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“Love and disagreements”

Adams United Methodist Church

Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church

Pastor Missy McCarthy                       Music: Sue& Craig Gamet, Mike Tyo

September 6, 2020                                    14th Sunday after Pentecost


Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 18:15-20

Children’s Moment:

          We are getting to go back to school this year, but everything is going to be different. When things are different sometimes, we get excited and happy and sometimes we get anxious, and grumpy.  When we are anxious it sounds like a cranky voice, snappy comebacks, complaining, sometimes even yelling or feeling extra sleepy.   Sometimes it feels like sweaty hands, and uncomfortable necks or tummies.  In the middle of that we don’t always get along our best with our family and friends because of all those feelings and we feel like running away from people. Jesus knows that whenever people live and work together, sometimes we don’t get along.  He is trying to help us understand that we need to talk to one another, to look at one another and talk when we get upset or mad at each other even if it is hard.  We can’t avoid each other or run away, that only makes things worse.  Have you ever tried to have an important conversation with someone with your back turned away from them and your eyes closed?  No! That is silly.  Jesus is reminding us that when we say we are a community that means that when we don’t agree we have to talk with one another about it.  We have to find ways of working together for the sake of God and God’s Kingdom and for love.  So as we go back to school this week and everyone may be a little bit more on edge than usual because they are excited or don’t know what is going to happen, let’s remember to talk to each other about our feelings so we can work it out together.  Let’s pray. 

Blessing of our kiddos, teachers and staff for back to school.

Holy One, we have grown accustomed to a year with a certain rhythm. Summer comes, summer ends.  New shoes, new clothes, new school supplies, new school year.  But this year, on this first day of school, everything is different.  For months we have been searching for the right rhythm, the right rhyme, and nothing has seemed to work.  We’ve distanced, sheltered, masked, prayed, cried, prayed some more, and cried through our prayers.  We’ve said goodbye to some and been unable to say goodbye to others.  We’ve yelled happy birthday across public parks, honked our horns to celebrate birthdays and retirements, turned every restaurant into a drive-in, We’ve binged Netflix, finished every puzzle in the house, dusted off unread books and read them all.  And we’ve worried about.  About our parents.  About our teachers.  About our communities. About each other.  In the midst of uncertainty, help us find the rhythms that keep us strong: Of home and heart, love and wisdom, community and care.  Help us make impossible decisions and inspire the impossible dreams we want to come true for our students.  We call out to you in our time of confusion, Gracious God, be our guide, our hope and our light.  This we pray in the name of the one who came as a child and became a teacher to us all, the one we call the Christ: Amen.[1]

Reflection: “Love and disagreements”

          The kids and I talked about what stress does to us and our bodies when we are anxious or nervous.  It isn’t just for the kids though.  With this whole COVID thing, people have become more stressed.  They are quick to anger, and slow to calm down.  They are ready to fight or argue over anything when staring at their screen and quick to avoid an argument if the person is near or avoid the person entirely, and it is sooooo much easier now.  We have an excuse not to see people, not to go out of the house, or not to make contact with someone.  Sometimes it is legitimate – many of us are wearing multiple hats and trying to keep all the plates spinning at the same time, but if it is important, we generally make time for it. Yet we don’t often make time to deal with our conflicts.  It is hard, and uncomfortable and easier to let it slide…or at least we try to convince ourselves it is.  Except the cost of letting slide can be catastrophic….it costs relationships, community, people…it can costs the very Kingdom of God that we are sent to be a part of building.

          Jesus is talking here about how to do deal with conflict in a way that does not cost all of that.  He isn’t saying that there won’t be conflict, but in fact there will be conflict in community – it is healthy even if it is uncomfortable.  It is important because it helps us to grow and stretch in new ways and become better.  It is normal, but we need to deal with it for it to help us do all those things.  We can’t have a healthy community if we avoid each other when we have a problem, or try to use power and control over one another to deal with it or use force.  We need to actually deal with each other when we have issues or we are just adding to the disfunction of the world. 

          This is hard.  It requires us to be vulnerable.  It means we have to listen, and sometimes we have to be wrong, or hear things about ourselves we may not like or hurt.  Sometimes it means we have to admit someone else has the power to hurt us.  This is complicated.  Jesus is clear though that we need to not talk to all of our other friends, or church family and gain allies to get them to agree with us.  We aren’t supposed to get a group together to complain to them so they can take our side, no we are to talk to the person first – before we talk to anyone else when we are feeling like there is a problem – even if it is uncomfortable, even if we don’t want to, even if we dread it, even if we don’t want to. 

          You see that is part of agreeing to belong to a family, this church, the Kingdom of God or a community.  If we can’t trust one another to come to each other when there is a problem, then how can we trust each other when we need help?  How can we work side by side for the Kingdom to come if we aren’t willing to really be part of that Kingdom?  People don’t always agree, we aren’t always going to have the same goals, or see things the same way, that is the way God made us for a reason – we all bring a piece of the story so we are better together.  If we don’t figure out how to do this then we just add to the chaos, fear and darkness around us. 

          Jesus reminds the disciples that if a resolution doesn’t work with just the two of you, you ask a trusted person to go with you. That isn’t asking someone who agrees with you.  It is asking for a mediator, someone who will help you both navigate this so that you are still in community when this is over.  Finally, he says if it is a disagreement with a difference between the values of the community treat them like a tax collector or a Gentile.  I always find it humorous when people use this as a way of excluding people.  It is as if they forgot about Levi, Zacchaeus and Matthew all of whom were tax collectors, or the Centurion who was a Gentile.  Jesus didn’t write them off, his grace was sufficient, he kept the gates open for them to choose and willingness to forgive and ultimately brought them into the community.  

          When we get to this story, people like to rush to the part of where we get to bind things on Earth and forget about the fact that the story right after this is where Jesus tells us that we must forgive seven times seventy.  That, this is actually a warning to not be so quick to bind things on Earth, not to be so quick to write people off, to declare them unclean or not right…what happens if it was you, would you want that to happen to you?  Would you want to be bound on Earth and heaven by someone who they themselves may be wrong, or misguided, or may not have the full picture?  So perhaps our best bet is to start out with those conversations, even if they are hard, ask those questions about why do you see it that way?  Why do you feel that way so that I can understand?  Get curious – there goes that Epiphany word again, it keeps showing up this year.  It seems that living into the Kingdom of God asks us to do hard things, but sometimes the hardest things we have to do is sit on our own pride and talk to someone we have a problem with – they may not even know you are having an issue with them.  Perhaps the hardest thing we have to do is confront our own fear and self-righteousness and have tough conversations with people we are in community with for the sake of the community because we love God more than we love being right.

Additional Readings