9.08.2011

PROPER 19 (24) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A

Exodus 14:19-31 and Psalm 114
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

We live in a "post-9/11 world." In the United States, there is no way
to escape that chronological designation...9/11/01 marked the end of
an era and the beginning of a new era. But how the new era is defined
is still within our influence. It could be an era marked by
polarization, by conflict, by pointing to our differences. It could
also be an era marked by grace, mercy, reconciliation, drawing the
circle wide. We have the opportunity to remember and in remembering,
remold ourselves within our human family - to find the new shapes and
attitudes and behaviors that bring us closer together instead of
further apart.

"Where were you when..." is a common refrain right now. But today
we're wondering, "Where are we now?" How have we been shaped and
changed? How have others been shaped and changed?

The lectionary texts for this week are the very same texts that
followed September 11, 2001. Uncanny? Yes, especially when you read
them. Go do it. We've got time.

In Exodus, we read the account of Moses parting the Red Sea and
leading the Israelites across. As the Egyptians follow, the sea
closes back over them, consuming them. The Israelites still had a long
journey ahead of them, but they were finally rid of the Egyptians. We
know that in the wilderness, there came a time when those Israelites
thought it might be better to return as slaves to Pharaoh. They must
have been shaped by the experience of slavery, by the Exodus, and by
their encounters with the living God. It changed their behavior
(sometimes only temporarily), their traditions, their loyalty. The
dramatic events of the Exodus reordered their lives. And what about
the Egyptians who lost all of their first born children? Whose
husbands and sons drowned as the sea closed in? Were they reformed?

The psalmist recounts the mighty acts of God in the Exodus. If God
can do these things to free his beloved people, how much more can God
do? The psalms are full of acts of worship that recall specific
life-altering things, good and bad.

Paul's letter to the church at Rome is a reflection on judging others.
Simply put, he asks that his readers not do it. God is the only
judge. He also suggests that intention is more important than the act
in some cases. Some choose to eat a certain thing to honor God.
Others choose to abstain from eating to honor God. What is important
is the intention to honor God. As we approach September 11, the word
"judge" makes us squirm just a bit. We've heard/seen/participated in
some "judgment" around the events of 9/11. Has our judgment of other
cultures, of our political system, of our safety nets, of our economy,
of our neighbors changed in that passage of time?

Perhaps this week's reading from Matthew is most haunting. Peter has
asked some tough questions about forgiveness. And Jesus' teaching is
every bit as tough. Do it again and again, without condition and
without end. Loving one another is an exercise in forgiving - all the
time, every time. Who's mastered that? And since 9/11, how many
times have we been challenged to forgive someone or some idea or some
institution?

Where are the places that you've struggled to forgive
since that day? Has your struggle to forgive reformed you? Are there
things/people/ideas that you've packed away rather than do the work to
forgive?

God, we are caught with such short vision.
We only see the injury or wrong that was
just done
to us.
We preach forgiveness
during times of peace.
When pressed, we often to not respond
graciously
or gently
or with forgiveness.
Help us as we attempt to
love
as we have been
loved.
Help us as we attempt to
forgive
as we have been
forgiven.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

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