Saturday, September 03, 2011

A, Pentecost 12 Proper 18 – Matthew 18:15-20 “Binding & Loosing”

Binding and Loosing
A sermon on Matthew 18:15-20
The 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18 (Year A) 04/09/11
Pastor Heath Pukallus    Katanning-Narrogin Lutheran Parish
When someone sins against you, what do you do?
Is it difficult being open about how someone's sin has or is affecting you? Even if they approach you, confess and apologise it's usually dismissed with, "Ah, that's alright!" When both of you know very well it's not alright because you've been hurt and they've seen the need to say sorry!
If your brother, neighbour, spouse, or family sins against you, there's sometimes not enough peace within to go and confront them about the offence without the sin being relived in you. So how does one even begin the task of putting right the offence, and the relationship between you and the offender?
Besides! It seems naming the sin to expose the problem is inappropriate these days. As if everyone has the right to do as they please and say what they want, not being accountable or correctable despite the hurt it might cause. Nevertheless, living as a community and caring for each other out of love for Christ, requires us to put aside our rights, silence our voice, and serve each other with our ears and our hearts.
You see when sins are kept hidden and are not named they retain their stinging power. Therefore, many of us don't even get to first base with this text, let alone appropriately allowing the congregation in on how one's been sinned against, so the church can mediate the restoration of the relationship.
Rather what happens when a brother sins against an individual these days is, the one sinned against allows themself to smoulder, to the extent where he or she cannot go to the other person and name the sin. The sin cannot be buried, and rather than going and seeking others to help with the situation, sin is allowed to ripple out from the original offence. The recipient of sin, now becomes the perpetrator by bearing false witness, gossiping, and assassinating the character of the original perpetrator.
Our society is overrun by "smiling assassins" who politely smile to one's face, but stab in the back once the face is turned. It seems we have got it completely back to front in our individualistic, so-called "politically correct" world today. The result being we are all pushed further and further apart, and this seemingly polite interaction is really devilish dishonesty causing community living to become more and more dysfunctional and fractured.
There is a way to stop this from happening however! Our relationships in the church and in our everyday lives with others are curable. This way will restore your peace and bring a real and true peace back to your relationships – with neighbours, family, your spouse, church members, and even your enemies.
All believers are given a mighty weapon to combat the assassins "out there" in our relationships as well as the assassin within ourselves, so we might be able to approach others with the love of Christ to restore our relationships.
This weapon is the omnipotent, all-powerful, name of Jesus Christ. This weapon is prayer in Jesus' name. Its power is so rich and almighty yet a small child can wield this weapon with great effect.
Jesus tells us, "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:18–20 ESV)
It seems we need to know what requires binding and what requires loosing. In this mixed up world we get bound up in sinful acts yet these very sins are allowed to remain untied and free to continue wreaking havoc, destroying relationships long after they're committed.
This is what happens when we do things in our name, praying to ourselves, muttering under our breath, serving the sinful nature within. Putting ourselves first, relationships are hindered, and lonely love-starved individuals are created in this age of individualism.
On the other hand, when we rely on Jesus' name and not our own, we are loosed, he unties us from our sin and the cross of eternal death and damnation. Yet our sins are bound to the cross! We're freed to live with the promise we're eternally bound by Jesus' death and resurrection to an eternity in heaven. Even despite our constant inner struggle here on earth, between the sinful nature and our new being which relies on the name of Jesus Christ, you and I can be confident the right things are being eternally loosed and the wrong things are already bound to the cross.
The all-powerful name of Jesus Christ runs contrary to our individualistic thinking, causing a congregation to gather, constantly recreating a community of love, freed to be people of God wielding the weapon of prayer! Imparting forgiveness, peace, confidence, calmness, faith, hope, and love in a world which dearly needs these things.
Still there are many in God's church who don't have a whole lot of faith in prayer. Perhaps you struggle to pray, you find it difficult, or you just think it's a waste of time. Yet we hear in Scripture; Jesus, alone in prayer for much of his ministry on earth while being prepared for the cross. One might ponder, why he needed to pray, since he is "God the Son"!
Consider this: Jesus gave up his godliness, his divinity, and became nothing, relying completely on the Father in all he was called to do. Jesus displayed the same helplessness as us. But rather than fall into sin as we do, he remained sinless, yet bore our sin, helpless on the cross, so now our help is in the name of the Lord, our helplessness is overcome by God's powerful hand working when we ask him to in prayer.
Therefore, the first rule of prayer is having this same "blessed attitude" of helplessness as did Jesus.[1] In knowing our helplessness, we might see the common helplessness of ourselves and others and freely name sin with the desire to forgive it and receive forgiveness for it.
Also knowing our helplessness leads us to draw on God's mercy in reuniting the relationship with those who have wronged us, and us them. We can call on him in need to open our ears and hearts to each other so compassion flows, words are not misheard, and new sins are not committed.
The second rule [2] of prayer is to pray in Jesus' name or for Jesus' sake. As mention above when we do this we are tapping into an all-powerful source of existence.
The third rule [3] of prayer is to name our need or the need of others without the belief we need to help him answer the prayer. God doesn't need us to tell him how to fix the problem, he just needs us to ask him for help. He knows how to fix every problem even before we ask him.
The fourth [4] and final rule of prayer is we don't need to make use of prayer as a means of commanding God to move according to our will and timeframe. When we do this we just set ourselves up for a fall. God knows what we need before we ask for it or before we ask for it on behalf of someone else. We need to leave "the when" and "the how" up to God! We must remember we are asking him because of our helplessness. How quickly do we pray, leaving it up to God, but yank it back through unbelief!
God answers all prayers prayed in Jesus' name or for Jesus' sake. Unfortunately unbelief causes us to miss seeing them answered.
Perhaps a beginning point for all who struggle with prayer is to ask God in prayer to help us in our unbelief. Then we allow God to assassinate the sin and the unbelieving sinful nature within. It's better our prayers give God the glory and freedom so he can act as God in our lives, rather than our prayers failing because we seek to stand as assassin or executioner over God.
We who pray for others do best to also pray for our own perseverance and patience, that God might give us enduring peace and confidence in his omnipotence and the power of prayer in Jesus' name. Therefore, staying ourselves from assassinating ourselves and committing spiritual suicide.
And rather than the character assassination of those who have sinned against us, we might ask God to send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to counsel us in Christ, saving both of us from ourselves, assassinating our sin rather than each other and the relationship.
When someone sins against you, what do you do?
We can be secret agents wielding a weapon of great power. We can be assassins of sin and forgivers of sinners. This is prayer in Jesus' name and its use of binding sins and loosing sinners for Jesus' sake, Amen!

1. "It often happens that we slip out of this blessed attitude of helplessness before God.  Our former self-conceit and self-sufficiency reassert themselves.  The result is that we fail again to grasp the meaning of helplessness.  Once more it fills us with anxiety and perplexity.  Everything becomes snarled again.  We are not certain of the forgiveness of sins.  The peace of God disappears from our lives.  Worldliness, slothfulness and lack of spiritual interest begin to choke our spiritual lives.  Sin gains the victory again in our daily lives, and an unwilling spirit works its way into the service we render to God.”  p. 26  in Prayer by Ole Hallesby
2. p. 55ff Prayer by Ole Hallesby
3. p. 44ff ibid.
4. p. 49ff ibid.