Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Sentinel Treatment

Today's readings contained teachings about how to handle conflict in the Church. First, Paul advises us to be patient in suffering,
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21
Next, Jesus outlines how to deal with sins committed by one member of the church against another,
Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Matthew 18:15-20
Pick any sin, insert it into Jesus' plan, and imagine how things would play out in today's church.

I think most folks would simply leave and start attending another church rather than follow Jesus' instruction.

Our preacher today spoke about the importance of "conversation" which in Episcospeak means to share one's feelings and to appreciate and accept the other party's point of view, but it seems to me that Jesus' instruction is less about conversation and more about a call to repentance and true resolution of conflict. Jesus is telling us to do the very thing modern Episcopalians are most afraid to do and that is to "point out the fault" so that the sinner is given the opportunity to repent, and He is asking us to do this not once but three times.

Totally missing from our sermon (and I expect from most sermons heard in Episcopal churches today) was any mention of the consequences to the unrepentant sinner.

Why? Because we don't dare treat anyone as a tax collector or Gentile. The Episcopal church is too desperate for members.

And besides, these days it is not not the unrepentant sinner who sees his status in the church change, but instead it is the one who points out the sin who winds up being ostracized.


  1. Pewster,
    The 1979 BCP lectionary includes the consequences and is paired with the "Watchman" from Ezekiel. the two together preach themselves. Both have to do with the courage to speak the truth as corrective feedback.

    1. Dale, I was expecting the Ezekiel text, but instead got the Passover story from Exodus. I guess they don't want the congo to get any ideas about blowing any horns.