Summary: A sermon for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 18 A sermon about forgiveness, and Jesus presence with us
16th Sunday Pentecost
"The Office of the Keys!"
15* ¶ "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
16* But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17* If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18* Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19* Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
20* For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
RSV Matthew 18:15-20
Along with our gospel lesson, I would like to use another text from Matthew’s gospel: Matthew 16:19 : Jesus says: "I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
And also, John 20:23 :"And when Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Our texts this morning are focusing on one particular function of the church, the The Office of the Keys. As Luther says in the small catechism:"What is the Office of the Keys?" It is that authority which Christ gave to his church to forgive the sins of those who repent and to declare to those who do not repent that their sins are not forgiven.
As its says in Free to Be, a Handbook to Luther’s Small Catechism, on page 197: "The key to the kingdom is forgiveness--Christ’s barrier-breaking, future-opening gift. Just as a key opens a door that has been locked shut, Christ’s gift of forgiveness breaks down all the barriers the old Adam raises in us, including the old Adam, himself."
Further it says:"As this word is spoken to you, you can be sure God is forgiving you all your sin, that he has and always will. Christ himself is turning the key for you as these words are spoken, breaking down your yesterdays and opening up your tomorrows."
Many question today, why they should go to church? Many ask of what value is the church for my faith life? Did you know that 40% of Christians don’t belong to any church but profess, at the same time, to be Christians and believe in Jesus Christ? If so many professing Christians do not belong to a church, then the question needs to be asked, why join a church? Why go to church? Can’t I be just as good of a Christian at home, saying my own devotions, doing my own good deeds, praying my own prayers, and watching church on TV in the comfort of my own living room? Why go to church?
We go to church because God commanded it in the 3rd commandment.Jesus says He fulfilled the law and if we are in Christ, then we are in the church. Beyond that, He gave to the church this authority of forgiving sins. It says clearly in our texts that the authority of Christ to forgive sins works through the church. Contrary to popular belief, the church does have authority. In the U.S. today, we have so individualize our faith, we have so personalized Christ, that we forget that Christ himself established the church through the disciples and gave it the power of the Office of the Keys and the commission to baptize people in Christ’s name.
For many today, the church is seen like the people in the following story: "There is a story about some people sitting in a boat. One of them begins to bore a hole beneath the section of the ship where he was sitting. His friends ask,"What are you doing there?" He says to them,"Of what concern is it to you? am I not boring a hole in my section of the ship?" They reply, "But the water is coming in and sinking the ship under us!!!"
We have gotten so wrapped up in the "ME" generation in the "ME" lifestyle, that we forget our actions affect those around us. As we decide to forget the church, as we forget to be loyal to the church, as we so individualize our faith, we loose the fellowship, the corporate dimension of the church. The church becomes nothing important to us, because we sense we are somehow above the church.