are they?

I’ve been thinking of one specific couple in particular this week. I will never be fully at peace in my life, or open to God in this place, until I reconcile myself with them.  There are others, too, I know.

Who are they for you? Personal, political, in your life, or part of the world …

What are they?

As we more sincerely consider this, our need for reconciliation moves beyond people. It includes practices and policies, systems and principalities.  I’ve been steeped in one such practice during February, Black History month:  The institution of enslaved labor that built an Empire and still authorizes ideas and practices about race, white power and black shame.  We will never be at peace with ourselves or one another until we acknowledge that and find ways to make reparations, to reconcile ourselves with each other and with our past.

What else are they for you? Personal, political, in your life, and part of the world?

Where are they, these places that need reconciliation?

West Louisville? Eastern Kentucky?  Our nation?  Mexico or South America?  Syria, Russia, Iraq or Iran?  Maybe your own household, to come full circle.

If we want to be equipped for the task ahead, the journey through Jerusalem and into new life in service to the God of Jesus Christ, then we must “come to terms quickly” with all those people and systems we accuse, and all those who accuse us, of anything but love.

Are we required to restore all of our relationships through acts of reconciliation, large and small, before we come here? Yes, we are.

Is it possible to do so? I don’t know … I know, I haven’t done it, yet. But God is not finished with us yet.  Lent is a powerful reminder of that every year.  As we strive for Jesus’ ideal, and when our honest efforts fall short of the mark, coming here anyway, to the altar, to our sanctuary together, is not a bad place to try again, to start anew.  We can leave our gifts here today and try, try again.

Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see, glimpses of truth you have for me. / Place in our hands the wonderful key, that shall unclasp and set us free.

Reconciliation … Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / February 28, 2016