I was surprised this last Sunday, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. This summer our congregation has been traveling through St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Great theological truths: Justification by grace through faith; peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; united with Christ in His death and resurrection through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism; we also dealt with our own sinfulness and how the knowledge of the Law our sinfulness becomes known. Yet, God, our gracious heavenly Father has paved the way for us to be a peace and reminds us that if He is for us no one can be against us. We also learned about the Jews and how the unbelieving ones were broken off so the believing Gentiles could be grafted in. I could go on and on.
In light of all this, the surprise was chapter 13 — taken along with the other appointed readings for the day — where Paul discusses the “left hand of God’s rule” in His establishment of our earthly authorities. In light of what came before it almost seemed out of place. Yet, an amazing theme emerged that I had not considered before now, at least not on this level.
It would be helpful for the reader of this post to read those appointed lessons. Here they are, taken from the NET Bible translation: Ezekiel 33:7-9, Psalm 32:1-7, Romans 13:1-10 and, Matthew 18:1-20.
What surprised me most is how clear it is that God, our heavenly Father wishes to restore the one who has strayed. He sends “Watchmen” to announce His message so the sinner may repent, and how there is much rejoicing over the one who does in fact repent. Our Father uses the means of Pastors and other loving Christians who will confront the erring brother. The confrontation is never to exclude, rather restore. The Gospel reading, beginning with verse 15, shows how this is to take place. But take note of verse 17, then consider how Jesus interacted with the Gentiles and tax-collectors. He loved them. He spent time with them; something terribly lacking in the Church today when an erring brother/sister is under Church discipline.
Yet we live in a time when the Church has great difficulty confronting open, public sins. We don’t want to judge or be accused of judging. So often times in this politically correct world we sweep it under the rug because we don’t want to offend and risk having the individual(s) leave the church.
What follows is my sermon for Sunday the 10th; kind of thrown together at the last minute, but something deeply pondered for the last five years. My propositional statement for this message is, While our way is not only sinful, and covers-up sin, God’s way is to confront sin directly, so that He may bless us by Christ covering our sin.
Thanks be to God!