Thoughts on the Lectionary Readings for September 4, 2011

Proper 18 Year A

Old Testament: Ezekiel 33:7-9
Epistle: Romans 13:1-10
Gospel: Matthew 18:1-20

Old Testament: Ezekiel 33:7-9

Ezekiel is called to be a watchman for the house of Israel. The call of the prophet is more a community vocation rather than an individual job. Warn the wicked. The prophet of God brings the fear of the Lord to a wicked people who have turned away from the promises of God. Ezekiel reveals to the people the true weight of their disobedience. If the wicked turns in repentance back to the Lord He will forgive him. If he refuses to turn from his wicked ways, he shall die in the iniquity of his path.

The watchman calls the people to safety. If the people refuse, they will die, but the watchman will have delivered his soul.

As a pastor I read these words and I am reminded of the seriousness of my vocation. I proclaim the Word of God as a watchman who witnesses people walking away from God. Yesterday I was reviewing the membership directory for the congregation I serve and I was struck with a profound sense of dread that I can never do enough to restore the erring back to a relationship with God. But the watchman does not damn nor save. The watchman shares the message of God, it is God who we fear and trust above all things. I must trust the power of God to restore the erring soul. I will proclaim the Law of the Lord and show the wicked the brokenness of his path. I will proclaim to the contrite the rescuing words of the Gospel. I will be a watchman. I will trust God to be at work in His words.

Epistle: Romans 13:1-10

The Fourth Commandment “Honor your father and your mother” fits into the rhythm of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. We are subject to the governing authorities because we confidently trust that God is at providentially at work preserving and protecting His creation through the kingdoms of this world. When we work against the governing authorities we are not fearing and trusting the Lord to be at work in the world in the way that He has promised.

But ultimately our calling is not to any one individual or authority, but all devotion is to God. We respect father, mother, government, and all authority because these authorities have been called by God to be his masks in this world.

The challenge to me is what to do when I do not trust the authorities to do the work God has called them to do. In these moments of trust my governing authority will be love. I am called to love the Lord God and to love my neighbor as I love myself. Love will do no wrong. I will walk in the paths of the Lord and not in the paths of the wicked.

Gospel: Matthew 18:1-20

“You should Matthew 18 that problem,” a pastor advised another.

What did he mean? I think he was outlining a path towards bringing reconciliation to a problem person. What should you do if your brother sins against you? As the reading from Ezekiel reminds us, we should be watchman. Show the sinner his fault and seek to bring him to repentance.

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven will not be measured by who is king of the hill at the end of the day. We serve our neighbor in need and do not desire that any one should perish. I am challenged by this text to see the fullness of the power of the Gospel. God desires that all should be saved. I pray that in my vocation as a pastor I would not through my actions or words demonstrate I have given up on any person. I want to seek out my brother who is walking in wickedness. I want to rejoice and celebrate that the lost sheep has been found.


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