Sermon for Pentecost 14

September 6, 2020 – Year A

Exodus 12:1-14 & Matthew 18:15-20

Today’s reading from Exodus remembers the first-ever Passover. It is both a beginning and an end for the Hebrew people. It marks the very end of their time enslaved and the very beginning of their freedom. It marks the end of the security of being provided for and the beginning of the responsibilities of independence. It is the end of the security provided by the waters of the mighty Nile River — the only reliable water source for hundreds of miles in any direction — and the beginning of relying on God in the barren, life-threatening desert.

The Hebrew people are on the verge of entering a new era on their journey of life and of faith. Though when frightened, they wanted to return to the security of slavery — some of them, desparately so! — in reality, there was no turning back. The questions facing them now were drastically different than the ones they faced enslaved in Egypt. How were they to respond to the many choices now before them? With their new-found freedom came joy. Of course it did! But with it also came tremendous responsibility. This change was incredible and formidable. Now that all choices were set before them, how were they to live?

With their new-found freedom came joy…With it also came tremendous responsibility. Now that all choices were set before them, how were they to live?

How, then, shall we live? It is a question which shapes our faith journey even still, thousands of years later.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers this question as it applies to a common situation in life: conflict resolution. Just ask any teacher at the Academy (Holy Cross’ child development center). Conflict is a struggle of life we first encounter at a very young age! Jesus’ approach can be better understood by examining the passages which come before and after today’s section. Immediately before Jesus’ instructions, the disciples ask Him what they can do to be promoted to “greatest.” In other words: what can you do for me, Lord?! He responds by placing a child before them. After His instructions, Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness. Jesus commands we are to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times. In “Biblespeak,” seventy-seven is equivalent to infinity. We are to forgive as much and as long as it takes! In summary, we are to approach others with humility and gentleness, even if and especially when it is challenging to do so. Jesus called his disciples — and calls us — to live with humility, and in a spirit of gentleness and love.

So…how are we to live now? Though we haven’t experienced the degree of change the Hebrews were on the verge of beginning that first passover night, we still know change. Lately, there’s been a lot of it — much of it emotionally troubling and physically uncomfortable. But the challenge and call to love remains. We are free to choose our response — and are responsible for the choices we make.

So…how will you choose to live in and through the troubling and challenging changes of our world?

How will you respond to Jesus’ call?