Summary: Jesus sets forth a basic condition. Before admonishing someone practice self examination. If we do not see our own sins, we can not offer admonition to a fellow Christian. Without self examination our admonition can only deteriorate into judgment.

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September 4, 2011

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Year A

Grace mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. The sermon text for today is Ezekiel 33:7-9.

This encounter between God and Ezekiel takes place in the neo- Babylonian Empire during the captivity of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The first temple was destroyed 587 years before the birth of Jesus.

This was a time in the history of God’s people when their future was not clear. Held in captivity in a foreign land, a long way from home, unable to worship in their temple -- they focused on some of the reasons for their captivity and came to the conclusion that this occurred because of their ongoing failure to honor the covenant that God made with their ancestors -- and by way of Jewish thinking ---them -- at Sinai --859 years previously in 1446 BC. (we were slaves in Egypt) Ezekiel received his call to be a prophet -- that is one who conveys God’s words and will to the people --after his captivity and exile to Babylon.

In our text God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a watchman. A few verses earlier describes the duty of a watchman. If he saw the sword coming upon the land he was to blow the trumpet and warn the people. At that point the people could seek safety behind the thick city walls or they could perish. The watchman was accountable only for giving the warning. He was accountable for the process not the results.

Ezekiel was a watchman for the spiritual lives of the people. He was called to warn the people to turn from their wicked ways or die in their iniquity. If he warned them, he did his part. He was not held accountable for their response. If he failed to warn them, he too would be accountable. Once again he was only responsible for the process not the results.

Today’s bulletin theme states that the modern equivalent to the watchman would be our Pastors who serve us by warning us against sin and calling us to repentance. Additionally governing authorities serve us by restraining evil and awarding good.

Where do we, as members of the body of Christ, fit into this picture? Do we sit on the sidelines and expect our Pastors to carry the whole load? Are we afraid of spiritual issues?

Are we afraid of the words and criticisms of men when our sole audience should be God? Do we confuse, or let the enemy -- that is Satan -- confuse, brotherly admonition and judgment. Do we know the difference between admonition and judgment? Do we wither when some critic, otherwise Biblically illiterate, chirps “ Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

According to Webster’s admonition is defined as a mild rebuke, a warning, advice, counsel, and censure done in a mild way. It is done to help a person in a gentle way.

Judgment on the other hand has an element of criticism or censure given with an attitude of superiority and legalism.

Admonition is given by a person who knows his own sinfulness and Christ‘s great sacrifice for that sin.

Look at God’s word in Galatians 6:1 written by Paul

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness." The goal of all admonition is to restore a person in his relationship with Christ.

Paul addresses “you who are spiritual.” All Christians have the spirit, not just a select few or an elite few, we often manage to hide it but we do have it. We can follow the spirit’s leading by gently and humbly caring for the one who lapses into some sin.

Early in His earthly ministry Jesus -- the final interpreter of all scripture -- cautions us about Judging others. In Matthew 7:

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ’Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

These verses tell us to be careful. Examine yourself first. Do not be condemning but be humble and gentle. Do not do this from your personal soap box or bully pulpit but approach this from the foot of the cross as one beggar telling another where the bread is found. (John 6:35) According to St. Augustine, when we do not know the intentions behind a person’s actions, “We are to put the better construction on them” (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of The Christian Church Series 1 6:54 )

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