Friday, September 5, 2008

Proper 18 - Matthew 18:15-20

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

September 7, 2008
Proper 18
Matthew 18:15-20
You are your brother’s keeper

Let us pray to the Lord…

Almighty and eternal God, You know our problems and our weaknesses better than we ourselves. In Your love and by Your power help us in our confusion and, in spite of our weakness, make us firm in faith.”

Jesus gives a procedure for settling disputes among his followers. Since Christians are sinful, personal relations may at times become strained and on occasion ruptured. If so, Jesus gives a threefold procedure of we must proceed in settling our differences.

First, Jesus gives the power of the keys to forgive or not to forgive to the community of believers called “The Church”. The power of the church gathering is demonstrated in prayer which will be answered if the church agrees on the petition. When several gather in Jesus’ name, He promises to be with them. In these three cases, the church’s importance to faith and life is demonstrated. We are call to be a part of a faith community. Within our Friedheim family - you are your brother’s keeper.

Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus’ discourse to the disciples, not to the world. He is dealing with church or in-group problems. This erring “brother” is a fellow Christian. “If your brother sins against you” implies that Christians are not perfect and thus can and often do sin against each other. Because of sin, the church can be plagued with hostility and disunity. This why St. Paul encourages us to make every effort yo strengthen the bond of peace.

Because of this, Jesus has given us a procedure to be followed when trouble resulting from sin develops within the Christian community.

Who is this “you”? “You” may be an individual Christian or “you” may be the group of Christians (church). It is worthy to note that this passage does not deal with the one who has sinned - but rather the victim of sin. He who is sinned against is to take the initiative to get the matter settled.

One would think the guilty one ought to go and settle accounts. But the sinner may not consider himself to be in the wrong. The victim; yes, the victim, the one who has been offended, is to show the sinner what harm he has done and an understanding needs to be reached that the Christian fellowship may not be disrupted by personal tensions.

This is a hard work! Often it makes us feel uncomfortable. It might be the hardest thing you might ever have to do. It’s a lot easier to run and hide, to lick our wounds, or to pout.

Introduction: Some might ask – “Can’t I be a Christian without joining the church?” Believing they can be a Christian outside the church, a percentage of the American population refuses to join the church. What is the advantage of belonging to a group of Christians? Is the advantage great enough to justify joining? Why can’t I be a good Christian on my own?

Let’s consider the value of Christians getting together in a church.

1. The church has the power of the keys — v. 18. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. The power of the keys is the authority given by Christ Himself that promises effectiveness in this ministry to reconciling us to each other. In the Catechism Luther asks the question, “What is the Office of the Keys?” [And in this instance the New English Version is probably better…] The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent. Where is this written? The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” [John 20:22-23]

A. God alone can forgive sins. But He works through His people. He does this to warn the straying and to comfort those who are penitent.

B. It is God’s Word that really does both the judging and the comforting in Christ.

Transition: What’s the value of Christians getting together in a church? We assemble to become a house of prayer.

2. When the church prays, prayers are answered — v. 19. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. What is the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer? “Out Father who art in heaven.” What does this mean? God would be these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

A. We need to be a people of prayer. Without daily prayer growth in God would be minimal at best. We can only be our strongest when we are seeking the Lord. May we here at Zion be remembered as being a house of prayer! Not just a church where we come to talk to God where we come to a worship service but rather a place where we glory in His Name, where in service we praise His glorious name.

B. In prayer we are upholding one another. In our petitions we are taking our needs burdens joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace. And, we’re thankful as the Savior answers each petition.

Transition: As we gather to speak to our Lord He speaks back to us through the gifts He gives us. He speaks to us specifically where He chooses to make Himself known in His Word and in the means of grace.

3. When the church assembles, Christ is present — v. 20. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. We must be fully aware of just who this “brother” is about whom we are to be concerned.

A. We are not alone in this work. Christ is at the center of all that we do. He is the unseen yet present guest in every conversation. We do not go it alone. Christ is present with and among us.

B. Common faith in Christ links us together like mountain climbers who are tied together in once cause. John would remind us in his first Epistle - We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. [1 John 3:14]

Illustration: A vacationing family from the Midwest was visiting Niagara Falls. While on Goat Island above the falls, a younger son fell into the swift current. A teenage brother managed to grab him and cling to a rock. When it seems the older boy’s strength would not last until help arrived, the mother’s cry, “Don’t let go; he’s your brother!” encouraged him enough to hold on so that both were saved. That mom’s cry illustrates the Savior’s concern for the weak among us, those who struggle, and those who have fallen.

Conclusion: What a blessed work the Lord has entrusted to us. May He fill us with a passion and unified concern to carry it out. May we be encouraged by the Savior’s wonderful promise. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

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