The holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 18:15-20
"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. 18:16 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. 18:17 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.
18:18 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. 18:19 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. 18:20 for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
This is the gospel of the lord . . . praise to you o Christ.
Children's sermon time:
The watchman: one whose responsibility it is to watch out for the welfare and safety of the people or property that is charged with their care. A guard of the night. Watching for any danger or malice that could endanger life or property. A watch for thieves, bandits or troublemakers.
So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel. . . . . now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel . . . .
"As I live, says the lord god, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that 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?"
One might also think of the role of the watchman in terms of those whose responsibility it is to watch the skies . . . "Skywatch": observers of the weather. The system and personnel and equipment whose job it is to monitor the weather conditions in our area or across the nation or around the world.
My father served as a meteorologist during the pacific campaign in WWII. Actually, dad's job was to fly with the army air corps and observe the kinds of cloud formations that were to be seen over various strategic "target" areas. Dad does not speak much about his service days during those years in forties. The world was a different place and the technology of that time would seem
rather crude compared with our sophisticated weather satellites in space as well as computer modeling and graphics that help modern meteorologists predict weather patterns and severity of storms.
So, my father tends to shrug his shoulders at his duties as a watchman of the weather since, as he has said, "all we did was look out the window of the plane and write down what we saw in terms of cloud formations or conditions. Cumulous couds, sierrus clouds, hazy conditions, rain. Perhaps it did seem overly simplistic.
Over the years my father's weather reports may have seemed kind of trivial in light of some of the more dangerous service work and combat that soldiers and sailors were experienced . . . but about a year ago, when I was on a visit to a local nursing home I met a man who was also a veteran of WWII. As I got into conversation with this aged gentleman I mentioned in passing about my
dad's service during the war and how dad hadn't felt his work to be overly crucial or heroic (I remember as a boy seeing many medals dad received for his service in one of his dresser drawers).
The man I was conversing with began to well up with big tears in his eyes and he told me this story. "I was one of the bomber pilots flying planes along the same routes that men like your father had previously charted the weather conditions. Let me tell you about the work that your father did . . . . (he paused momentarily) the fact is, we lost more planes and men due to not
knowing what the weather would be in the places where we had to fly than we did to enemy fire! It was the reports that we were getting about the clouds that would save many lives and helped to turn the tide of the bombing runs in the pacific. Men like your father served us well in being watchers of the clouds.
The prophet Ezekiel had this rather ominous charge from god. "You mortal must go and act as a watchman for the house of Israel. Son of man, you are to be a sentinel who cries out when danger is approaching. Only, for Israel during those days, it was not necessarily the danger that approached in the form of an enemy army. It was more a more subtle danger . . . the kind that
infiltrates and attacks from within.
Jesus knew that this same kind of malice could come into the church or sneak in between brothers and sisters or get rooted between leaders of a church in the forms of distrust, jealousy, envy or greed.
Sin must be given a name, not necessarily somebody's name, but named for the forms it might take in our world, in our nation, or in our personal lives. Watchman and watchwomen in the service of god have great responsibility. We are charged with the care of souls and the well being of the body of Christ. We are charged to be on the look-out for troubles and dissent in the body. We
are charged to speak the truth in light of circumstances and situations happening in the world around us. And the responsibility of the watchman is to cry out truth when there is deception. The responsibility of the watchman is to cry out for justice when wrong has been done. Sin must be given a name, not necessarily somebody's name, but named for the forms it might take in our
world, in our nation, or in our personal lives.
The watchman is further charged with administering the means of god's grace which are the very connecting links between us and god. Ezekiel was one of these watchman who foresaw the destruction and rebuilding of Israel. He knew that god's love and conventual relationship with Israel was dependent on their obeying what god said. And so, with his whole heart and soul, Ezekiel sought
to convey to the people what was the right thing to do. Being faithful to his position, Ezekiel told the people to turn from their wickedness and return to the lord.
God said, "as I live, says the lord god, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that 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?"
Sentinels are charged with the duty to guard and to watch. The unfaithful sentinel is one who does not watch and warn. The sentinel or watchman who does not stand guard faithfully and discern what action might need to be taken (or not taken) in a given situation is going to face the judgment of god. As your pastor, I hear this words with no small trepidation and I pray for god's
wisdom and insight to help me keep faithful to this post.
We all have areas of responsibility entrusted to us, whether we are parents with children, or have responsibilities for others or project supervision at work. Or if we own a pet and must look out for the welfare of that cute little ball of fur in our charge. Kids also have responsibilities . . . you must watch out for yourself and for your friends . . . being mindful of the little
dangers that come your way every day at school or when your on the internet – remember the lord holds us responsible for our actions and our inaction in life.
May we be wise watchpersons . . . men and women of god who look out for the welfare of others and even things like the city of New Orleans. Cry out when you see danger and destruction on the horizon . . . don't be ashamed if your part is just to jot down the shapes of the clouds you see that are floating by – everything matters in life. Something that seems insignificant can mean
life or death for others. Especially those who are most vulnerable – the poor, the elderly and the young.
Dear God, help us to be responsible as your watchmen and watchwomen. Help us to see what the world fails to see. Help us to identify the root causes of problems and to cry out with our corrective words and actions. That your will might be done on this earth and in our lives. Amen
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