Sermon + The Rest of the Story

Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon text for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, on September 6, 2020. My focus was on the Gospel lesson, Matthew 18:15-20, but I added verses 12-14. Jesus describes church discipline and how to remove a member, but the rest of the story shows how it is an example of radical forgiveness.. + pBRC

May God guide us as we step out in faith, doing God’s work with our hands and hearts. AMEN.

  • That just doesn’t sound right.
    • That is a feeling I get a lot during an election season. One campaign claims the person they are running against said something that either makes no sense at all, or makes no sense for that person to say.
      • So I use the internet to research what was said.
        • Often, the person said something that was either selectively edited to fit their opponents strategy, or that was taken out of context.
    • I encourage you to do the same as you get prepared to make several important decisions when you cast your vote this November.
      • Double-check what candidates claim. It isn’t that hard to do.
    • I learned this strategy while in Seminary.
      • We were taught to read the Scriptures looking for inconstancies and discrepancies.
      • What doesn’t seem right? What doesn’t make sense?
        • Is there more that you need to know?
        • Or to quote on of my dad’s favorite radio broadcasters, What’s the REST of the story?
    • That’s what I did with the Gospel lesson selected for today, which were verses 15 to 20.
      • This is only passage from the Bible that appears in our church constitutions.
      • It appears in the part about Church Discipline.
        • It is the way that you remove someone’s church membership.
        • You meet with them individually to come to an understanding.
          • If that doesn’t work, you meet with them and a few people to work things out.
          • Should that not come to a resolution, you have a congregational meeting.
            • If the issue isn’t resolved by that, then let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [A]
      • That is where I became skeptical. I understand that Gentiles and tax collectors were considered outsiders by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Temple leaders, and scribes, but Jesus was constantly running afoul of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Temple leaders, and scribes because he was associating with Gentiles and tax collectors.
        • If this instruction came from the leadership group of Israel, I would understand their pronouncement. But it doesn’t make sense coming from Jesus.
  • So I started reading from the beginning of chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel.
    • Jesus is talking with His disciples and children come up.
      • Jesus says it is horrible for someone to do something that makes it difficult for children to have faith in Him.
      • He says if you have a body part causing you to sin, you are better off cutting that body part out or off than to continue life with it.
      • Then, in verse 12, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd with one hundred sheep.
        If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. [B]
      • We also hear this story in parable form in Luke’s Gospel. Luke writes of Jesus telling this parable, then a similar one about a woman and ten coins, one of which she has lost. These two parable set the stage for the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the ultimate story of forgiveness and reconciliation.
    • It doesn’t make sense for Luke to use this story to lead into reconciliation and reunion, and for Matthew to use it to set the stage for removing members from the church.
      • Maybe that is because Jesus isn’t describing how to get rid of people, but rather how to keep them from going away.
  • The key point in the story of the Shepherd who had one hundred sheep is that the shepherd goes to find the one lost sheep.
    • Does he not LEAVE the ninety-nine on the mountains and GO in search of the one that went astray? [C]
      • The shepherd LEAVES and GOES.
      • What are we commanded to do by Jesus if someone in the church has sinned against us?
        • Go, take others with you, tell all.
        • Jesus is telling us that if someone has sinned against you, go looking for them, then take a search party, then a bigger search party.
        • If that doesn’t work, continue to be welcoming and open to them.
          Don’t shun them and treat them as outsiders and outcasts.
          Keep the door open.
      • Remember, all of this is done to someone, another member of the church sins against you. [D] This is done so that you can FORGIVE someone for what they have done TO YOU.
        • You go to them, you go to them with others, you go to them in front of the whole church to let them know they are forgiven.
          • This isn’t saying everything is alright, this is saying you are willing to live with the scales of justice being unbalanced in their favor.
          • If after all of that, they aren’t willing to repent and reconcile, there isn’t any more you can do.
            • Except be willing to welcome them if and when they come to you.
            • Just as the younger son did in the story Luke records going with this lesson.
      • Rather than describing a way to discipline members, Jesus teaches about the radical and extravagant love He has for us, and that He wants us to have for one another.
        • He explains how much work we need to do when we continually offer forgiveness.
          • But we will hear more about that next Sunday.
        • Today, we learn about the necessity to go and welcome those who have wronged us, living out God’s grace.
          • Grace and forgiveness isn’t just letting go of being wronged.
            • It includes searching out the one who wronged you and welcoming them.
          • And now you know the rest of the story.


[A]    Matthew 18:17.

[B]     Matthew 18:12-14.

[C]    Matthew 18:12.

[D]    Matthew 18:15.

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