Summary: Jesus gives his followers rules for the community to live by. They are good rules as we strive to live our Christian lives together in ministry and fellowship
For the last several Sundays, we have been seeing examples of great faith and discussing how such faith applies to our lives today. In the story of Jesus beckoning Peter to walk on water, we learned that great faith involves getting out of the boat. The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman with the demon possessed daughter demonstrated the necessity of persistence in a life of faith. Last week we read what Jesus taught his followers concerning discipleship. Jesus calls his disciples to live in faith by denying themselves, taking up their crosses, and following him—even if we do this in a far from perfect manner.
The gospel lesson for this Sunday reveals to us another element of living faithfully—the nurture and maintenance of relationships.
GOD OF RELATIONSHIPS
It should be of no surprise to us that the God whom we worship is a God of relationships. Humankind was created in God’s image. Our likeness to God allows us to be in relationship with God. Even when we broke our relationship with God through sin, God moved to restore that relationship. The gospel of John proclaims that God so loved the world that he gave his only son …
Our journey is imperfect, as we walk with God. We are still sinful beings; at our core we seek to be lord of our lives and rebel against God. Our sinfulness is exhibited by our sins against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and left undone. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives to convict us of our sin and to move us to change our behavior. The Spirit may speak to us through our conscience, through Scripture, or through the voice of a friend.
We frequently confess our sinfulness and our sins either in the privacy of our prayer closet, or in our community worship. We seek God’s forgiveness that is always freely given, and we avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power to turn from our sin and walk along Jesus’ path rather than trail blaze our own path through the wilderness of life.
God’s movement in our lives is never vengeful, or meant to cause us harm. God purpose is to move in our lives and restore our relationship with him. God created us for a relationship with him and he realizes that we do not experience either peace or the abundant life until we have that relationship with him.
The gospel lesson for today invites us to be mirror images of God in our relationships with others—especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course this is easier said than done.
When we are offended and hurt, it is our natural, human response to avenge ourselves against the one who offended us. We may do this in a variety of ways, of which the most destructive is gossip. Seeking to get sympathy, amass allies, and at the same time cause harm to the individual, we gossip. A follower of St. Francis had a problem with the sin of gossip. As punishment for his gossiping behavior, St. Francis had him lay a feather on the doorstep of every household in the town of Assisi. When the man return to St. Francis and reported that he had accomplished his penance, St. Francis then directed him to go and pick up all of the feathers. The man objected, “I can’t do that,” he said, “the feathers have been blown all around town by the wind.” St. Francis slowly nodded his head and said, “So it is with gossip, the words you say can never be picked up again.”