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Sunday 21st January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 28th January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

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10th September 2017 – Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Readings: Exodus 12. 1 – 14 ; Romans 13. 8 – 14 ; Matthew 18. 15 – 20

Ever since being appointed Reader for this congregation, it has been a great regret that I have no solid grounding in the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek., though I am a very poor Hebrew pupil, who regularly plays truant. ….But in these studies, I have become sensitive to words that strike me as being odd or ‘out of place’.

All our Bibles are translations and like it or not, translations are authoritative and scholarly approximations to the originals…and because they are such, it is important that we critically read them and cross check. For, despite the best attempts at ‘scholarly objectivity’ the paradigms by which translators function can still come through… colouring the translation with one slant or another.

This was the case for those engaged in translating the KJV. The translators had to obey 14 all embracing rules set by King James

“For the better ordering of the proceedings of the translators, his Majesty recommended the following rules… to be very carefully observed…”

The king’s concern was with ensuring continuity with the currently accepted and well established views …..regarding hierarchical episcopal church structures and a monarchical system of government ..He wanted nothing as radical as the Geneva bible so loved by Scottish Presbyterians, and England’s own radical Puritans… and rightly so….. for within 40 years they overthrew the monarchy, declared a republic and beheaded King Charles1.

When it came to translating the Bible, King James made sure that nothing he ‘desired’ was lost in translation. .

I smiled to see Rule 3 of James’ 14 rules had been operational in the translation of today’s gospel

The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation,/assembly&c.
(Greek word “pascha” in Acts 12:4 Passover but as “Easter,.”)

In our gospel reading the word ‘church’ is used 3 times. The Greek word in question is ‘ecclesia’ which means ‘assembly’. But in our first verse where ‘church ‘ is mentioned we should read brother/disciple. In the other verses ‘ecclesia’ is twice translated as church instead of ‘assembly’. In using the word ‘church’ instead of ‘assembly’ what might the translator be subliminally telling us? What associations might be triggered, in our minds, by the word ‘church’ compared to ‘assembly’. Thereby hangs a tale.

In our Gospel passage Jesus is speaking about how to resolve a situation where an individual, within the assembly/ congregation has wronged another believer, in short has sinned in some way against them.
Jesus, drawing on the law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, outlines the 3 stages in conflict resolution by which repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, between the individuals is sought:
1. private reproof :
If another disciple sins against you,’ Jesus continued, ‘go and have it out, just between the two of you alone. If they listen to you, you’ve won back a brother or sister
.2. If this meeting fails;
they won’t listen, you should take with you one or two others, so that “everything may be established from the mouth of two or three witnesses

If the preceding 2 efforts fail, then the issue is presented to the assembly/congregation who would again seek reconciliation.
And if they won’t listen to the assembly, you should treat such a person like you would a Gentile or a tax-collector.

The primary goal at every stage is restoration of fellowship, is to reconcile… to restore.
Nowhere in this process is point scoring or seeking to humiliate countenanced. It is entered into with great seriousness, humility, a prayerfulness and love.

All unforgivingness is dangerous. It becomes a cancer that eventually undermine the spiritual well-being of a congregation. Unresolved resentments fester and poison unless disinfected with forgiveness. The Holy Spirit will not bless or be at home in a congregation that has factionalism instead of unity; bitterness instead of love, disharmony instead of peace and indifference instead of comittment.

As I said Jesus draws the Procedures for Reconciliation from the standard Judaic practices set in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. He was starting nothing new except His strongly underpinning the process with love, humility, repentance and reconciliation.

Jesus, however, like Paul with the Corintian church, does nor baulk at the ultimate Tough Love Sanction of Exclusion of a member who persists in unrepentance thus becoming a stumbling block, undermining fellowship within the congregation.

And if they won’t listen to the assembly, you should treat such a person like you would a Gentile or a tax-collector.

Jesus places great weight and authority behind those who may, on the churches’ behalf adjudicate on this serious internal matter.
He declares they are not alone in such a difficult situation. He promises to be present with them:
‘… 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.”

It is in our Romans reading that we find the Holy Spirit, through Paul, spelling out how we can avoid ever being embroiled in such spiritually draining conflicts ;

Owe no one anything, except… to love one another…
Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

So the Beatles had it right: ”All you need is love.”

English, in this instance is an unfortunate language, the only word it has for ‘love’ is ‘love’ !!! a much maligned, misunderstood, misused, and overburdened, word.

Our New Testament has come down to us in ancient ordinary everyday spoken Greek. While our word ‘love’ is stretched to cover a multitude of emotions+ predicaments, the Greeks have 7 variants of the word.

Eros………sexual love………..Philia the love between friends,

Ludos, playful love common among children and the young in love,

Agape, a radical selfless love…. Pragma…a mature love with deep understanding…

and Philoutia…a self love that is not narcissistic. The love that is operative in ”love your neighbour as yourself’.

Agape, is the form of love that percolates throughout the New Testament. Agape is that radical selfless love for everyone even enemies. This is the great love expressed by Jesus and believers down through the generations.

This quality of love is a broad spectrum spiritual antibiotic to greed, violence, backbiting, covetousness, adultery and to every other ‘nasty’ that camouflages itself under the guise of ‘love’.

The dynamo needed for driving this Agape Love Force can only be the indwelling Spirit of God Himself….tabernacling in our hearts.
Human effort alone has not the stamina. We need the non-stop fountain of renewable divine love gushing up inside our hearts to love to the extent sought by God. But what He requires He supplies. ..and the more we give love the more we get love.

Though we are to owe nothing to anyone…including taxes… Paul records one exception…our Love-debt is never cleared.

Hence the urgency in Paul for us to get on with manifesting love.

‘You know what time it is…wake from sleep.

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers…

Let us lay aside the works of darkness

Let us… put on the armour of light

Let us…. live honourably

,And to enable the activation of all of this…..

(Let us)…put on the Lord Jesus Christ,

We are each caught up into a great and wonderful cosmic dance of God’s personal love and compassion, through being reborn by and tabernacling with the indwelling Spirit of Christ Jesus.
We are in Christ… Christ is in us… we must not neglect so great a salvation… It behoves us to actively work out our own salvation through interacting with the dynamic love of the Holy Trinity….through prayer, through the Living Word … through fellowshiping with His pilgrim followers


Conclusion ;

For me the all embracing nature in ‘the putting on Christ’ is wonderfully illustrated in an ancient Celtic Christian prayer;
The Deer’s Cry, also known as Patrick’s Breastplate.
And in reading a brief extract I will pray us out of this sermon:

We arise today, through God’s strength to pilot us:
God’s might to uphold us, God’s wisdom to guide us,
God’s eye to look before us, God’s ear to hear us,
God’s word to speak for us, God’s hand to guard us,
God’s way to lie before us, God’s shield to protect us,
God’s host to secure us:

Christ with us, Christ before us, Christ behind us,
Christ in us,Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ on our right,Christ on our left, Christ when we lie down,
Christ when we sit down,Christ when we arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of us,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us,
Christ in eyes of everyone who sees us, Christ in the ear of everyone who hears us.

We arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord…
Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us. Amen