Sixteenth Sunday of Pentecost
10 September 2023
7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die’, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God , I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
God gives a clear instruction to Ezekiel of his, and our, responsibility to share God's message. If Ezekiel gets a warning of danger and does not warn others, then those who die because he didn't, he carries their lives, but if he shouts the warning and they ignore him, then they carry their own lives and choices. This warning is that God wants them to live God's way. We may think this message was for the Israelites, but this message is as relevant to us today as it was to them. We turn from God's way to fill our lives with what the world offers. How do we let people know without sounding like a bible basher or a turn and burn christian?
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes:
and I will honour it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law:
that I may keep it with my whole heart.
35 Guide me in the path of your commandments:
for therein is my delight.
36 Incline my heart to your commands:
and not to selfish gain.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking on vanities:
as I walk in your way give me life.
38 Make good your promise to your servant:
the promise that endures for all who fear you.
39 Turn aside the taunts that I dread:
for your judgements are very good.
40 Lord, I long for your precepts:
in your righteousness give me life.
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
I find this passage so counter my faith. How can Paul say God put these rulers in authority. I am drawn to Nero, Hitler, Stalin, just to name a few. Surely, he didn't mean them. On the whole the main role of the law and the authority is for the benefit of community peace and harmony and if lived out properly it benefits the people. The issue is not at times the law or the purpose, but the people with the responsibility to administer it. Many could tell where the law has been used wrongly by those with the responsibility to enforce it. I find that I may not agree with a law, but as long as I abide by it, and the person enforcing it is fair and just, I am safe. I think it also draws on last weeks reading where Paul says, '18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.'
10 ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. 15 ‘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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
We need to break this reading into its parts.
Do not despise the little ones
Parable of the lost sheep
How to engage with someone in the community
Binding on Earth and in Heaven
Two gathered in his name.
What links these parts?
For me it is about community. The despising and the lost sheep for me are connected. We may look down on those we believe are out side of God's church, but God would do anything to have that one back and part of the community.
Having said that we should be wary of what we accept in our community. We do our best to engage with a problem with respect and hope for the one doing something against God's kingdom, but if they will not change, we need to put the community before the person. We are building God's kingdom on Earth. If we allow it in our church we are allowing it in heaven. God wants community there has to be at least two. We are not meant to be alone..