Reconciling with Each Other…with God

[]Today we are in the middle of our summer teaching series on, 'As the church, we…' We've been through, 'As the church, we worship; we pray; we learn; we fellowship; and we celebrate.' Today, as the church, we look at how God asks us to reconcile…to reconcile ourselves to God and to reconcile ourselves with each other. The word 'reconciliation' (katallagh [katallage] in Greek) means a changed relationship for the better between people, groups, the world, or God. It is a duty we carry as we follow Christ. It is a duty for us to be reconcilers as God's children today.

But what is reconciliation? Can it be as simple as what I told the children just a few moments ago, 'making peace'? If we think back to experiences in your life where we may have had words with someone, or may have had anger with God, we can often measure whether we are reconciled with someone or with God by whether we feel peace in our hearts. And peace is something that we highly value. It is one of the reasons we seek out God. Part of what is built within us innately is to be at peace, and God gives us many ways. And today's way is through reconciliation.

As Christians, we profess that Jesus is the Great Reconciler, that he came to reconcile all of humanity, all of the world, even the cosmos itself, to God, to make things right finally, once and for all. We know from reading the Old Testament that things often went well for awhile and then people fell away from God and needed to be reconciled. And for us, Jesus is that final reconciliation.

Yet we bear a part of the responsibility, the accountability or burden to continue to reconcile ourselves to God. And can we do that as simply as coming to church? Yes…and no. When we come to church, we do often confess our sins, and we have a time of confession in our service today. We have a corporate confession, which is the church together. And though the words you read might not be those words that are heavy in your heart or something that you feel you have participated in, as the church we corporately reconcile all of the Christian church to God each time we say that confession. And then we leave a place for silent confessions to God because all of us have those things that we need to lift personally.

When we come to the end of the confession, I usually offer some sort of assurance of pardon, giving reassuring words from Jesus, or things passed down through centuries of the church, to offer people that peace. And yet today in our Scripture, as we heard in Matthew, there's a bit more about attaining that peace and attaining that full reconciliation. It reminds us that if we do not come to God with the true intention of peace and reconciliation in our hearts, we should leave our gift before the altar and go and make peace with those we need to reconcile with, and then come back and give our gift. It's part of presenting ourselves fully and holy before the Lord, and it's part of presenting ourselves humbly, to realize that we do need to make reconciliation from time to time.

I don't know about you, but I am not someone who is perpetually in a state of peace. I forever have my sins before me, as every time I open the Scriptures there's something in there that reminds me of some sin in my life. And even though I might feel reconciled with everyone around me, and I might feel reconciled with God, there is another aspect of reconciliation, and that is reconciling with ourselves. That is one of the more profound and difficult things to do because, as you can imagine, throughout your life you may have prayed for God to forgive you for something, and you may have made peace with someone who you needed to make peace with, but somehow the burden stays with you. It has not gone away. You have not found that peace, at least maybe not lasting peace.

So we are called also to reconcile with ourselves, to understand that when we have made, or attempted to make, peace with others, and have made peace with God, humbly and fully in our hearts, then the work becomes for us to reconcile with our own selves, with our own conscience, and to be able to forgive ourselves for those things that God and others have already forgiven us for. So reconciliation very much is multi-faceted.

As a church, God calls us to be reconcilers in the world, and it has many avenues for us to follow. But in order for us to do this well, we will have to find peace with ourselves. So I encourage us this summer to take a deep look at the places in our lives that need reconciliation. How do we need to reconcile with ourselves? Are there others we need to reconcile with? As a corporate body, as the church, or as the church universal or as the world, how are we reconciling with God's creation? Have we treated it with fairness, with care and generosity? If the creation were to speak to us, would the creation be asking us for some sort of apology? Perhaps. I believe so.

So reconciliation may not just be as simple as coming to church and making a simple confession and being able to walk out in peace. There are many areas and facets of our lives that need reconciliation, true reconciliation, in order for us to get to that place of peace where we can stand in church and honestly and abundantly celebrate God's mercy and how it has transformed our lives, making us that new creation that is spoken about in Scripture. And I can't imagine that any of us are sitting here without that desire to be the new creation that's been promised to us.

During the next week, and the upcoming weeks this summer, as we continue to learn who we are as the church, let us continue to work toward reconciliation in all the avenues that have been presented to us today and other avenues that you yourself may know of.

Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve